By Joyce Peng
The band The Title Trackers consists of “Bono,” “Jim Morrison” and “Billy Joel,” who took center stage at the Vinyl Rock and Craft Beer Fest at Pacific Plate Brewing Company on June 28. Impersonating three of their classic rock idols, the band produces title tracks for albums that do not have title tracks. The band performed “Chopping Down the Joshua Tree,” “Morrison Hotel,” and “Throwing Stones at Glass Houses.”
All three songs are what the band envisions U2, The Doors, and Billy Joel would have written as their title tracks for their respective albums: The Joshua Tree, Morrison Hotel and Glass Houses. Title tracks are songs that bear the same name as the albums they are from. These three songs are part of the band’s 10-song debut album titled Lost Title Tracks.
Seven of these album songs were performed live at the festival, while the members also hosted a music trivia contest with the audience and spun vinyl records on request.
During its live set, The Title Trackers, whose members consist of Russell Wiener, David Tokaji and Andy Hill, included several creative elements, such as when the Jim Morrison character substituted a reading from Dr. Seuss’ book Oh Baby, Go Baby, for the dark mysterious poem found on the Title Trackers album.
The Title Trackers’ idea of writing title tracks for albums lacking of one began four years ago as a joke. Tokaji would sing the non-existent song “Exile on Main Street” by The Rolling Stones on Hill’s voice message. Hill initially thought that was a real song and felt like a bad Rolling Stones fan for not recognizing it. Later he realized the song did not exist, and it was just named after The Rolling Stone’s album Exile on Main Street.
Realizing its musical potential and comedic effects, the musicians finished writing the song and recorded it. For the next several years, the band completed the album.
“Imitation was a partial goal,” Hill said. “The primary goal is to reflect the essence of the whole sound of the band and pay homage to these icons who taught us the tools of our trade.”
The Title Trackers imitated the lead singers’ voices for all songs except one. The exception was “Blood on the Title Tracks,” parodying the album Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan.
“Every standup comedian has done his imitation of Bob Dylan,” Hill voiced. “And as big Dylan fans, we’d never found it very funny. We felt the same way about our own effort. We lost the essence of the Dylan’s communicative powers when we tried to imitate him. So “Blood on the Title Tracks” is the moment on the album where we draw back the veil and reveal our true identities.”
The point of the band’s project is parody and not parody at the same time.
“We have original songs with familiar titles,” Hill explained. “We exaggerated some of the vocals and included punch lines but our parody is way more subtle than for instance, Weird Al Yankovik. In our song, “The Trackers Send Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.” by Bruce Springsteen, we include funny lyrical components that Springsteen fans would recognize immediately – an obsession with car parts and rollicking internal rhymes for example. The arrangement [of the song] is a subtle form of parody.”
During song production, the band hired musicians from the actual bands it was parodying. It brought along Billy Joel’s saxophonist Richie Cannata and drummer Ty Dennis from The Doors revival band.
The Title Trackers host other concerts in the Los Angeles area. They have different entertainment elements to their shows, such as multimedia videos, an impersonation of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel, and a “Jim Morrison” and “Bono” duet.
The Title Trackers are bringing their Vinyl Rock and Craft BeerFest to T. Boyle’s Tavern in Pasadena on Friday, July 24 from 7 to 10 p.m.