May 182010

This has been said before, but I’m pretty sure this will be our most challenging Last Man Standing competition yet! If you’ve never played before, the idea is to submit one entry at a time until no other answers to the LMS competition come to mind. The reason I feel this LMS will be the most challenging ever is because I can only think of 4 possible answers, 2 of which come from the same band. I’m pretty sure there are no more than 4 possible answers, but I’m also pretty sure that I’m wrong about this. Prove me wrong!

By the way, there are a couple of limitations. Only songs by ROCK artists will be accepted – no hip-hop artists, who are self-referential on 75% of their songs. Also, the song must come in the second half of the artists’ relevant years. The song “Bad Company,” by Bad Company, for instance, does not qualify, because it was one of their first singles.

Because there may be so few answers to this question, I will not kick off this thread with an entry, but I will give one clue regarding probably the best-known of these songs: although rock nerds would not rank it among the band’s top 20 songs, it’s become a staple of the band’s abbreviated sets for nationwide television performances and the like. Go!


  79 Responses to “Last Man Standing: Flagging Rock Bands That Release a Self-Referential Song to Aid in Reviving Their Brand”

  1. Ashes to Ashes
    funk to funky
    we know Major Tom’s a junkie
    strung out on heaven’s high
    hitting an all time low.

    Bowie put this jammy out in the second half of his career if you consider his career to have ended in 1984, which i do.

  2. hrrundivbakshi

    Here’s another clue for you all…
    The walrus was Paul.

  3. I don’t know on which album it appeared but Boston has a song that goes “We were just another band out of Boston”.

    Give how few albums they have, and how long it takes them to put them out, this song should count unless it appeared on their first album.

  4. Mr. Mod, you’re thinking of The Who’s “Who Are You,” right?

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Good one, Kilroy! That was not on my short list.

    Hrrundi, I’ll accept the “walrus was Paul” line. Another one I hadn’t considered. I was thinking specifically of bands that reference their own band name, such as “Who Are You” (yes, Oats, the example I had in mind) and that Boston song, which I had not thought of and does count because although it appears on Boston’s second album that already marked the band’s decline.

    As another clue, I’ll note that this topic came to mind when researching a thread from a week or two ago.

  6. “We are the Clash” by the Half-a-Clash (Strummer & Simonon)

  7. bostonhistorian

    The Young Fresh Fellows felt the need to append the “Young Fresh Fellows Update Theme” to the CD release of the Men Who Loved Music. The original Young Fresh Fellows Theme was on their second LP.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    YES, k.!!! That was on my short list.

  9. bostonhistorian

    Chuck Berry released “Bye Bye Johnny” in 1960 after almost three years of declining chart positions, a song which continues the story of Johnny B. Goode. It failed to hit the Hot 100.

  10. bostonhistorian

    Chubby Checker “Let’s Twist Again (Like We Did Last Summer)”

  11. Mr. Moderator

    Sorry bostonhistorian, we can’t accept songs only referencing previous songs. The reference really should focus on the artist or the artist’s identity. That was for another LMS. I could accept the Major Tom and Walrus references, because those characters are closely tied to the artists’ identities. I hope that distinction is clear and fair.

  12. Mr. Moderator

    The Johnny B. Goode refererence, however, is valid!

  13. misterioso

    I suspect that this would not fit Mod’s criteria, but I would nonetheless argue for “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” It appeared at a crucial moment for the Stones and, although in the very, very long view of the Stones’ existence it cannot be said to be in the “second half” of their career it is the first act of most important phase.

    Jumpin’ Jack Flash does not, of course, explicitly reference the Rolling Stones as a band or any of the individual members. (Unlike “Jigsaw Puzzle” from the same year.) But my feeling has always been that JJF is ABOUT what the Stones were, or willed themselves to be, following the debacle of Satanic Majesties. It is a declaration of purpose. It is a self-defining song. The song is about what the song sounds like, and the song sounds like what the song is about: and that is what the Stones are (were) and would be for the next several years (through Exile).

    This is why JJF is the *definitive* (not to say necessarily greatest) Stones song, more so than Satisfaction, say; and this is why Beggars’ is the *definitive* (also not so say necessarily greatest) Stones lp. Definitive in the strict sense of providing a definition, spelling out what the band is (was).

