Meet the Title Trackers, the Band Adding Missing Title Tracks to Classic Rock Records
Have you ever wondered why the Rolling Stones never bothered writing a title track for Exile on Main St.? Or Tom Petty never released a song called Full Moon Fever? Or why U2's The Joshua Tree doesn't have a "Joshua Tree" somewhere in its running order?
The Title Trackers are here to fill in those gaps. An L.A.-based trio on a mission to bring the world "the greatest songs never written," the band describes its sound as "a stylistic parody," but while they might be slightly tongue-in-cheek, their efforts are often uncannily on the nose — as evidenced by their new album, Lost Title Tracks, a 10-song set that includes each of the songs mentioned above as well as many others.
"The concept of the album existed years before we actually decided to do it," band member Russell Wiener tells Ultimate Classic Rock. Inspired by plans to attend a 2006 Rolling Stones show, one of the Trackers, David Tokaji, decided to torment his ticketless friend Andy Hill "by leaving voicemails for him in which he sung 'Brown Sugar,' 'Start Me Up,' etc.," says Wiener. "Then he decided to up the ante by making up choruses for non-existent title tracks like 'Exile on Main Street' and 'Tattoo You.'"
Hill, not realizing the fake Stones songs didn't exist, played along because he didn't want to make himself appear less of a fan, and Tokaji kept the gag going — until Wiener got wind of it and decided it might be more than a joke.
Eventually, the trio entered the studio with a full band to record "Exile on Main Street," and Wiener says they knew right away they were on to something. "The results challenged us to rethink our enterprise," he says. "It was funny, but it was also a reflection of all the things we love about the Stones. The song didn’t perfectly reflect the Stones; it sounded like them, and it sounded like us. It reflected their influence on us, and all the idiosyncrasies we love about them."
Thus inspired, the Trackers set about penning a full album of "lost" title tracks, starting with their own "Joshua Tree" (as Wiener puts it, "making sure to include plenty of biblical references, Africa references and other key Bono-isms") before moving on to a list that grew to include Billy Joel's Glass Houses, Bruce Springsteen's Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., the Who's Who's Next and the Doors' Morrison Hotel, among others.
"A lot of what we try to do is be 'method actors,' to get into the right frame of mind," explains Wiener. "Whereas for 'Exile' we tracked the song in a funky rehearsal room, flailing ourselves around and drinking as we recorded, for 'Joshua Tree' we set a different scene – a dark room, using flashlights to simulate stage lights, as Dave donned sunglasses and emoted every syllable as he skulked around the studio, gesturing like a preacher, standing on chairs, pretending to climb the Joshua Tree. We tried to picture how we’d play each song onstage, and set that scene in the studio."
Listen to a Sampler of Title Trackers Songs
That Method approach even extended to a cameo in the form of sax player Richie Cannata, who was a member of Joel's band during the recording of Glass Houses and agreed to play on the Title Trackers' homage. "It added an undeniably authentic feel to the song that no one else could have brought," enthuses Wiener. "We think he played the role of himself rather convincingly."
Lost Title Tracks' success is aided immeasurably by the band members' long and varied music business résumés. Wiener, who engineered the LP, boasts 20 years of experience behind the boards, including work for clients such as Alan Parsons and Steve Perry as well as Ray Manzarek, whose Doors legacy is lovingly parodied in "Morrison Hotel."
The trio are also all Bob Dylan fans — in fact, Hill is one of the forces behind L.A.'s Dylanfest, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year — so it's more than fitting that Lost Title Tracks closes with the Dylan-inspired "Blood on the Tracks," which Wiener notes is the only song on the album that finds the Trackers singing in their natural voices.
"When the song was finished, we came to two conclusions," he explains. "One was that it was the only song on the album that didn’t really come across as parody – we intended it to, but it truly felt like Dylan, with nothing calling attention to the fact that it wasn’t. And the other conclusion was that although each of us did a perfectly fine job of imitating Dylan’s voice, doing so was just ... lame. It felt hackneyed because of how often he's been mimicked. So that’s the one song where we sing in our own voices. We met our match and our maker and cried 'uncle.'"
After years of work and a crowdfunding campaign to put them over the finish line, the group has unveiled the LP, along with a series of videos and shows — and they're touched by how quickly some listeners have come to accept the songs in the spirit with which they were created. "A lady who came to our show the other night wrote us the next day, and she said 'Your love letter to rock n' roll is truly beautiful,'" says Wiener. "That’s a phrase we never used or thought to use, but it captures in once sentence our intent from the very beginning, and reading that made five years of work all worth it."
Lost Title Tracks is out now. For more information, visit the band's official site.
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