Categories ‐ What’s in a Name?

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #9

Bands Named After Songs and Albums (part two)
With over-amped guitar sounds and abrasive singing, the Velvet Underground cleared the path and encouraged angst-driven, grunge and garage acts of the future to strike out on their own with confrontational ideas. Over in England, Chris Difford, who was a big fan of the Velvet sound, was forming a band, with fellow guitarist Glenn Tilbrook, which, ironically, would wind up mimicking the far more melodious efforts of groups like The Beatles and The Monkees than the songs of the Underground. The group, having performed under the name Captain Trundlow’s Sky Company (Skyco for short), played in pubs around the London area in 1974. The Velvet Underground, meanwhile, had released their last studio album the year before. Actually, with founders John Cale and Lou Reed having departed the group, guitarist Doug Yule was trying to milk the band’s name under his own efforts. That last studio album he released, entitled “Squeeze,” was written completely by Yule and issued only in the U.K. on Polydor Records in February 1973. Most Velvet Underground devotees dismiss this LP as not being truly worthy to be considered part of the Velvet’s catalog, but for the sheer, offbeat nature of it, Difford wanted to name his own band after this record. Thus, Squeeze was born, and the group has had a long-lasting life entertaining pop-rock audiences worldwide. Even though they scored one of their highest U.S.-charting hits with the #15-ranked “Hourglass” in 1987, most retro-‘80s rock stations today tend to track the band’s 1981 song “Tempted” as the signature Squeeze tune most-requested by fans.

Although born to a vicar, Lemmy Kilmister certainly did not choose to use his musical talents towards angelic hymnals. Playing in various rock and soul bands throughout the ‘60s, Kilmister joined the progressive rock band Hawkwind as a bassist in August 1971. Originally slated to be a temporary member for 6 months, Lemmy stayed with the band for four years. As Hawkwind played its trippy space-rock to legions of fans, a mishap occurred in the spring of 1975. As the band was leaving Canada, having completed a series of concerts, Lemmy was detained in a jail after his amphetamine pills were suspected of actually being cocaine. Following 5 days of incarceration, he was released, not only from prison, but from the group Hawkwind. Not one to cry over his losses, the outspoken Kilmister simply stated plans of forming another group, and sure enough, a month later, his new band was already making appearances at London shows. At first he wanted to call the group Bastard, but tamer minds talked him out of it. He instead named his band Motorhead, in deference to the last song he had written while with Hawkwind. Hawkwind had recorded two versions of “Motorhead” earlier that year in January 1975, one with Hawkwind’s Dave Brock singing lead vocals and one with Lemmy crooning to a backing violin solo. In July 1975, Brock’s version of “Motorhead” was released by Hawkwind as the B-side to their single “Kings of Speed.” Both Hawkwind and Motorhead have survived over the years and continue to play numerous annual gigs far and wide.

“Oh-oh, yes, I’m the great pretender. Pretending that I’m doing well. My need is such, I pretend too much. I’m lonely but no one can tell.” With their rich harmonies and doo-wop verve, The Platters staked a goldmine with these words to their hit “The Great Pretender” in 1956. Written by their manager, Buck Ram, over a brief half-hour’s time, the song rose quickly to the top of the charts and influenced the stylings of many ‘60s soul singers to come. As a teenager in Ohio, young Chrissie Hynde loved the Motown sounds of the 1960s singers of her day, and so, she began playing guitar in a high school band. Moving to England in her 20s, she eventually teamed with three other musicians in 1978 and recorded a cover of the Kinks’ Ray Davies’ tune “Stop Your Sobbing.” The song kicked onto the U.K. top 40, and the band soon after referred to themselves as The Pretenders, in tribute to the Platters’ hit. Chrissie was one of the first female rockers to front an otherwise all-male band, and The Pretenders scored several top ten hits in the U.K. and the U.S. over the 1980s with “Learning To Crawl,” “Back On The Chain Gang,” and “Don’t Get Me Wrong.” Hynde went on to have a child with Ray Davies in 1983.