    If anyone has read this far, I would also suggest “This Is Radio Clash” by the Clash.

  14. Mr. Moderator

    misterioso wrote:

    If anyone has read this far, I would also suggest “This Is Radio Clash” by the Clash.

    Ha! That’s the third of the four songs I had in mind. It satisfies the criteria by being a blatant effort to revitalize a sagging brand.

    I love your rationale for and framing of “Jumping Jack Flash” on the periphery of this discussion. Classic RTH move! It’s the need to express stuff like this that brings us together. As you guessed, however, the song does not fit the criteria for this particular LMS. It would make a great launch to another thread, however, on Statement of Purpose Songs. (HINT, HINT…)

  15. How about The Kinks’ “Destroyer,” which recycles the “All Day and All of the Night” riff and opens with “Met a girl called Lola, and I took her back to my place.”

  16. cdm: That Boston Song, “Rock and Roll Band” is on the 1st album. Don’t you get the Nez Perce award for that?

    Geographically named bands could open this category up. Does Kansas have a song about Kansas? The Utah Saints about Utah?

  17. Mr. Moderator

    No, Oats, that’s recyling music and characters from previous songs. I’m looking for more blatant examples. At least one GLARING, in-your-face example that I’m pretty sure was actually part of a thread in the last 2 weeks is still out there. My bandmates know which song I have in mind, and I thank them for not blurting it out.

  18. mockcarr

    The most recent Hives album has the song T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S. which uses their name spelled out in the chorus.

  19. not really the same thing here, but bands sometimes name a late career album eponymously and it has a similar effect.
    The one that comes to mind is the 4th album by Love & Rockets. (the one with their only hit, the oh so crappy, So Alive)

  20. Well played, k. The sting of being pince nezzed is somewhat lessened by the fact that I am actually proud not to know much about Boston.

    “Some people call me the Space Cowboy” Steve Miller

  21. “I can’t get a license, to drive in my car. I don’t really need it, if I’m a Big Star.”

    “O My Soul” by Big Star. Appears on their second (some may say “last”), album, Radio City.


  22. bostonhistorian

    “This Is Radio Clash” brings up a question: is this song actually hip-hop? I’d also take exception to the idea that the song was trying to revive a flagging brand, given that The Clash were never particularly popular in the United States until *after* the release of this song, when Combat Rock exploded.

  23. Mr. Moderator

    GREAT example I did not know about, mockcarr – and shawnkilroy, you have cited a trememdous related phenomenon of the late-period eponymous album title.

    You guys are good. You’ve gone way beyond the 4 examples that I was certain were all that existed in the history of rock. Still looking for the 4th one that I had in mind…

  24. “We Are The Clash” from the aptly titled “Cut The Crap”

  25. “My Name is Prince”

  26. misterioso

    Might Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” fit the bill?

  27. mockcarr

    Wilco by Wilco.

    Lone seatback tray in upright position.

  28. Mr. Moderator

    Your objection is well played, bostonhistorian! I hope it helped ease the sting of the Chubby Checker rejection:) Although Combat Rock was the band’s commercial breakthrough, I thought “Radio Clash” was the band’s attempt to refocus the brand internally, as a way of recovering from the sprawling Sandinista, which effectively led to the band’s eventual demise. Who knows, though. I’m willing to be wrong and have one of my 4 possible answers thrown out. This is your Rock Town Hall, after all.

  29. bostonhistorian

    You’re not thinking of The Ballad of Mott the Hoople are you?

  30. bostonhistorian

    Oh, I wasn’t really objecting. When “This is Radio Clash” was recorded, the Clash were doing the dance/hip-hop thing pretty heavily, yet everyone always calls them a punk band, which seems like a pretty poor description for everything they actually encompassed during their career.

  31. Mr. Moderator

    I wasn’t thinking of The Ballad of Mott the Hoople. How did I miss that one?

    What you say about The Clash being pigeonholed as a “punk” band is true.

  32. in my own sub-thread:
    Metallica(black album)

  33. bostonhistorian

    I have two examples of band self-promotion within songs, but they don’t meet the brand revival criterion and it’s killing me.

  34. for shawnkilroy’s thread:
    Chicago 30

  35. Saturday Gigs by Mott the Hoople

    And I think there are more from what is arguably the most self referential band of all time.

