13. The Hold Steady, “Slapped Actress”
They come in for the beating, to see the stadium seating.
They’re holding their hands out for the body and blood, now.
We’re the directors—our hands will hold steady.
I’ll be John Cassavettes—let me know when you’re ready.

The Hold Steady have a few songs about the relationship between artist and audience. (“Stay Positive” also comes to mind.) But here, buried at the end of a lyric, they lay out their job in the relationship.

12. Big Audio Dynamite, “B.A.D.”
And the thought occurred to me
How come that everything you see
Is so bad
So bad

After being kicked out of The Clash and leaving General Public, Mick Jones wrote a song about stuff being bad for his next band, Big Audio Dynamite, the acronym of which is, of course, B.A.D. He also scored some hits with B.A.D. II in the 1990s.

11. The Clash, “We Are The Clash”
We ain’t gonna be treated like trash
We got one thing
We are the Clash
We are the Clash

And I guess Mick Jones wasn’t kicked out of The Clash for wanting to write a song called “The Clash,” because they went ahead and did it without him on their final album.

10. Living In A Box, “Living In A Box”
Cause I know what’s going on
In my own mind
Am I living in a box
Am I living in a cardboard box

Of course they named the band after the lyric they repeat 200 times in the song. That way no one could ever forget them.

Except then everyone did.

9. Talk Talk, “Talk Talk”
l’m tired of listening to you
Talking in rhymes
Twisting round to think
You’re straight down the line
All you do to me is talk talk

This was actually a remake of another song called “Talk Talk Talk Talk” by a band called The Reaction. I guess they really liked the other band, because it’s kind of weird explaining your band name with someone else’s song. Then again, the 1980s were a weird time.

8. Stray Cats, “Stray Cat Strut”
I don’t bother chasing mice around
I slink down the alley looking for a fight
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night
Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry,
“Wild stray cat, you’re a real gone guy.”

I have a weird dislike for the Stray Cats that I can’t quite quantify, it might have something to do with Brian Setzer coming off as trying to hard and retreating backwards into different musical genres. I hear his next band will be performing ragtime. But I must give them credit for stepping up to the plate and explaining themselves in song.

7. Jane’s Addiction, “Jane Says”
Jane says I’m done with Sergio
He treats me like a ragdoll
She hides the television
Says I don’t owe him nothing

See, she’s addicted to Sergio. Get it? And probably drugs.

6. Counting Crows, “A Murder Of One”
Well, I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow
Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there counting crows
One for sorrow, two for joy
Three for girls and four for boys
Five for silver six for gold and
And seven for a secret never to be told

I think the secret never to be told was how Adam Duritz managed to get Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox while sporting white guy dreads.

5. They Might Be Giants, “They Might Be Giants”
Tabloid footprints in your hair
Tabloid footprints everywhere
We can’t be silent
Because they might be giants

They Might Be Giants finally explained themselves on their breakthrough album, Flood. And thank goodness for that, because I’d been wondering about them since Lincoln.

4. Bad Company, “Bad Company”
Oh I was born six-gun in my hand
Behind a gun I’ll make my final stand
That’s why they call me bad company
And I can’t deny

The song “Bad Company” is performed by the band Bad Company on the album Bad Company and is based on the film Bad Company.

3. Adam Ant, “Antmusic”
So unplug the jukebox and do us all a favour
That music’s lost its taste, so try another flavour –

Adam Ant thinks your music sucks, his is better, and that you should try his. This being the early 1980s, he was probably right.

2. Wang Chung, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”
A ship of fools sailing on
Across the nation, around the world
Everybody have fun tonight
A celebration so spread the word
Everybody have fun tonight
Everybody Wang Chung tonight

I guess they don’t really explain exactly what “wang chung” means here, but they do let us know that “wang chunging” will lead to fun. So, if you’re having fun, maybe you’re already doing it.

1. Big Country, “In A Big Country”
I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime
And in a big country, dreams stay with you
Like a lover’s voice, fires the mountainside
Stay alive

No one in the history of the universe has ever had to ask, “what’s the name of the band that sang ‘In A Big Country’?” The song and it’s themes are as big and expansive as the title for both song and band.