Think we can do one more blog entry on titles? Let’s do it!
Titles, as our last post suggested, can be challenging—which may be why my students often give their pieces such creative titles as “Memoir” or “Argument Draft #1” or “Death of Salesman.” (“And I thought Arthur Miller wrote Death of a Salesman,” thinks the smug and weary English teacher).
There are tricks, of course, for coming up with a cool title. You can try the gerund title (for example, Breaking Dawn or Waking Ned Devine); the allusive title (Brave New World or Something Wicked This Way Comes, both borrowed from Shakespeare); the “the blank and the blank” title (The Falcon and the Snowman, The Squid and the Whale); or the “just clump some cool words together, regardless of it makes sense” title (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or Vanilla Sky).
But here’s one thing probably no one has ever told you about titles: if you’re working on some sort of creative endeavor, never, EVER entitle your project Boomtown.
You heard me. The Boomtown Curse started way back in the late ‘70s, with the Bob Geldof-led Irish band The Boomtown Rats. Now, you may remember them as reasonably successful; after all, they had that hit, “I Don’t Like Mondays.” But while they did find success in the United Kingdom (where “Mondays” went #1), the Rats didn’t quite scurry into the American market. In fact, U.S. radio stations– squeamish about the content of the song (it’s about a California school shooting)– chose not to play “Mondays” in 1979.
Now, the song did gain notoriety as the years went on, but it was never technically on the American charts. So, in a weird way, in the U.S. at least, the Rats are a one-hit wonder who never even had a hit. In any case, by 1985, as Bob Geldof got more and more involved in his charity work, the Boomtown Rats split, never achieving true fame in the U.S. And that’s the Birth of the modern-era Boomtown Curse.
Next victim: in 1986, the pop group David and David (made up of two guys named David—go figure) released their first single, “Welcome to the Boomtown,” from their debut album, Boomtown. A good song, and an even better album (I actually like “Swallowed by the Cracks” and “Ain’t So Easy” even better than “Boomtown”)… but for whatever reason, the duo of Davids just didn’t take. The group disbanded shortly after Boomtown’s release, and any semblance of a legacy instantly died. Even now, on any of those “80s flashback retrospective” shows, you never hear any David and David.
The Boomtown Curse strikes again.
Now, flash-forward sixteen years, to 2002; NBC has a brand-new, high-concept cop show starring Neal “The-Guy-with-the-Intense-Blue-Eyes-Who-Appeared-Opposite-Tom-Cruise-in-Minority-Report” McDonough. Each episode was going to show the same crime from different points of view—the criminals, the police officers, the victims, and so on. Cool concept, a lot of critical buzz, a lead actor with inhumanly blue eyes—how can you go wrong?
Answer: some fool decided to call the show Boomtown. The show barely squeaked out a year.
So, to all aspiring artists: the Boomtown Curse is real. Never include the word Boomtown in your title. And don’t even try to sneak a gerund in there—Cruising the Boomtown, say, or Booming the Town. And if you don’t believe us, ask Neal McDonough…. If you can find him.