Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's In a Name?

I grew up in the 60s, perhaps the first Golden Age of band names. Before then, there were band names of course, but they were pretty lame. It took the rollicking 60's to bring The Beatles, The Shrugs, Yardbirds, the 13th Floor Elevators, and my personal favorite, Them, Featuring Van Morrison - Oh no! It's Them!!!!!. I thought that was so cool back then. And the McCoys, (Hang on Sloopy - Wore that sucker out!), The Kingsmen, (You better know what they wrote...), Quicksilver Messenger Service, (Still way ahead of their time), and Big Brother and the Holding Company, with killer album art by R. Crumb. These were the nascent beginnings of the terribly cool band name.

The 70's had some too, believe it or not; it wasn't all lame... There was Steely Dan, (Supposedly named after a dildo and if not, it's a great PR hook), Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, Hot Tuna, Canned Heat, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, and T Rex, just to name a few. The place-name bands kicked in; Chicago, Boston, and Chilliwack, (10 points to whomever knows where that is, but Mario and Dan are excluded, hint, hint), but were generally very boring. Elton John hit it big, (He says he took his name in tribute to Elton Dean and Long John Baldry, who just passed away late last year...). I played in one named The 10 by 10 Cabin Bombardier Skidoo Blues Band, and no, I'm not making this up. Art rock came to the fore, with Genesis, King Crimson, The Velvet Underground, and Yes, (Who were originally known as Mable Greers Toyshop, but then decided that YES would look better on posters and be much easier for their drug addled fans to remember, which is a darn good point. Of course Disco came along in the 70s. I not only owned and proudly wore a DISCO SUCKS T-Shirt, I almost got in a number of fights for so doing - All of a sudden, there'd be some Garbadine wearing, frizzled haired asshole in front of me, jabbering angrily and gesturing at my shirt: At least that's what I think happened, I don't really know, I was pretty stoned at the time... What impact did Disco really have on the band name? Well, it was profoundly bad, but thankfully shortlived: Why, you ask? K.C. and the Sunshine Band - I rest my case, your Honor. Of course this was also the era of the southern-rock guitar armies, and they were bitchin' - The Outlaws, Lynard Skynyrd, Marshal Tucker, and the Charlie Daniels Band - Man, I loved them concerts, and those boys could pick, even if the band names were kinda pedestrian...

Ah, then came the 80's - The punks, the second British invasion, and Glam Metal. It was an up and down decade for the band name. For cool, you had Elvis Costello, (No, that's not his real name - He's Declan MacManus, knowing which once won me a Seattle radio station trivia contest), Guadalcanal Diary, Simple Minds, the Nails, Eurythmics, Crazy Eights, The Tubes, Flash and the Pan, The Pretenders, The Clash and of course, The Sex Pistols; not too bad, really... Then the synth-soaked legions of pop crossed the big pond again, bringing a bunch of really stupid names with them; Flock of Seagulls, Thompson Twins, Tears for Fears... Argghhhh. These attrocities could only possibly be upstaged by a wave of some of the lamest band names ever concocted - the Glammers. Rat, Warrant, Poison, Motley Crue, and on, and on, and on... I'm sorry, they all sucked, and so did their monikers. Now Van Halen wasn't half bad, especially when it turned out to actually be their name, and of course when Eddie turned out to be what Eddie is - I always loved a quote of his when asked about David Lee Roth; he thought for a moment, and then said, "I am a musician - David is an Entertainer..." Perfect. Metallica was ok, kinda both serious and poking fun at the genre, (I hope).

The 90's brought grunge and numerous derivatives, and some awesome band names. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alice in Chains, Faith No More, Guns n Roses, the Meat Puppets, and The Violent Femmes. And of course, my All Time Absolute Fave Band Name: The Tragically Hip. It just doesn't get any better than that. Towards the end of the decade, things kinda slipped a notch or two back toward lameness: KoRn, Pantera, System of a Down, Limp Bizkit, White Zombie, Soulfly, Testament, and Helmet (Denizens of the Industrial Speed Metal genre, which, while not my cup of tea, certainly has a snappy ring to it, doesn't it?).

Many of these late 20th Century bands oozed into the new era, and have more or less defined the band name thus far. To be honest, I haven't seen many yet in the last 5 years that really impress me. And so Monica and I have come up with a little game; we hear or read stuff during the day that strikes us as a good band name and make a note of it. It's actually kinda fun. Father Fred was waxing poetic in a sermon once and said something about Christians that don't exactly toe the line - He attached a term to it, and the next thing you know, my church group became The Dangerous Christians, (And he became a potentially great band name - Father Fred). A souvenier brought back from a swing through the south gave our semi-pickup Blues band it's name, Graceland Shotglass. Through our little game, I've picked up Asphalt Reality, Cat Box Liners, Grinding Wheel, Vertical Blind, Beer Coasters, The Torchdowns, Airstream Tremelo, Three Quarter Minus, the Killz, and the Meat Hammers. The possibilities are endless!

So if your band needs a fresh start, or you just want to be able to fire one off when somebody else is in need, just give me a shout, and I'll get ya squared away... Or, heck, just keep an ear open, and see what comes around. And if it's good, let me know!

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