Misnamed and shamed: Seven classic album title fails
By Allan Campbell | 10 September 2015
In an era when it’s not unusual for music conglomerates to focus-group every aspect of their artists’ careers and sweat the details of their releases almost to paranoia, it’s touching to look back to earlier, more innocent times when a slip or lack of attention could result in an album title being misspelt or even retitled altogether. Here are just seven albums whose titles mysteriously mutated...
Electric Light Orchestra: No Answer (UA, 1972)
Shortly after British ‘underground’ label Harvest released the debut, self-titled album by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood’s Electric Light Orchestra, United Artists picked it up for release in the US. However, the group were shocked to find it had acquired a new title, No Answer. No one had a clue where this had come from. Eventually, it transpired that someone in UA’s office, preparing information for release, had telephoned ELO’s manager, Don Arden, to check the album’s title. Arden never took the call and the words “no answer” were duly written on the release schedule – later to be mistaken for the actual title. The group have since confirmed the story.
Dolly Parton: White Limozeen (Columbia, 1989)
When Parton and tunesmith Mac Davis got together to write a sort-of-autobiographical song about a country girl who hit the big time, Dolly found herself writing out the lyrics to the tune. She reportedly asked Davis: ''How in the world do you spell limousine?'' ''Just spell it the way it sounds: limozeen,'' came the reply from Davis. The spelling stuck and it became the title song of the album. Later Parton would claim that the spelling was “clever” and that “it would draw attention to the song''. Hmmm…
The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons (Decca, 1967)
When the Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham asked Charlie Watts to illustrate the reverse of the cover of the band’s fifth album (Oldham still wouldn’t allow the Stones name or any other kind of lettering on the front of an album) the drummer asked him what the title of the record was. Oldham was as yet undecided and used the expression “between the buttons”, presumably meaning he was between ideas. Watts took this as the title, drew a six panel cartoon using that idea, complete with hand lettering – and the title stuck.
Oasis: Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (Big Brother, 2000)
Still regarded as the album where Oasis had given up trying, it’s appropriate that the flawed title is the result of them not bothering to double-check the quotation from which the title is nicked. After a few drinks in the pub, Noel Gallagher had taken to perusing the reverse of a £2 coin, which then contained a quotation from Sir Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Thus inspired, Gallagher then decided that this aphorism - or at least an inaccurately remembered version of it – would be the title of the band’s new album.
The Zombies: Odessey & Oracle (Columbia, 1968)
Perhaps the best-remembered graphic gaffe of all is to be found on the cover of The Zombies’ Odessey & Oracle album. For years, the group tried to maintain that it was a purposely idiosyncratic spelling of the word 'Odyssey' before eventually admitting that it was a cock-up by painter Terry Quirk which had somehow made it to the printers. Some 47 years after its release, the Zombies are about to tour Odessey & Oracle and also have a new album out – with a sleeve by Terry Quirk.
The Byrds: (Untitled) (Columbia, 1970)
Many Byrds fans considered the title of their double album (Untitled) to be some form of irony wrapped in depreciation (those brackets). However, the truth was more mundane. With a new band member and their popularity rising again, the group first considered calling their ninth LP The First Byrds Album or Phoenix. As they prevaricated, their producer Terry Melcher wrote 'Untitled' on the record company label copy sheet until they could make up their minds. And in no time, pressings appeared with that very title, only now accompanied by parentheses. When it was later reissued on CD with some previously unreleased tracks, it was then waggishly retitled (Untitled) / (Unissued).
Camper Van Beethoven: Telephone Free Landslide Victory (Independent Project Records, 1985)
With a title as convoluted as this, you might say that these Californians were asking for trouble. The album’s intended title had been Telephone Tree Landslide Victory. At least that’s the title the group gave to their label boss Bruce Licher on a hand written piece of paper. Licher specialised in letterpress design which was then printed on to chipboard paper (he has since been nominated twice for a Grammy for packaging). He had already hand-printed 1,500 record covers before the band pointed out the mistake. To graciously expiate Licher’s embarrassment at misreading the note, they gamely exclaimed: “Wait, that’s better”. Licher went on to work with the musicians again – and is now a celebrated letterpress artist.