Urban Legend, Myth, Apocrypha & Other Diversions

By swagski swagski
updated over 8 years ago

Jan Harold Brunvand, professor of English at the University of Utah, made two key points within his collection of legends "The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends & Their Meanings" : Firstly, that legends and folklore do not occur exclusively in so-called primitive or traditional societies, and secondly, that one could learn much about urban and modern culture by studying such tales.

In this respect, here's an ever-growing random list of musical folklore, the kind of thing for which the Italians have an apt expression "se non è vero, è ben trovato" [even if it is not true, it is well conceived]. Readers may also find comfort in Tertullian's writing “Credo quia absurdum est“ [I believe because it is absurd], which is in itself a paraphrase or misquotation of “Credibile est, quia ineptum est", for which there is no known catalog#!.

As good a reason as any for bringing a range of arbitrary recordings to the attention of others.

  1. Ozzy Osbourne - Talk Of The Devil

    After Osbourne reputedly bit the head off a bat in his stage act, the Prince of Darkness had the tables turned on him in July 2009.
    His pet dog "Little Bit" was eaten by a wild coyote in the grounds of his Hollywood home.

  2. Paul Simon - Mother And Child Reunion

    "Mother And Child Reunion" was written by Paul Simon after being inspired by a chicken and egg dish in a Chinese restaurant.
    "Which came first ?" we ask, "The tune, or the lyrics?"

  3. Frank Zappa - Hot Rats

    11 For Sale from $17.80

    The 'freak-haired' young lady emerging from the bunker on the cover of "Hot Rats" is Christine Frka.
    One time babysitter for Frank Zappa and a member of the GTO's.

  4. Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction

    An anagram of Guns N' Roses lead singer "Axl Rose" is "Oral Sex". Or is it the other way around?

  5. Cream (2) - Disraeli Gears

    The track "SWLABR" is an acronym for "She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow".
    (Bearded Rainbow is a variety of the Iris flower).
    Co-written by Pete Brown, who had an affinity with odd titles e.g.
    "A Meal You Can Shake Hands With in the Dark", released in 1969, and the 90's "Coals to Jerusalem".

  6. Steely Dan - Can't Buy A Thrill

    "Steely Dan" is a large dildo featured in the William S. Burroughs book "Naked Lunch".
    A novel source of reference for many a musician.

  7. Spandau Ballet - Lifeline

    "Spandau Ballet" was a descriptive term given to the dying act of Allied soldiers.
    Their bodies would seemingly 'dance' in the air when repeatedly hit by bullets from a Spandau machine gun.

  8. Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band - Dust Sucker

    Don Van Vliet was once a vacuum cleaner salesman.
    His chosen sales line to customers was "This machine really sucks".

  9. Kiss - Alive!

    Legend has it that Gene Simmons had a cow's tongue grafted onto his own.
    Disbelievers may wish to know KISS really did use their own blood in the printing of their first comic book.

  10. Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street

    5 For Sale from $15.00

    Bob Holness, was host of the 1980's TV game show "Take A Letter".
    He was cited in the UK's "New Musical Express" column "Would You Believe It?" as the sax player on "Baker Street".
    Writer Stuart Maconie would often perpetrate such myths when bored.

  11. Joy Division - Substance

    "Joy Division" were once the "Stiff Kittens", who were quickly buried in favor of the more angst-ridden "Warsaw".
    Which, naturally, led them to finally settling on the wry name "Joy Division".
    A prostitution wing in a Nazi concentration camp mentioned in the 1955 novel "The House of Dolls".

  12. AC/DC - High Voltage

    12 For Sale from $17.19

    Although Gilbert O'Sullivan wore a little cap and short pants he was never a member of AC/DC.
    It's questionable that his music teacher made him stay after school and write a hundred lines;
    "I must not bring the name of opera composers into disrepute".
    Although he did later wear a sweater with the letter "G" on it that superficial research suggests stood for "Garbage".
    His handful of fans may disagree.