  36. Mr. Moderator

    shawnkilroy wrote:

    in my own sub-thread:
    Metallica(black album)

    The Beatles (white album)!

    bostonhistorian wrote:

    I have two examples of band self-promotion within songs, but they don’t meet the brand revival criterion and it’s killing me.

    Don’t hold that stuff in, man. It’s bad for your health. Feel free to share. We will resist donning the Pince Nez.

  37. mockcarr

    Lennon is very self referential too, there are a couple on that POB album: from God – “I was the Walrus, but now, I’m John”

  38. or the Nez Perce even!

  39. Wilco is the perfect answer!

    A less perfect answer is “Julian H Cope you’re a real dead loss” from the Jehovakill record. Who can say what that guy’s career trajectory has been?

    Last point is my investigation into geographically named bands both large (Asia, NY Dolls) and small (Bay City Rollers, Merton Parkas) has yielded nothing.

    “I will fight no more forever” Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce.

  40. Truckin’ by the Grateful Dead

  41. Mr. Moderator

    The Dead’s career wasn’t flagging at the time of that song, was it? Judges, can we accept this answer? I believe that at this point k. is Last Man Standing.

  42. bostonhistorian

    First, a song which I think qualifies: The Beach Boys “Do It Again”

    And self-references within songs:

    In Mitch Ryder’s “Jenny Take A Ride” the background singers change “C. C. Rider” to “See Mitch Ryder” after the first verse, and The Members’ “Solitary Confinement” includes the lyrics: on your own/by yourself/on your own/by yourself/by yourself/by yourself/by yourself/ buy yourself this record, in a little fourth wall shattering.

  43. Mr. Moderator

    “Do It Again” qualifies. Considering that from Day 1 the band’s output was in the service of their branding effort you picked just the right song during their flagging days directed at RE-branding.

  44. bostonhistorian

    I dunno about Julian Cope. After all, there are plenty (I think) of solo artists who write songs mentioning their previous bands: George Harrison’s “When We Was Fab” comes to mind.

  45. The Dead was at a major transition point as they moved from the pure psychedelia of their first few albums to their more American based albums like American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead. They shouldn’t be discounted simply because history has shown that it was a good move on their part.

  46. Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue

  47. mockcarr

    The Minutemen’s One Reporter’s Opinion by Mike Watt opens with the line “What could be romantic to Mike Watt?”

  48. bostonhistorian

    Ah, that jogs the memory. The Minutemen’s “History Lesson Part II” is all about the band, but Double Nickels on the Dime is the band’s masterpiece…

  49. BigSteve

    Grand Funk Railroad, We’re an American Band

  50. Mr. Moderator

    That’s GFR’s raison d’etre, not a rebranding effort, no?

    You guys are going to be really sorry when you realize the final of the 4 possible answers that first came to my mind. It’s up there with “Who Are You” in terms of blatant rebranding efforts.

  51. 2000 Man

    That’s definitely the rebranding of Grand Funk Railroad. They dropped the “Railroad” from their name, and added keyboard player Craig Frost, and all the Camaro owners that once loved all that noise got pissed because of the fruity keyboards. I thought they had a few more good midwestern rocker albums left in them, but that was definitely the album that was shooting for a hit record. The Loco Motion wasn’t far behind.

  52. Mr. Moderator

    Thanks for correcting me, 2K! BigSteve is currently LMS. Sorry, BigSteve.

  53. You Better You Bet:
    “To the sound of old T Rex and Who’s Next”

  54. Mr. Moderator

    Wow, the Who was pulling out all the stops! Bravo, cdm!

  55. BigSteve

    In 1979 James Brown was being pushed into obsolescence by disco, so he released and album and song call The Original Disco Man to try to rebrand himself. It didn’t work.

  56. alexmagic

    In October 1978, Rockestra formed and recorded “So Glad To See You Here” as part of the Back To The Egg sessions.

    Perhaps sensing that their staying power was already on the wane, McCartney, McCartney, Laine, Lane, Jones, Jones, Juber, Gilmour, Marvin, Townshend, Holly, Bonham, Thomas, Brooker, Ashton, Acquaye, Carr, Cooper, Pert, Casey, Dorsey, Howard and Richard recorded a second and final song – the self-referencing “Rockestra Theme” – in a failed effort to revive their career.

