You look out your window, maybe for the first time since you started your magnus opus, maybe for the millionth (because that’s how it works with you). Your masterpiece is complete. Maybe it is a novel, a short story, a canvas depicting the adoration of the magi using emojis*; perhaps you have successfully created the first jam-filled round cake from spuds**.
Whatever your creative juices have poured over (ew!), one thing is certain: it needs a name.
As a round in one my favourite radio comedy programmes, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, repeatedly demonstrates, a good title is everything. Who would have read, let alone wrote a song about, a book called “Wuthering Hillocks”?
Would “Catch-22” be such a, well, catchy title if it had been called “Catch-18” as originally planned?
And what fool would call their first novel a title that was a made-up word? Well, OK, me, but that isn’t the point.
Certainly, you want to ensure that the name you give your novel/album/painting/sculpture/offspring is memorable, carries the general atmosphere of the thing you have created and will, if a literary or musical offering, at least fit on the cover.
So, spare a thought for fans (and indeed the graphic design artist) of Fiona Apple who decided to entitle her second album thus:
“When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right”
Strangely, fans refer to her second album as “When the Pawn…” or “her second album”.
But that isn’t the longest album title in the world, oh no. That honour (?) is held by Chumbawamba who called one of their outpourings:
“The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or from Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother’s Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don’t Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to ‘Guard’ Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It’s Over, Then It’s Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won”
Frequently referred to as “The Boy Bands Have Won”, the thing about this epic song-lyric-in-its-own-right-title is that it strikes me as being pretty much on the money.
My third novel is entitled “A Xylophone at the Gates of Dawn” which is a pastiche of Pink Floyd’s first album name, itself taken from the title of chapter 7 of “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame.
So, there’ll be no problem fitting on the front cover. I hope.
* The Adoration of the E-Maji, obviously.
** Why would you do that, why, why?