Friday, 30 March 2012

Making the headlines sing ...

Tabloid headline writers have always used song lyrics as part of their toolkit - sometimes to stunning effect. Today's Daily Mirror splash, taken from Carl Douglas's Kung Fu Fighting, is a fine effort. As veteran editor Mike Lowe @cotslifeeditor observes on Twitter it is an obvious example of the back bench coming up with a splash head and then telling the newsdesk to stand it up. I don't have a problem with that though. Writing the headline first is an old tabloid trick - although the story does have to stand-up of course.
I am in the sticks today so didn't see Metro but @LewisWiltshire reports it has a feature on Greggs with the heading We built this city on sausage rolls. Nice touch. It was a song by Starship in 1985. I wonder, though, how many young London urbanites will have got it. And there's the first tip ... use songs that the vast majority of your readers know.
I remember a headline in an Irish paper above a picture of a defendant leaving court and shielding his face which read: It's been a bad day please don't take my picture.  It's by REM and isn't even the song title so may just have gone over some people's heads. The second tip is try to make the headline understandable, even if people don't know the song. 
The Sun's excellent  How do you solve a problem like Korea? makes sense even if you have never heard of The Sound of Music. 
The third tip is don't overdo it. When I was working at the Mirror in 1997 we counted 13 song titles in headlines in one issue. We even had a debate over whether Who's Sorry Now? was a song title or had become a phrase ingrained in the language. Anyway, we decided there were too many Frank Sinatra headlines for a paper that was aiming at a young market.  
Some other notables are Mourn on the Fourth of July, a bit of  anti-war poignancy from the Mirror via Springsteen, and the Mail's Diamonds are for weather, when Dame Shirley Bassey donned diamond encrusted wellies in a rainstorm.

The most famous headlines from song lyrics are, of course, from the Sun ... Zip me up before you go go and Super Caley go ballistic Celtic are atrocious. Tabloid genius. If you have any others let me have them. My email is     

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