In 1985, a part-time teacher in Scotland sent a demo tape of his songs to several London music publishing houses. He was advised to form a group that would be able to showcase his talents more properly. So, Ricky Ross put together a quintet of musicians, including his girlfriend on backing vocals, and they called themselves Deacon Blue. A huge fan of the group Steely Dan, Ross had named his band after their 1977 song “Deacon Blues,” which was released on Steely Dan’s landmark album “Aja.” The soft jazz tune chronicled the yearnings of a straight and narrow guy wanting to chuck his rigid lifestyle, adapt a catchy nickname ‘Deacon Blues,’ and head out into the jazzy nightlife with its card games and women of the streets. While some of Deacon Blue’s output was peppered with a little Steely Dan influences, their pop-rock was more straight-forward in its melodic lines, without the jazzy interpretations of their namesakes’ song. Nevertheless, Deacon Blue garnered a huge following in the United Kingdom in the late ‘80s, with a number one album, “When The World Knows Your Name,” in April 1989, and sold-out stadium concerts, including three at the Wembley Arena in London. Their popularity never blew stateside and by the mid-‘90s, the band had stopped recording.

Before they virtually pulled the plug, Deacon Blue had recorded a 1993 album, “Whatever You Say, Say Nothing,” with dj/mixer/producers Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne. They had hoped this creative duo could instill their songs with notable sounds in the way they had infused an earlier group’s music with catchy rhythms. It didn’t work for Deacon Blue, but the producer’s magic had worked for Happy Mondays. Formed in 1984, playing mostly at youth club functions, singer Shaun Ryder’s band in Manchester, England coined its name from New Order’s dance hit “Blue Monday.” After Happy Mondays released their first single in 1985, they had a chance to work with New Order’s Barney Sumner, who produced their second single “Freaky Dancin’.” Both bands went on tour together in 1987. But by 1989, after the release of two albums which had barely charted, Happy Mondays was looking for fresh inspiration. Enter Oakenfold and Osborne. With their lush production chops, they remixed some earlier Happy Mondays tunes and helped the band craft their best album, 1990’s “Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches.” The album entered Britain’s top ten and got them noticed on U.S. shores. The Manchester “sound” of the early ‘90s, which fostered bands like Oasis, could be traced to the rave-house music of Happy Mondays. Unfortunately, Ryder fell prey to the demands of a heroin addiction, which, in turn, sent the band into disarray until the end of the decade.

Around the time Happy Mondays were enjoying the pinnacle of success, five students at Oxford University in England had already formed a band called On A Friday. With three of its members playing guitar, one of them being lead vocalist Thom Yorke, the band’s raucous sound seemed to belie the quaint name they had chosen back in 1988. They took note of a 1986 song by The Talking Heads that had the following lyrics: “Baby your mind is a radio, got a receiver inside my head; Baby, I’m tuned to your wavelengths, lemme tell you what it says; Transmitter! Oh! Picking up something good; Hey, radio head! The sound…it’s a brand new world.” The song, having been released on their “True Stories” soundtrack, was “Radio Head.” Yorke and his friends felt this reggae-styled song’s name aptly summed up the vibe of their band. With the release of their first album, “Pablo Honey,” in 1993, the group became popular in alternative circles with the college smash hit “Creep.” With lyrics of angst and self-loathing, Radiohead’s definitive guitar sounds and melodies were highly-lauded by prominent critics in the music world, they became “buzz bin” heroes on MTV, and the group won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance for their 1997 album “OK Computer.”

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #8

Bands Named After Songs and Albums
Somewhere out there amongst the dingy nightclubs and smoky bars somebody’s band is laying down snarling rock chords and kickin’ backbeats under the name “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Chances are, there’s several house bands at hotels on lonely highways known as “Freebird.” I’d wager there’s probably a Beatles’ cover band tuning up right now somewhere on the globe that plays under the name “Octopus’ Garden.” For inspiration in naming their groups, many musicians have looked to their rock heroes and chosen something from their oeuvre to name their own band. The following list of recording artists turned this method of lifting notable lyrics, song titles or album names when choosing a moniker for their own group.