  57. hrrundivbakshi

    Well, this guy is old-school soul, not hip-hop, so maybe I can reclaim my spot as LMS:

    Clarence Carter in “Strokin'” makes repeated reference to himself in the third person — or, rather, he puts words (and other things) in the mouth of the girl he’s singing about, as in:

    “Oh, Clarence Carter, Clarence Carter, Clarence Carter… you doin’ it so GOOD, Clarence Carter!”

  58. Mr. Moderator

    Nope, we’ve done plain-old self-referential threads before. This one needs to have a self-referential part that’s specifically composed as part of the lyrics to ignite a rebranding campaign.

    I’m still shocked – shocked – that no one’s gotten the song I had in mind that’s as blatant as “Who Are You.”

  59. Sympathy for the Mekons – A self referential song built around a musical and song title reference to one of the Stones Classic Brand…put together with the stated objective of creating Sympathy for the Mekons.

    It sounds right in the middle of their career, but they had fallen apart for about two years in the early 80’s so I’m counting it.

  60. Mr. Moderator

    I’m giving you until midnight before I reveal what would surely have been my winning entry had this been a Battle Royale.

  61. bostonhistorian

    Going through my itunes now….Motörhead “We Are Motorhead”

  62. The Ballad of John & Yoko.

    Released a year before the Beatles split. Not sure if it qualifies as a song meant to revive the “brand.”

    Mod – was this the other obvious one you had in mind?

  63. Mr. Moderator

    Good final attempts at reading my mind, bostonhistorian and sonny – and I hope you enjoyed your views from the top of the heap. After clicking on the following link I think you will agree that I am not only Last Man Standing but would be the winner of a Battle Royale, if this is what this thread had been. My thanks to The Back Office for helping me prepare the following entry:

  64. mikeydread

    I am completely stumped on this – but loving the view from ringside.

  65. bostonhistorian

    I’ve not a clue what I just saw.

  66. Mr. Moderator

    That was the big hook in “Tempest Fugit,” the first single by the Buggles-led version of Yes.

  67. bostonhistorian

    Wow. That song is truly horrible. What’s the self-referential song on the album? I’m afraid to listen.

  68. Good one. But not obvious.
    And I am the goof who admitted to seeing Yes in concert during that period in the Trevor Horn thread.

  69. misterioso

    O my God! That’s so obvious? What what-led version of who?

    Well, ok. My guess was that that was the Buggles.

  70. misterioso

    Sorry, I didn’t finish the thought. My guess was that was the Buggles but in fact I have precisely zero awareness or knowledge of the Buggles beyond the one obvious item for which they have achieved a sort of dubious fame. I assume that one item is reflective of, in general, how annoying they are? Or no?

  71. How could I have forgotten about “Creeque Alley” by the Mugwumps, er, I mean, the Mamas and the Papas.


  72. ladymisskirroyale

    Chic, “C’est Chic.” Maybe it’s a stretch…

  73. ladymisskirroyale

    The Beatles: “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”

  74. ladymisskirroyale

    Oops, didn’t realize until I read all the other posts that Sonny had beat me to it…

  75. ladymisskirroyale

    Public Image Ltd: “Public Image” Not late enough in their career?

  76. “Creedence Song” by John Fogerty. Not exactly the same band, but certainly trying for a “Revival.” (Now that I think about it, perhaps the entire album counts.)

  77. ladymisskirroyale

    Dylan: the 2nd to last verse of “You Gotta Serve Somebody” makes all sort of references to his different monikers…
    A new strand of music: Ego Rock.

  78. jeangray

    Blue Oyster Cult released a song in ’83 entitled “Let Go.” The chorus went like this:

    You can be whatever you want to be
    You got the power, we got the key
    Yeah, B.O.C.

    True Zen poetry! The artistry leaves me speechless.

    Although they were huge in my High School years, I think we can all agree that it was over by ’83.

  79. hrrundivbakshi

    Jeangray, that’s a dynamite lyric, for sure. We need more rock bands who claim super-hero like powers. Seriously! I think rock lost something special when it started acknowledging its own bullshit factor. Suspension of artistic disbelief is critical to rock’s cultural momentum!

    …he said haughtily, tamping his pipe and setting down his brandy snifter.

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