Ranging from weird and wacky to just plain wordy, songs with long titles have defied all convention to become standout hits. Whether they were inspired by a funny story, a piece of art, or simply pulled from the song itself, lengthy titles are effective in adding a unique edge. Here are some of the most notable songs featuring wildly long titles.
Songs With Long Titles You’ll Love
Let’s begin with a Brian Hyland song.
1) Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Brian Hyland
While it may have a mouthful of a title, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” is a novelty hit that has stood the test of time. The song tells of a shy girl who is reluctant to step out into the world in her, you guessed it, rather small bikini. The song was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and has been covered numerous times, but the most famous version is by Brian Hyland.
The song may not have a lot of substance, but the endlessly catchy chorus has given it staying power to last over 60 years. Despite the song’s memorable charms, the title proves to be anything but “Itsy Bitsy.”
2) It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M.
An extremely catchy take on an apocalyptic crisis, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” remains both one of R.E.M.’s most famous songs and one of their longest titles. The song was an amalgamation of different headlines lead singer Michael Stipe had seen that day, a strange dream he had, and the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” This unusual combination of sources makes sense upon listening to the song, where the verses are a fast-paced jumble lyrics reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”
Although it has been 35 years since the song’s release, its legacy continues growing due to repeated resurgence in the face of different disasters. Most recently, the song’s downloads skyrocketed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving a different take on the often-used phrase “the new normal.” It also was the perfect song to blast in front of roommates during quarantine, hoping the lyrics “It’s time I had some time alone” would make them take the hint.
3) Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal by They Might Be Giants
Released on a compilation album of B-sides in 1991, “Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal” is an under appreciated fan favorite. The song tells the story of a musician with a rather mediocre song that bribes a local DJ to get him on air, only to be woefully disappointed when the DJ skips town.
The lyrics are witty, playful, and straightforward to understand, except for a couple of one-off lines that subtly reference other TMBG songs. Lyrics like “I thought you said, ‘You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch your record’” are slightly cheesy, but still warrant a smile at the least. While the full song is a fun listen, the title alone is effective in telling the story.
4) Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey by The Beatles
Taking first place for The Beatles’ longest song title, “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey” is an odd track with a surprising inspiration. A song with such a strange title fits well into The White Album, which already had penchant for the bizarre. But also like many songs on the album, it was inspired by The Beatles’ interest in transcendental meditation.
According to George Harrison, some of the lyrics were favorite phrases of the Maharishi, such as “come on it’s such a joy.” When you look at most of the lyrics, the inspiration does make sense. But naturally, everything is overshadowed by one big question: why is John Lennon singing about a monkey?
Like most trivia regarding the band, there is still a bit of debate. Lennon himself provided the explanation that the titular line was about him and Yoko Ono, while Paul McCartney believed that it was a reference to heroin.
While we might not have a clear answer on the meaning, one thing is not up for debate: “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey” certainly makes for an absurd but eye-catching title.
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5) It’s A Long Way to the Top (if You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll) by AC/DC
A fitting song from a legendary band who did make it to the top, this 1975 track is a fitting anthem for the rough rock and roll life. The song shares the challenges of being in a band, including “gettin’ robbed, gettin’ stoned / gettin’ beat up, broken boned.”
While songs like “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey” raise questions about the absurdity of the title, a different question is posed regarding “It’s A Long Way to the Top”: what is a bagpipe solo doing in the middle of a rock and roll song?
During a jam session, the subject of bagpipes came up after it was revealed that lead singer Bon Scott had been in a pipe band. Scott thought that bagpipes would make a fantastic addition to the track, so he went out and bought a set. The trouble was, he was a drummer in the pipe band and had never played bagpipes before. Despite a rocky beginning, he was able to pick up the instrument enough to record the song, resulting in an unlikely solo and a fantastic story.
6) hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it by Lana Del Ray
Reading as less of a song title and more of a declaration of strength, “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it” is an intimate reflection on fame, feminism, and difficult relationships. The song contains several film and literary references, including to works by Sylvia Plath and Slim Aarons. The title lyric was inspired by the line in the movie The Shawshank Redemption:
”Let me tell you something my friend: hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
The melody paired with the introspective lyrics create a haunting and dreamy atmosphere. The title is the heart of the song, although it does raise a question. While “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have” appears in every chorus, the second half of the title, “but I have it,” appears only in the outro. Del Rey has not spoken about why she added the second line to the title, but it does set the expectation upfront that she holds the unique type of power that hope provides.
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7) Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine by James Brown
“Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine) is an iconic funk track with a groove you can’t help but dance to. The intro sets a casual tone by featuring a snippet of conversation between James Brown and his band members, The J.B.’s.