Two of the earliest known rockers to champion this method were The McCoys and The Pretty Things. The McCoys were a quartet of teenagers from Union City, Indiana, who formed in 1963 and toured around under the name Rick and the Raiders. Opening for the Bang Records’ darlings, The Strangeloves, in 1965, Rick and the Raiders were given the opportunity by The Strangeloves’ producers to record a song which had been first released by the R&B group called The Vibrations in 1964. The tune was “My Girl Sloopy.” Since Paul Revere and the Raiders were becoming a household name in the mid-60s, Rick and the Raiders needed to change their name. Their leader, Rick Zehringer had once taught a bandmate how to play bass by riffing on The Ventures’ 1960 song “The McCoy.” Released as a Dolton Records’ single, on the B-side to the number 2 smash “Walk, Don’t Run,” “The McCoy” was typical Ventures formula, a guitar-driven instrumental. The producers, overseeing Rick and the Raiders’ recording, loved the name McCoy, and soon the band changed not only its group moniker, but also the lyrics to that Vibrations tune they’d been hired to record. It now became “Hang On Sloopy,” and during the week of October 2, 1965, it went to number one on the Billboard chart. The McCoys continued recording for Bang Records, and Rick Zehringer, enamored of the gun design on the record company label, tweaked his last name to Derringer. When he went solo in the mid-70s, Rick Derringer released the notable rock anthem “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo.”

Across the Atlantic, around this same time in 1962, Dick Taylor was a student at an art college in Kent, England with another lad named Keith Richards. Both teens loved the blues music that was trickling in from the States, and they played in a group with a guy named Mick Jagger. When Keith and Mick went on to form their own group, a globally-famous band named after a Muddy Waters song (as covered in the “Bands Named After The Blues” article for this column), Taylor quit music for a while to study at a more prestigious art college. Soon, however, he formed his own rock ‘n’ roll group. For band name inspiration, his group chose the song of another R&B icon, namely, a tune of Bo Diddley’s. In 1955, Bo had written and released a single for Checker Records called “Pretty Thing.” It’s opening lyrics said, “You pretty thing, let me buy you a wedding ring, let me hear the choir sing, oh, you pretty thing.” Taylor and his bandmates, now called The Pretty Things, released their first album in 1965, and it contained four Diddley cover songs, including “Pretty Thing.” Although they garnered some success in Europe, especially with the song “Don’t Bring Me Down” (later covered by David Bowie), they never really made a dent in the American market. By the late ‘60s the band moved away from their blues roots and got lost in the musical haze of psychedelia.

In 1968, two English bands, Roundabout and The Iveys, were playing club gigs under these monikers, but their names would soon change. Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord had both played in several local bands before Chris Curtis, a former drummer for The Searchers approached them to join his new band, Roundabout. Within months, Curtis had departed Roundabout, and Blackmore and Lord forged on with the group. After a debut live performance in Tastrup, Denmark, the band shuttled back to England by boat, and while on-board, an interviewer asked them what their name was. Blackmore, sensing a need to distance himself from what Curtis had started, reportedly blurted out “Deep Purple.” The reference was allegedly to an old song Blackmore’s grandmother once liked. The song “Deep Purple” begins with the verse “When the deep purple falls, over sleepy garden walls…” and ends with the line, “…and as long as my heart will beat, lover, we’ll always meet, here in my deep purple dreams.” Blackmore and company would not pattern their writing after such innocent ditties like this, however. The Deep Purple sound was the forebear to all things heavy. Their 1972 album “Machine Head” defined and crystallized their high voltage sound, and the single “Smoke On The Water” went gold, hitting number 4 on the U.S. chart in July 1973.

The Iveys, on the other hand, were a gentler, more acoustic quartet of musicians. Having been discovered by Paul McCartney in 1968, the band was signed to The Beatles’ Apple label, and began work an album called “Maybe Tomorrow.” At the last moment, the LP was withdrawn, and Paul had them work on songs for a film entitled “The Magic Christian.” During this period, Apple felt the band should change its name, and after drawing up several lists, Neil Aspinall, a manager at the label came up with the title Badfinger. The reference was to an old John Lennon song. As he mentions in “Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger,” Lennon “was playing the piano and he had a bad finger so he called the piece he was playing ‘Bad Finger Boogie’ (which evolved to become ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’).” Under this new designation, Badfinger went on to release several smash hits, including “Day After Day,” “Baby Blue,” and “No Matter What.” The group fell apart after the suicide of its guitarist, Pete Ham, in 1975, and after a brief resuscitation in the early ‘80s, Badfinger, lost its second member, bassist Tom Evans, to suicide in 1983.