  13. The Monkees - The Monkees Greatest Hits

    Typists of the world rejoice! Michael Nesmith's mother invented liquid paper correction fluid.

  14. Dweezil* - My Mother Is A Space Cadet

    Dweezil was affectionately named after his mother's strange little toe.
    At the LA hospital where he was born they refused to register the name.
    His father quickly conjured an official name for him using those from his group accomplices.
    Ian [Underwood], Donald [Van Vliet], Calvin [Schenkel], Euclid [James Sherwood] Zappa.
    Dweezil later legally reverted his birth certificate to his nickname.

  15. Elvis Presley - The Sun Sessions CD

    8 For Sale from $5.68

    Sun Record's producer and Presley's original manager, Sam Phillips, signed away Elvis for $35,000.

  16. Caravan - Cunning Stunts

    13 For Sale from $4.99

    Thanks to "Caravan" fan Betty Swollocks for bringing my attention to the use of a Malapropism in the title of this album.

  17. Various - Gloomy Sunday

    "Gloomy Sunday" was popularized as a 1941 hit for singer Billie Holiday.
    In the United States, due to unsubstantiated urban legends about its inspiring hundreds of suicides,
    "Gloomy Sunday" was dubbed the "Hungarian suicide song".
    Its Hungarian composer, Rezsoe Seres, jumped to his death in 1968.

  18. The Soft Machine* - The Soft Machine

    "The Soft Machine" is the title of a novel by William S. Burroughs, first published in 1961.
    In 1957 the Dutch-American hematologist and poet Leo Vroman had already described man as "a soft machine"
    ["Mens is een zachte machine"] in his works "Slaapwandelen" [Sleepwalking].

  19. Cream (2) - Fresh Cream

    A proprietary cream [medical, not fresh] is available for Non-Specific Urethritis, aka "NSU".
    If you think the band are dressed for riding NSU Motorenwerke AG, German manufactured motorcycles, you're excused.

  20. The Leathercoated Minds - A Trip Down The Sunset Strip

    2 For Sale from $155.84

    Peter, Paul & Mary made "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" famous. A young J.J. Cale does it here.
    Hands up those who believe Little Jackie Paper is helping roll up a spliff for Puff to get totally 'magic'.
    (And do some dragon-dancing down by the sea).

  21. Soho (2) - Hippychick

    Thou shalt not sample unless the green light is on.
    The pop trio "Soho" had a UK and Stateside hit with "Hippychick".
    It features a sample from the recording "How Soon Is Now?" by "The Smiths".
    However, someone forgot to get clearance from Marr and Morrissey.
    They sought satisfaction to the tune of 25% of sales.

  22. GTO's - Permanent Damage

    4 For Sale from $28.41

    Cynthia Albritton and her assistant became renowned in the 'Swinging Sixties' as "The Plaster Casters".
    This due, in no small measure, to promotional attention created by Frank Zappa.
    Plus the willingness of Jimi Hendrix to have his manhood immortalized as a novel statuette.
    The activities of "The Plaster Casters" are the subject of two tracks on this album.

  23. The Surfaris - Wipe Out

    1 For Sale from $25.50

    "The Surfaris" were wiped out to discover this album deal meant only two edited tracks of their original single appeared.
    The remaining tracks were performed, uncredited, by "The Challengers".

  24. Various - The Rock Machine Turns You On

    39 For Sale from $1.95

    Simon & Garfunkel didn't feature on the CD reissue.
    A) Because the compiler hated them.
    B) A housemartin was found nesting on the master tape at the time.
    C) Neither.

  25. Electric Light Orchestra - The Electric Light Orchestra

    There's a perfectly simple explanation for this album having two titles.
    It was common practice for UK albums to be retitled to better suit the US market.
    When E.L.O. released this on the UK's "Harvest" label the newly-formed band called it "The Electric Light Orchestra".
    A clever and descriptive name for a 'light orchestral-style' pop-rock oriented group.
    However, when a caller from United Artists rang Harvest to find out the title for the US the call didn't get through.
    The caller logged the result as "No Answer". This inadvertently became the title of the US release.