Top 9 Great Rock Songs with Terrible Titles

Although they tend to drive record companies crazy, creative titles can put a really cool finish on a rock song. However, there have been some incidents where these titles have been just a bit too creative to the point where the title is actually detrimental to an otherwise excellent song.

9. “Rainy Day Woman #12 and #35” by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan in 1966

Bob Dylan began his epic 1966 double album, Blonde On Blonde, with a fun and unique song. The song is arranged with marching-band-like instrumentation and a double entendre lyrical hook (“everybody must get stoned”) which makes it unmistakable upon listening. However, it’s odd, seemingly nonsensical title makes this track very hard to reference.

Listen to “Rainy Day Woman #12 and #35” by Bob Dylan:

Review of Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan

8. “Anagram (for Mongo)” by Rush

Rush in 1989

In their article on the Ten Great Forgotten Rush Songs, Modern Rock Review called “Anagram (for Mongo)” the “kind of song that Rush was supposed to write in their new, sophisticated 1980s form”. This moderate pop/rock song with great sonic attributes is an intellectual exercise in wordplay as each line contains a derivative and source anagram. Rather unwisely, the group cheapened this fine track by playing on a line from the movie Blazing Saddles (“Candygram for Mongo”) and somewhat cheapening this minor masterpiece.

Listen to “Anagram (for Mongo)” by Rush:

Review of Presto by Rush

7. “Only Women Bleed” by Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper in 1975

On its face, “Only Women Bleed” is an apt title for an exquisite song addressing domestic abuse. However, as the king of shock glam in the early 1970s, Alice Cooper’s intent was instantly presumed to be something unseemly, such as menstruation to the extent that radio stations refused to play the song out of hand, suppressing any chance for this excellent single to gain any chart momentum, even when Cooper shortened the title to “Only Women”. Often covered, the title caused no controversy when the song was remade by Tina Turner, Lita Ford, Tori Amos and others.

Listen to “Only Women Bleed” by Alice Cooper:

6. “De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da” by The Police

The Police in 1980

The gibberish hook and title of The Police’s first Top 10 hit, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” betrays the well-formed music, Andy Summers’ rich harmonic textures, and the subtle but melodic hooks of this track. The point of the title was apparently a commentary on empty words but the “yada-yada-yada” moment had already been established a dozen years earlier with the Beatles’ “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” on The White Album.

Listen to “De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da” by The Police:

Review of Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police

5. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

Nirvana video for Smells Like Teen Spirit

Although Nirvana’s Nevermind is almost universally acclaimed critically, the album opener and lead single has the ludicrous title of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. This grunge anthem with raw rock triggers alternating with steady and refrained rhythms has, unfortunately, become a bit cliché due to the title and video which has become the predominant image of the track.

Listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana:

Review of Nevermind by Nirvana

4. “D’Yer Maker” by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin in 1972

Many of us Zeppelin fanatics grew up calling this song “Dire Maker”, as we were not privy to the popular British joke on Jamaica nor the intent of the odd phonetic official title. In any case, this lightly reggae, slightly rock track led by John Bonham’s thundering drums has always been a light-hearted gem on the incredibly diverse Houses of the Holy album and it became the group’s final Top 40 hit in 1973.

Listen to “D’Yer Maker” by Led Zeppelin:

Review of Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin

3. “Firth of Fifth” by Genesis

Genesis in 1973

“Firth of Fifth” is simply an epic rock masterpiece by Genesis, even though it has dwelled in relative obscurity for over four decades. The song probably contains the single greatest performances by Tony Banks, during the classical piano intro, and Steve Hackett, with sustained notes which reach into the stratosphere during a later guitar lead. But then there’s the title, a pun on the estuary of the River Forth in Scotland, with an even more bizarre story which accompanied the song during early performances.

Listen to “Firth of Fifth” by Genesis:

“Firth of Fith”, Song of the Day 8/26/17
Review of Selling England by the Pound by Genesis

2. “Baba O’Riley” by The Who

The Who in 1971

From the ashes of a failed rock opera called “Lifehouse” came the music that formed the fantastic Who’s Next album. Starting this album is an innovative song where guitarist Pete Townshend plays an organ fed through a VCS3 synthesizer to create an interesting, rotating pattern before the song morphs into a catchy rock song, frequently mistitled with the hook “Teenage Wasteland”. In fact, the title “Baba O’Riley” is literally a gibberish hybrid name which Townshend derived from the names of his guru and a roadie friend, making it one of the most famous mistitled songs in rock history.

Listen to “Baba O’Riley” by The Who:

Review of Who’s Next by The Who

1. “Wots…Uh the Deal?” by Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd in 1972

“Wot’s… Uh the Deal?” is an acoustic folk song from Pink Floyd’s 1972 album, Obscured by Clouds, an album which the band itself pretty much shelved upon its 1972 release in order to turn their focus on the already developing Dark Side of the Moon album. Although the track actually does contain the title in its lyrics, that title and lyric is absolutely ludicrous and has most probably played a large role in this emotional, acoustic ballad by David Gilmour with double-tracked vocals, a classical piano instrumental, and a fine slide-guitar solo, being one of the most underappreciated gems in the entire Pink Floyd library.

Listen to “Wots…Uh the Deal?” by Pink Floyd:

Review of Obscured by Clouds by Pink Floyd

Honorable Mentions

“Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam
“Estimated Prophet” by The Grateful Dead
Any song from Robert Plant’s first three solo albums

With this subjective list we’ve doubtlessly left out scores of artists who may have deserved consideration for this list. Please give us your comments below and tell us where you agree and disagree.


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One Comment


    That link explains how Smells Like Teen Spirit got its name better than I can word it.

    In terms of Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, my theory is that it’s because 12 x 35 = 420, named because of the chorus “Everybody Must Get Stoned.

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