In 1971, a band formed on Canvey Island in Essex, England under the name Dr. Feelgood. Actually, they evolved from the Southside Jug Band to The Fix to The Pigboy Charlie Band, and finally, to the aforementioned medical moniker. The band was notorious for covering many rock ‘n’ roll tunes by early legends like Chuck Berry, Elmore James, and Sonny Boy Williamson. They also liked jamming on the songs of early British bands, especially those of Johnny Kidd and The Pirates. It was from this latter band that the four members of Dr. Feelgood cripped their name. In 1964, Johnny Kidd and The Pirates released a single that reworked the Italian song “Santa Lucia” into an English counterpart, renaming and issuing it as “Always & Ever.” On the B-side to this single was the song “Dr. Feelgood.” Dr. Feelgood, the band, played the U.K. circuit throughout the years and scored a few hits on British soil, but they never truly were afforded much notice outside of those environs.

However, a song Dr. Feelgood wrote in 1974, in turn, became the name of a popular Swedish group in the mid-‘80s. The song told of an obsessive lover who follows his girlfriend around, watching her with other men. By the song’s end, the lover is going away on business, but he tells his girlfriend, “I don’t want no more of your tricks, I’m gonna get some concrete mix, and fill your backdoor up with bricks.” He was saying this to his girl named Roxette. Guitarist Per Gessle and vocalist Marie Fredericksson, both fans of this single, teamed up in 1984 under this name, and by the end of that decade, had become as big a Swedish phenomenon, if not more so, than fellow popsters ABBA.

Far from the land of pop, Judas Priest defined the leather and chains aspect of heavy metal for generations of headbangers to come. Formed in late 1969, the band went through a personnel shake-up in its formative months until it settled into its trademark hard-rock, speed-guitar status as a quintet led by former lighting engineer, Rob Halford. The early incarnation of this group decided upon its name as a result of being fans of the Bob Dylan song, “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.” The tune provides a morality tale about wanting more than what you bargained for. A mysterious Judas Priest, possibly Death himself, tempts his friend, gambler Frankie Lee, into seeking “eternity,” a house at the end of the town’s road, which inevitably leads to Frankie’s death. Certain parents in the mid-‘80s felt the band, Judas Priest itself, had called their own boys to death when two Nevada teens shot themselves while listening to the group’s 1978 album “Stained Class.” The charges of subliminal enticement within the songs were eventually dismissed in 1990.

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #7

Bands Named After Published Works (part two)
As observed in part one of this column, several bands over the years have made allusions to critical or thought-provoking works of literature by naming themselves after their favorite books or plays. Some bands, of course, attempted to appear radical by selecting obscure, smuttier pieces of fiction as the reason for their namesakes. One wouldn’t be hard-pressed to say that the band, The Buzzcocks, probably culled their moniker from this latter category. The published work from which they discovered their name was derived from an article in a London magazine called Time Out. The piece was a review of a musical called Rock Follies that ended with the line “get a buzz, cock.” As obscure a reference as their name was, the Manchester-based punk band was notable for having shared the bill with the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned. The band fostered a significant following with both teen boys and girls and produced a top 20 hit in the U.K. with “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)” in 1978.

The Buzzcocks’ frontman Pete Shelley also helped name a new group starting out in the Manchester club scene, calling them The Stiff Kittens. Bernard Albrecht, Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, and Stephen Morris later settled on a different name, choosing a reference out of a WWII Nazi concentration camp account called “House of Dolls,” written by Karol Cetinsky. In this harrowing non-fiction narrative, Cetinsky described the travails of Jewish women who were kept in the camps for the purpose of pleasing Nazi soldiers on leave. Their select group was named the Joy Division. Obviously, more than one critic of the band felt they were exploiting a very delicate subject matter with their moniker, and accusations of Nazi empathy followed the band in several circles of discussion. It didn’t help matters when, after the suicide of their lead singer, the other members re-emerged in a subsequent, much more successful band, named with the Aryan-catchy phrase, New Order. Despite some of these drawbacks, Joy Division cracked the U.K. top 20 with the single “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and their album “Closer” went to number 6, both achievements happening in the summer of 1980.

Steering clear of controversy, a quintet of lads from Aylesbury, England got together in 1978 with a purpose of bringing back progressive rock in an era of punk anarchy. Led by a guy named Fish, born Derek Dick, who wore elaborate face paint onstage, the group called themselves Silmarillion, after the J.R.R. Tolkien book of the same name. Tolkien’s creation contained many stories, but the primary plotline centered around the planet Arda and the two Simarils, gems that contained light, which were stolen by an evil Vala named Melkor. Okay, so we’re confused too. Just read the book. Fish and his mates truncated their name to Marillion for simplicity’s sake and proceeded to release a succession of hit albums over the 1980s in Great Britain. Although some of their work cracked the top 200 on the Billboard charts, the band’s greatest achievements occurred in the U.K. as 7 of their albums between the years 1983 to 1991 climbed to and sometimes debuted on England’s top ten chart.

