I don’t have to tell you that there are bazillions of songs out there. Among those bazillions, there are the name songs. I’m not talking about the songs that casually name drop (“We Didn’t Start the Fire”): I’m referring to the songs with a person’s name in the title. These people may or may not be real (in most of these cases, I’d hope for not real), but they certainly do have names. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday holds my ten favorite songs with a name in the title! Who knows… maybe you’ll find your name on the list!
The Buoys: “Timothy”
My dad’s name is Timothy, so this was a song I love for a number of reasons. It’s about three guys who get trapped in a mineshaft. They begin to think that they’re going to starve to death, so naturally, they eat Timothy. As luck would have it, they are found the very next day: “My stomach was full as it could be/and nobody ever got around to finding Timothy.” Not a very pleasant ending for poor Timothy, but the song is so spunky! Only in the 1970s can you record a song about cannibalism and make it fun.
The first time I heard this song was when I was working at the arts and crafts store in New Orleans. “Rosanna,” along with such gems as “Copacabana” and “Maggie May,” was lucky enough to make it onto the store soundtrack. The soundtrack was about two hours long, and many of my holiday shifts were eight hours long. You do the math. Since I’d had no prior exposure to “Roseanna,” it took me a lot longer to get sick of it. When I hear it now, I just smile and think of my time at the craft store… and thank my lucky stars I have a different job.
The Clash: “Rudie Can’t Fail”
“Rudie Can’t Fail” is one of many outstanding songs on the Clash’s undeniably awesome album London Calling. Like pretty much everything the Clash sings about, “Rudie Can’t Fail” is a little depressing, but Joe Strummer sings it so happily that it’s easy to forget. According to Wikipedia (so you know it's true), "Rudie" refers to a rude boy. For years and years - until about two minutes ago, actually - I thought they were referring to some guy named Rudy. For the purpose of this article, I'm going to continue thinking that way.
Sweeney Todd: “Johanna”
This song, like much of Sweeney Todd, is creepy. It’s about a young man who sees a beautiful girl through a window. Upon finding out that her name is Johanna, he sings this creepy song about how he’d like to be “sweetly buried in [her] yellow hair.” If you ignore most of the lyrics, though, it is a rather nice song with a killer orchestra backing. My college roommate Sara bought this movie during finals season, 2008. We would distract ourselves by begging our roommate Nate, a tenor, to sing us this song. He would usually oblige, providing a much-needed break from microbiology and art of the Renaissance.
The Everly Brothers: “Wake Up, Little Susie”
Ahh, the innocence of the good old days. “Wake Up, Little Susie” is about a couple out on a date. They go to a drive-in movie and promptly fall asleep. They wake up at 4 am and stress out about how their reputations are ruined. If you remember from an earlier blog post, I had a little blue coupe named Susie. On particularly cold mornings, I would ask Susie very politely to wake up. She always did.
Simon and Garfunkel: “Cecilia”
Of all the music I’ve heard in my life, none has ever hit me as hard as that of Simon and Garfunkel. The very first song of theirs I heard was “The Boxer,” and I was immediately hooked. I bought their greatest hits CD and discovered a great bunch of other songs, including “Cecilia.” How on earth could you not love that song? It’s impossibly catchy, and it’s about a poor sap who catches his girlfriend Cecilia in bed with another guy. The really funny part is the quick turnaround: “Makin love in the afternoon with Cecilia/up in my bedroom/I got to wash my face/when I come back to bed, someone’s taken my place.” My mom told me that she sang this song in high school choir: did her choir director realize that it was not simply about a girl named Cecilia, but a really slutty girl named Cecilia? Who knows.
Rick Springfield: “Jessie’s Girl”
Few songs have such a recognizable opening guitar riff as this one. It’s basically required listening at any Midwestern prom, wedding, or street dance. My friends and I used to cruise around Arlington, playing this song through our tape adapters. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past thirty years and have never heard this song, allow me to explain: Rick Springfield has a crush on his friend Jessie’s girlfriend. He endlessly wishes he had Jessie’s girl. It’s never really explained why Jessie’s girl is so great, but she must be something else if Rick Springfield can create a super-hit about how much he wants her.
The Hollies: “Dear Eloise”
Who doesn’t love the Hollies? They have the goofiest songs, and this one is one of my very favorites. I love it so much because the song structure takes you buy surprise. It starts off all slow and sweet: a guy is writing a letter to Eloise to tell her that he heard she got dumped. Then, the song turns upbeat as the guy tells Eloise what an idiot she was: “you rushed in blindly/he treated you kindly/until he found out what he could get from you.” The real purpose of the letter is to tell Eloise that he’s in love with her, but he has to stay “I told you so” first.
Paul Simon: “You Can Call Me Al”
This song is titled after an actual experience: Paul Simon was at a party with his then-wife Peggy, and someone mistakenly introduced them as Al and Betty. Following a certain trend here, “You Can Call Me Al” is yet another upbeat song about a less-than-pleasant subject (this time, it’s a midlife crisis). The music is great, though: pennywhistles, a great bass solo, and a killer brass section? I dare you to listen to this song without dancing at least a little bit. Part of this song’s greatness lies in its music video: you’ve got lip-syncing and dancing Chevy Chase and Paul Simon. You cannot go wrong with that combination.
Vic Damone: “Calla Calla”
(disclaimer: I couldn't find the Vic Damone version on YouTube, but I did find this one buy a group called the Kaye Sisters. Unlike Vic Damone, they pronounce my name correctly. However, since I've only ever heard the Vic Damone version before right now - as I was searching for an example on YouTube - so I'm going to talk about it as if it were the Vic Damone version. Bear with me.)Believe it or not, there is actually a song that contains my name. The pronunciation is a little different: my name is pronounced “Cal-uh” (like the Cal in California), whereas this song sings of “Call-uh” (like a telephone call). It’s the dorkiest song imaginable, but I’m more or less required to love it. My friend Allison was the one who brought this song to my attention. It’s about a girl named Calla’s wedding day, and the chorus goes: “It’s the day of mating/time for celebrating,” which is about the least appealing way to describe a wedding. For years, Allison has threatened to play this song at my wedding, and for years, I had hoped she’d just forget. Allison makes sure to remind me every now and again, so I’ve given up hope that her memory will fail. I realize I’m not doing myself any favors by putting her threat in print, but what do you do. Chances are everyone will get a kick out of it, and not everyone is lucky enough to have his or her name immortalized in a song about mating.
There you have it: my top ten songs with names in their titles. I had to skip over quite a few good ones because I’d already written about them in my love song list: “Lola,” “Dammit, Janet,” and “Mandy” would easily make the list, but you don’t want to read about these songs twice. I’m so considerate. There are tons of name songs to pick from, though, and I chose these ten. Hopefully you know at least one person with a name on this list: make sure and serenade them next time you get together.