Andy Hill and David Tokaji were so jazzed about going to see The Rolling Stones’ 2006 Dodger Stadium show, the anticipation grew beyond guessing whether or not the band would perform “Dead Flowers.” Or “Tumbling Dice.” Or any other Stones song in existence. “It reached such a pitch that we were saying, like, ‘Wouldn’t it have been rad if they’d written a title track for Exile on Main St.?” Tokaji says. “Or if they’d written a title track for Tattoo You?”
And that’s how The Title Trackers started. The clever parody project involves longtime Los Angeles musicians Hill, Tokaji and Russell Wiener writing and recording title tracks to classic albums that do not have title tracks. The Stones ode “Living on Exile on Main Street” was the first tune they penned. The Title Trackers song captures the blues-pop panache, sweaty horn lines and background vocals that are the essence of Exile on Main St., The Stones’ 1972 masterwork LP.
“These two had this kind of running gag with non-existent title tracks for a long time and I started getting in on it, too,” Weiner says. “And at a certain point I’m like, ‘This is a pretty good idea. We might actually want to record something.’”
On March 10, The Title Trackers will release their first album, Lost Title Tracks. The LP’s 10 cuts include parodies of Tom Petty (“Full Moon Fever Gone to Our Heads”), The Doors (“Checking in to the Morrison Hotel”), U2 (“Chopping Down the Joshua Tree”) and Johnny Cash (the winkingly titled “Doomed to Live at San Quentin”).
Hill, Tokaji and Wiener — or Tracker Andy, Tracker Dave and Tracker Russ, as they like to be called — do a nifty job rendering aural details. On The Doors cut, for example, besides Hill’s solid Jim Morrison-isms, they used an Gibson SG-centered guitar rig similar to Robbie Krieger’s. They even enlisted Ty Dennis, from the reformed Doors project The Doors of the 21st Century, to play drums. The Title Trackers tune “Throwing Stones at Glass Houses” actually features longtime Billy Joel saxophonist Richie Cannata, whom they reached out to via Facebook.
Wiener says, “The truth is even without all the technical stuff it’s just all in our blood and when we sit down to record this stuff or even rehearse it, it already kind of sounds right. We already know what some of these guys would do on bass or guitar.”
Hill, Tokaji and Wiener also perform together in the L.A. jangle-rock combo Dry September. In Title Trackers, they share vocal, guitar and bass tasks, with Wiener engineering and producing recording at his Silver Lake studio.
Not everything cut for Lost Title Tracks stuck. An attempt to do faux Fleetwood Mac based on Rumors hit the cutting-room floor.
On March 14, The Title Trackers will embark on their “Rolling Tracker Revue,” a one-day “concert tour” of local record stories, including Amoeba, Vacation Vinyl and Rockaway Records.
“We looked at the vibe and identity of each store [to] figure what would be the best match for each one,” Tokaji says. “Vacation Vinyl is one of the hardest to pin down, so we decided to do Johnny Cash there because everybody is down with Johnny Cash, whether you’re into goth, metal or whatever.”
Some “Rolling Tracker Revue” stops will involve minor costuming. (An Edge skull cap, perhaps?) Each mini-set will involve three songs: an actual title track by the artist being parodied, a Lost Title Track tune and a “wildcard,” such as “Johnny Cash” covering something from Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All.
“None of us ever really considered forming a tribute band, though they're fun to see,” Hill says. “A writer can't help but want to write, and this was an amazing project for three writers with many of the same influences. None of us could have made this album on our own; we needed the blend of influences, voices and abilities.”
The Title Trackers have much respect for parody-tune icon Weird Al, but “what we do is fairly different,” Tokaji says. “For one thing, his lyrics rarely relate to the actual band. For example ‘Lola’ becomes ‘Yoda,’ because it's a convenient rhyme at the right time in pop culture.”
The group is releasing Lost Title Tracks on vinyl, with each copy also including a CD version of the disc. A proper album release show is set for March 29 at the Satellite.
The Title Trackers are already lining up parody possibilities for a follow-up. Songs inspired by title-track-less classics such as Abbey Road and License to Ill are high on the list. Tokaji says, “We’re not proprietary about what we’re doing. These titles are so good that they really inspired music we would have never thought of. And we want other people to feel that.”
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The Title Trackers' "Roller Tracker Revue" rolls into the following record stores on Saturday, March 14: 1 p.m. at Amoeba Records ("Stones and Petty show”); 2 p.m. at Vacation Vinyl (“Johnny Cash show”); 3 p.m. at Origami Vinyl (“U2 show”); 4 p.m. at Rockaway Records (“The Doors show”); 5 p.m. at High Fidelity (“Springsteen and Billy Joel show”); 6 p.m. at Pig ’N Whistle (after concert). More info.