After the release of two albums with the group The Human League, Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware, two synthesizer maestros, felt the strain of having to tour left them drained and yearned for a creatively-different outlet. Striking out on their own, they brought singer Glenn Gregory into their fold in 1980 and formed a groovy electronic-dance outfit named Heaven 17. The source of literature they borrowed their name from was none other than the controversial ‘70s bestseller “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess. At the Corova Milk Bar, famous hangout for Alex and his malevolent Droogs gang, a jukebox featured a band by the name of Heaven 17. Their debut single “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” pounded the dance floors in the United States and Great Britain. While their first three albums all cracked the U.K.’s top 20 charts, Heaven 17’s single “Let Me Go” played heavily in the States on MTV’s formative early year of 1983.

Uptempo hits of the ‘80s didn’t get any frothier than songs like “Something About You” and “Lessons In Love,” both of which were crafted by the four members of London’s Level 42. Formed in 1980, bassist Mark King sang lead while his keyboardist Mike Lindup chimed in with perfect harmony. The two singles made it to #7 and #12 on the U.S. charts respectively in the years 1986-87. The band members were fans of the hilarious sci-fi spoof “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” written by Douglas Adams. The book, which eventually expanded to a trilogy of novels, concerned a man named Arthur Dent, who in an instant, is plucked from Earth’s obliteration by his friend Ford Prefect, and the two travel the universe on hilarious misadventures. The strange band name came from the reference of 42 in the book, which answered the question, “What is the meaning of life?”

Science fiction once again figured in the name of a band in 1980, when a Liverpool trio of musicians took their moniker from a piece of fiction by famed author Frederick Pohl. Published in the February 1960 issue of Galaxy, the short story “The Day The Icicle Works Closed” inspired this rock pop group to adapt their name as The Icicle Works. Their debut album charted in the top 30 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1984, and the band’s finely-crafted pop songs like “Love Is A Wonderful Colour” received favorable independent airplay on college radio. By 1990, after several personnel changes, the Icicles had melted and gone their separate ways.

“L’arte dei Rumori” was a manifesto ahead of its time in the 1920s. Written by Luigi Russolo to a “great futurist musician” by the name of Balilla Pratella, Russolo championed the notion of severing routine orchestral configurations and stylings of his day and instead try to “conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds.” He advocated the use of everyday noises like trolleys, autos, gurgles, and rainfall to be molded into a musical collage of sound. “L’arte dei Rumori” translates in English to The Art of Noise. In 1983, a group of experimental musicians decided to forge ahead with Russolo’s manifesto, and named their band in its honor. The Art of Noise incorporated buzzsaws, racecars, and other noisy ambience into a danceable beat-driven style of music that captured both the ear of the avant-garde and the club-hopper. The band won a Grammy for their instrumental take on the TV theme “Peter Gunn,” and incorporated animated icon Max Headroom and Welsh singer Tom Jones in their respective songs “Paranoimia” and Prince’s “Kiss.”

“Wake Up Boo!” was a hit on British radio in February 1995, and the album “Wake Up!” from which it was released hit number one on the U.K.’s charts. Who’s Boo? Why The Boo Radleys, of course. Darlings of American university students, with wide-ranging songs that touch on rock ‘n’ roll, Beatlesque melodies, reggae, cajun, and the kitchen sink, this Liverpool outfit formed in 1988 and took their name from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. In the book, Boo Radley is the mentally-ill next door neighbor of attorney Atticus Finch, who befriends Finch’s children, Scout and Jem. Aptly-titled “C’mon Kids,” their subsequent album unfortunately did not yield hit singles, but indeed, continued in their tradition of delivering seamless rock-pop from the land of the moptops.

As you can see, literature has played a significant role in the world of rock. And as Camus said, music need not be analyzed or reasoned. It should just make you feel something. Take you to another place. Help soothe some of your concerns and worries. We bid you adieu with the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
“And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infect the day,
Shall fold their tents like Arabs,
And silently steal away.”

