Back in my overconfident university days I played drums in two different bands.
What I remember most from that period, apart from the jokes about drummers being people who hang around real musicians, was all the lugging and setting up of equipement I had to do. Much, much more than my fellow band members. ‘That’s the lot of the drummer’ I told myself, ‘especially one who plays a double-bass drum’. It still didn’t stop me wishing some days I was the group’s harmonicist.
One of those early wide-eyed, group attempts at fame was called THE GROOVEDIGGERS (later renamed DEMENTIA 13 after the 1963 horror movie of the same name, a remake landing in cinemas in 2017) and the other, THE JIVING GARGOYLES. I know what you’re maybe thinking. With names like those, the odds were against us from the beginning, right? Wrong! A quick glance at names of mega-conquering musical acts down through the years can show only one thing: names given to bands are the absolute last predictor of future success.
I got thinking on this topic after a recent visit to my local library. (One day I’d like to be able to write how I got thinking on a topic after a recent trip to the ski fields of St. Moritz or the sandy beaches of Belize, but for now, it’s my local library). I spotted a book about the etymologies (that’s right, etymologies!) of band names. Forty-five minutes later and now seated in a council provided leather armchair next to a sign that read “Reading seriously harms idiocy”, I was still leafing through its pages, proving those rumours of me having a short attention span are completely, OK mostly, unfounded.
There’s been some well documented stories over the years of how certain bands got their names. ABBA was an acronym of the band member’s first names: Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn and Anni-Frid. AC/DC came about after Angus and Malcolm Young’s sister saw the letters on the back of a sewing machine. KISS was thought up by Paul Stanley one day while driving around with fellow band mates in a car. Drummer Peter Criss had previously been in a band called LIPS. DURAN DURAN used to play at a club in Birmingham called Barbarella’s. They took their title from the name of a character in the 1968 movie Barbarella. Don’t believe me? Click here..
And as for music’s most famous ever band, THE BEATLES, theirs was originally conceived as a homage of sorts to one of their favourite musicians of the time Buddy Holly and his band THE CRICKETS.
Of course there’s never been any shortage of musical groups not afraid to embrace the ridiculous in what they called themselves. Think actor Russell Crow’s old outfit THIRTY ODD FOOT OF GRUNTS or even the ultimate exercise in ironic-naming, the recently reformed British alternative rock group THE THE. With their oddly placed question mark, PANIC! AT THE DISCO (2004 – Present) also deserve mention in this category.
Apparently the lads decided to drop the exclamation mark in 2008 when they released their Beatles-inspired Pretty. Odd. (Punctuation written here as it appeared on the album cover). The fans revolted and the exclamation was reinstalled.
This book had me recalling bands I’d long forgotton, one example being the 80’s British synth-pop new wavers THE THOMPSON TWINS. If you were around back then you probably realise none of the group members were twins or named Thompson. Or related. Instead they derived their name from a character in the original comic strip The Adventures of Tin Tin.
My prize though for the weirdest band name with the most interesting origin story goes to the American alternate rock band TOAD THE WET SPROCKET (1986 – Present). Back when I was teenager there was a Monty Python sketch called “Rock Notes” that hilariously parodied the idea of ridiculous band names. TOAD THE WET SPROCKET took their name from one of the made-up bands named in this sketch. Listen to it here
So now I’m asking – what would be your band name?
Peak out from behind the tree you’ve been standing behind these last few minutes and drop your idea into the comments box at the bottom – wacky, freak-show worthy, wantonly pretentious or Wembley Stadium headline act sounding – I’m not fussed.
If you get stuck for inspiration you can always resort to the ‘ol DAVE MATTHEWS BAND (1991- Present) formula for group naming. Or… you can use an automatic band name generator like the one found here or here or here .
Ps. In a week that also saw the passing away of 1960’s hippie cult leader Charles Manson and hopefully also the pop-culture phenomena that surrounded him while he was alive, came the sad news for tennis fans of the death of former 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna at the age of just 49. During her 14 year career she won 100 titles (24 in singles and 76 in doubles) and reached a career high ranking of #2 in the world (#1 ranking for doubles). She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.
Pss. Speaking of sports people, local boxer Jeff Horn now has a biography on the bookshelves. The front cover banner-line says it all – “My journey from bullied schoolboy to World Champion.”
Psss. Your bonus read this week is a little story for anyone who enjoys cupcakes.