Rejected Original Titles of Classic Albums
What if the Beatles kept the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ theme but called their album something else altogether. Or what if Nirvana decided to string together two other words from ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and made them, instead of “never mind,” the name of their breakthrough album? Titles are more than just words on the album covers; they’re reflections of the music and themes inside. And sometimes, they make all the difference in the world. (‘Pet Sounds’ was originally called ‘Remember the Zoo,’ which strips the Beach Boys‘ classic of its hard-earned elegance.) We doubt the LPs on our list of Rejected Original Titles of Classic Albums would have the same meanings under other names.
Beastie Boys, ‘Don’t Be a F—-t’
When the Beastie Boys were recording their debut album in 1986 with producer Rick Rubin, they didn’t have a title. Being three smart-ass New Yorkers barely out of their teens, they wanted to call the album ‘Don’t Be a F—-t,’ but their record company understandably balked at the suggestion because of its blatant homophobia (the group later apologized for their insensitivity). So the album ended up being titled ‘Licensed to Ill.’ Still, they got one juvenile joke in: Check out the tail of the airplane on the LP cover. “3MTA3″ is “EATME” in reverse.
David Bowie, ‘Shilling the Rubes’
From 1971 through 1974, David Bowie played on variations of the Ziggy Stardust persona he officially debuted on his 1972 breakthrough album. But in late 1974, tired of his spaced-out spaceman, and coked out of his mind, Bowie headed to Philadelphia to record an album based on the R&B sounds coming out of the city at the time. The working title of the project was ‘Shilling the Rubes,’ borrowed from an unreleased song from the sessions. The album was later retitled to reflect a track that did make the finished product: ‘Young Americans.’
The Clash, ‘The Last Testament’
Known as “The Only Band That Matters,” the Clash took it upon themselves to declare their third album the final word on rock ‘n’ roll. So they titled their double-record opus ‘The Last Testament,’ as they recorded their most diverse, and ultimately greatest, collection of songs. Somewhere along the line, they decided to change the LP title to mirror the dynamic opening track, ‘London Calling.’ But the group retained ‘The Last Testament’ title for the documentary DVD that accompanies the 25th-anniversary edition of ‘London Calling.’
Elvis Costello, ‘Emotional Fascism’
Elvis Costello was going through some heavy times, professionally and personally, during the making of his third album. He was recently separated from his wife, and the pressures of maintaining a career that hadn’t yielded the spoils of success began creeping into his already acerbic lyrics. Titled ‘Emotional Fascism,’ the record was more bitter and biting than its predecessors, and the title aptly summed up his feelings. But by the time it was released in early 1979, the album had been renamed ‘Armed Forces.’
The Smiths, ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’
By the time they started recording their third album in late 1985, the Smiths‘ worldview had turned from personal to political. The songs on the new record were deeper, darker and filled with the sort of dread that was hovering over a lot of people living under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s rule. The Smiths needed a suitable title, and ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’ fit the bill. They eventually aimed higher and retitled the LP ‘The Queen Is Dead.’ Morrissey ended up recycling the rejected original title for the closing song on his 1988 debut solo album.