Self-titled: A Quick Look at Rock and Roll Self-referentialism

As musicians, our enthusiasm for our music can be absolute. We lie awake at night pondering everything from band names to CD art to our guitar rigs. We are forced to re-read pages of books and magazines because a single word or phrase can launch our imaginations into endless loops of music-induced orbit.

Not easily contained, this burning emotion can grow exponentially, building with volcano-like intensity. For many, the only way to release this pressurized passion is to invoke the ultimate gesture of unbridled musical enthusiasm: write a self-titled song and release it on a self-titled album.

Hitting the Trifecta

The band-song-album triumvirate is the sweetest confection produced by a special recipe of equal parts enthusiasm, ego and “us-against-the-world” attitude. Bands like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Minor Threat, and Motörhead certainly fit comfortably into this category. Bands like the Monkees, well...

The band… released the song… on the album…
Bad Company Bad Company Bad Company
Black Sabbath Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
Iron Maiden Iron Maiden Iron Maiden
Minor Threat Minor Threat Minor Threat
The Monkees (Theme From) The Monkees The Monkees
Motörhead Motörhead Motörhead
Wilco Wilco (The Song) Wilco (The Album)

Close Enough for Rock and Roll

Some groups can be counted for writing self-titled songs that don’t appear on self-titled albums…

Band Song Album
Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst
Voivod Voivod War and Pain

…while others not inclined to strive for the eponymous hat-trick may settle for a more accepted convention, the self-titled album. (That list is huge. Thankfully, someone else created it.)

Warranting their own list, many bands opt for slightly less direct ways to express who they are, what they do, and whether or not they are funky.

Band Song Album
Cactus Cactus Music V
DRI Who Am I? Dirty Rotten LP
The Flying Burrito Brothers Hot Burrito #3 Flying Again
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced? Are You Experienced?
Public Enemy Public Enemy No. 1 Yo! Bum Rush The Show
Prince and the New Power Generation My Name is Prince Love Symbol
Queen Killer Queen Sheer Heart Attack
Run-D.M.C. They Call Us Run-D.M.C. Tougher Than Leather
The Who Who Are You Who Are You
Wu-Tang Clan Clan In Da Front Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber
Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F#$k Wit
Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber—Part II


The song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” was written and performed by Motörhead but later covered by, guess who, the Ramones for a version of their farewell album, Adios Amigos.

What Else?

Can you think of more? What am I forgetting? Add them in the comments!

Note: Because self-referential content is a bigger anomaly in rock than in hip hop, many hip hop examples were deliberately not included. (Wu-Tang Clan was included for their sheer dedication to the cause – four song titles on a single album!)