The song was very appropriately titled, as most of the lyrics are comprised of the call and response lines “get up (get on up) / stay on the scene / like a sex machine.” What “Sex Machine” lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in festivity. It is nearly impossible to listen to the song without following Brown’s instructions to “shake your money maker.”
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8) I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by The Jackson 5
One of the biggest hits from their Christmas album back in the 1970s, this album ends with a young Michael Jackson singing the song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” The song tells the story of Michael sneaking down the stairs on Christmas Eve to catch a sneak peak of Santa—only to discover Santa is kissing his mother!
Of course, Santa is really Michael’s dad dressed up in the classic red and white suit, but being a kid, he doesn’t know or understand that. If anything, Michael wants to spill the beans on what he saw, despite his brother’s not believing him.
“I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” taps into childhood innocence beautifully, and is certainly one of the more wholesome popular songs with long titles ever made.
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9) If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next by Manic Street Preachers
Setting Manic Street Preachers up for success by becoming their first hit single, “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” is an outcry against war and violence. The song was inspired by the Spanish Civil War, and title was taken from the caption of a haunting war poster depicting a child who was killed by the Nationalists. The anti-fascist lyrics challenge listeners to face the uncomfortable and look at the haunting future ahead if action isn’t taken.
10) I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song) by Fall Out Boy
While the songs mentioned so far on this list have stretched across the decades and all differ from each other, there is one genre known for long titles that hasn’t yet been discussed: 2000’s emo and pop punk. There’s no shortage of ridiculously long emo titles, but rather than try to uncover all of their convoluted meanings, let’s take a look at the band that popularized the trend and the artists that followed in their footsteps.
Fall Out Boy’s 2005 album From Under the Cork Tree is still widely remembered for the ridiculous titles, including “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song.)” “Dark Alley” fits right in with the other track titles on the album, including:
–“Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued”
–“I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me”
–“Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part to Save the Scene and Stop Going to Shows)”
In total, the title word count is 127 for an album with 13 songs. The long titles trend began to pick up steam, with not only Fall Out Boy continuing to pen wordy titles, but other bands in the pop/punk genre catching on as well. But why was this trend successful, and where did it originate?
An article analyzing why this trend skyrocketed in the 2000’s credits Pink Floyd’s 1969 track “Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict” for popularizing lengthy titles. Different lengthy-titled hits cropped up over the years, but it wasn’t until Fall Out Boy when the songs turned from lesser-known tracks tucked away on an album to a trend that swept across a genre. But what was the turning point?
By 2005, Fall Out Boy’s popularity was on the rise, and they already had a decent sized fanbase. The lengthy titles may not have helped with radio airplay, but they gave fans an interesting topic of discussion. Giving fans something to create lore about helped with the buzz, and in contrast to their growing mainstream popularity, offered an opportunity for something unique and offbeat. Despite being a mouthful to say, the titles created success simply by being memorable.
Some of the tracks on From Under the Cork Tree have titles that, despite their length, are fairly straightforward to understand. After all, there isn’t a whole lot of nuance behind a song titled “I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me.” But how did “Dark Alley” get its name?
The title doesn’t appear anywhere in the lyrics, and the song itself would seem out of place on a “Summer Songs” playlist. Contrary to other songs on the album, “Dark Alley” is musically more subdued, but centers around themes of self-doubt, feelings of failure and insecurity, and allusions to suicide. No explanation or inspiration has ever been provided by the band regarding the title, so its meaning is up for interpretation. Perhaps the title served as a distraction from the dark lyrics, offering a sarcastic distraction from the personal confessions.
Following Fall Out Boy’s success with long titles, other bands followed suit. Here are some of the longest emo and pop/punk song titles:
–“There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of It Yet” by Panic! at the Disco
–“You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison” by My Chemical Romance
–“If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn” by Sleeping With Sirens
–“For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic” by Paramore
–“If You Wanted A Song Written About You, All You Had To Do Was Ask” by Mayday Parade
–“Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team) by Taking Back Sunday
–“I Was Once, Possibly, Maybe, Perhaps… a Cowboy King” by Asking Alexandria
–“She’s The Prettiest Girl at the Party, and She Can Prove It With a Solid Right Hook” by frnkiero and the cellabration
From titles that make perfect sense to dense and convoluted inside jokes, the songs on this list have found a way to stand out from the crowd. Whether they are the perfect edge to make a song memorable or are just an inconvenience to DJs is a matter of opinion, songs with long titles seem to weather the change in trends and rise to popularity.