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #6

Bands Named After Published Works (part one)
Alienated author Albert Camus, writer of such existential masterworks like “The Plague” and “The Stranger,” once reflected that “music is the most perfect art.” “Truly fertile music, the only kind that will move us, that we shall truly appreciate,” he wrote, “will be a music conducive to Dream, which banishes all reason and analysis. One must not wish first to understand and then to feel. Art does not tolerate Reason.” Perhaps it is in the spirit of Camus’ words that some musical groups have chosen to reciprocate this honorary praise by naming their bands after a favorite piece of literature or published work. A conclusion based on no reason behind their choice — just acknowledgement of art transcending mediums.

Members of a particular band in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll made a special effort to link their musical persona with literature and the art world of their day. After meeting in 1965 at New York’s Syracuse University, Lou Reed and John Cale, along with guitarist Sterling Morrison and percussionist Angus MacLise, decided to name their band after a pulpy, pornographic S&M novel that MacLise had in his possession. No reason behind it really, just a nod to the smutty work called “The Velvet Underground.” Bringing the German-born, smoky-voiced chanteuse Nico into their fold, the Underground linked up with Andy Warhol and his Scene, and became a part of his multi-media show, “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” The group would go on to explore dark, edgy themes in their music, including “Venus In Furs,” (another allusion to S&M, inspired by a novel of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch), as well as cult classics “Heroin,” and “White Light/White Heat.” Although their heyday was short-lived, The Velvet Underground’s music made a lasting impression on adoring critics and artists like David Bowie and Sonic Youth to name but a few.

In the following year, 1966, seven musicians got together in Cardiff, Wales to form a bluesy rock band called Amen Corner. Their name was taken from a play by heralded African-American author James Baldwin. Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner” related the story of a devout woman who tries to keep her son on the righteous path after his wayward father returns to their Harlem home to play jazz. Perhaps in keeping with the jazzy notions of Baldwin’s piece, Amen Corner, the band, was keen on having two saxophonists as members of the group. While not charting significantly in the United States, Amen Corner broke through the British top 10 on several occasions, and toured in 1967 with Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd.

German author Herman Hesse was noted for his severely analytical, introspective works after World War I. In one particular novel, protagonist Harry Haller tried to resolve the clashes he had within himself and the outside world, which resulted in his life being split into countless extremes in polarity. Pretty heady stuff. So why did the headbanging forefathers of rock, the lookin’-for-adventure, “Born To Be Wild” tunesmiths called Steppenwolf, decide to take their name from the title of that Hesse novel? Well, first of all, their producer suggested it, and second, well, it sounds pretty cool, man. So be it. German-born lead singer, John Kay (born Joachim Krauledat) guided his heavy metal band through hits like the aforementioned “Born To Be Wild” which held the #2 spot in the U.S. charts for three weeks in August 1968, and “Magic Carpet Ride,” which reached #3 in November of that year.

The following year of 1968 brought another heavy metal outfit known as Uriah Heep. Formed in London originally with the name Spice, they switched their name to the one conceived by Charles Dickens in 1850, which Dickens gave to a conniving clerk character in his landmark novel “David Copperfield.” While Dicken’s Uriah Heep wormed his way to the top as a partner in a law firm, the band Uriah Heep barely cracked the top 40 in Britain and the United States with their songs “Easy Livin’” and “Sweet Lorraine.” Fading away in the 1970s and then resurfacing in the heavy metal scene of the ‘80s, Uriah Heep’s blend of bass-heavy metal and organ-driven blues would influence sounds of the big hair metal groups of the early ‘80s.

A benevolent millionaire funded the formation of another group in 1969, and the group went on to garner a number one album in the United States. Sounds like something out of a modern-day Charles Dickens novel too, doesn’t it? Alas, it was one Stanley Miesegaes, a wealthy Dutch playboy, whose real-life philanthropy enabled keyboardist and singer Rick Davies to gather a group of musicians in London to form a band. It’s not like they were begging for money, but perhaps that is why they settled on naming themselves after an obscure William H. Davies novel called “The Autobiography of a Supertramp.” The story dealt with the musings of a wandering English hobo whose life only seems to go downhill after being born in a public house in a nondescript village. The band’s fortunate turn of fate led to a series of underwhelming first releases throughout the early ‘70s, but yielded a monster smash of an album, “Breakfast in America,” in 1979. With tunes like “The Lyrical Song,” and “Goodbye Stranger” receiving massive airplay, Supertramp’s successful LP was #1 on the Billboard charts for an overall six weeks.

Another benefactor was helping a band in 1969 find its voice and its literary name. Guy Stevens was an A&R executive with Island Records when he listened to a demo tape of a quintet of musicians calling themselves Silence. He liked what he heard, but didn’t like their name. Possessing a knack for bestowing unique names on bands (Stevens supposedly had given another band, Procol Harum, their moniker), the executive remembered a book he’d read in prison while serving a short stint for a drug charge. It was an underground comic novel about a man who wants desperately to break from the conformity and labels of daily life, but, through a series of misadventures, learns exactly where his position in society is destined to be. Written by Willard Manus, “Mott The Hoople” became the band’s new name. Stevens replaced their lead singer with curly-tressed, sunglass-wearing Ian Hunter, and after a series of poorly-received cover tunes, the band scored a sizable hit with the David Bowie-penned “All The Young Dudes” in 1972.

A very different kind of literature influenced part of the name of a band that formed in Winnipeg, Canada in 1972. Technically-defined as a gearing mechanism of a vehicle engine that reduces the power output required to maintain driving speed in a specific range by lowering the gear ratio, the word “overdrive” became synonymous with tire-peeling, pedal-to-the-medal rock ‘n’ roll when it was incorporated into the name of C.F. Turner and Randy, Robbie and Tim Bachman’s band. Having already tasted success with the Canadian band Guess Who, Randy Bachman helped christen his new group with the aid of a trucking industry magazine named “Overdrive.” BTO, as they came to be fondly called, scored a couple of successes with “Let It Ride” and “Takin’ Care of Business” before they went to number one on the U.S. charts for a week in November 1974 with “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”

A drive shaft of a different nature was the germination behind the cult-favorite band Steely Dan when Donald Fagen and Walter Becker answered guitarist Denny Dias’ ad for musicians in 1972. Coining their name from the hardcore, drug-laced, underground novel “Naked Lunch” by William Burroughs, the moniker referred to a Steely Dan model of rubber phallus made by a company named Yokohama. The band did not face any stiff competition in their field of jazz-laced, obscure style of songwriting in the early ‘70s, and as their group line-up became more tumescent with ever-changing session players, Steely Dan produced their best album “Aja,” containing the hits “Peg” and “Deacon Blues” in 1977.

Be sure to log in next week for part two of Bands Named After Published Works

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #5

Bands Named After Movies (part two)
Just outside the wondrous, candy-coated environs of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida lies another, more malevolent, attraction town. It was here, in 1964, that ghosts of confederate dead rose up to attract “yankee” tourists visiting their burg for the sole purpose of chopping, crushing, and basically ripping apart these unsuspecting northerners in a loopy Herschell Gordon Lewis horror film (shot in the sleepy town of St. Cloud) called “2000 Maniacs.” A 12-member group of musicians in Jamestown, New York, led by singer Natalie Merchant, misjudged the number of crazies designated in the film’s title when they decided to name their band, 10,000 Maniacs, circa 1981, in honor of the classic. By 1982, the band had atrophied to six members and would go on to receive favorable college radio airplay. When they appeared on MTV’s “Unplugged” in late 1993, their cover version of the Bruce Springsteen/Patti Smith song “Because The Night” subsequently rose to number 11 on America’s charts.

During the spring and summer of 1989, it seems you couldn’t drive anywhere without hearing the ska-sounding rock of Fine Young Cannibals spilling out of your dashboard radio. The British trio signed to a record deal in December 1984, but it wasn’t until April 1989, when their song “She Drives Me Crazy” leapt to number one on the U.S. charts, that the band became well known. Their album, “The Raw & The Cooked,” also held America’s number one for 7 weeks starting on June 3rd, and the band’s follow-up single, “Good Thing,” bopped to numero uno in early July. Guitarist Andy Cox had heard of a film called “All the Fine Young Cannibals,” and the band had decided on the name in what proved to be a rushed decision, even though no one had seen the movie. Released in 1960, the film was a veiled biography on the life of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and starred Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood.

Originally calling themselves Death of Joey, brothers Jim and William Reid of East Kilbride, Scotland claim they heard a line in a Bing Crosby film, presumably 1945’s “The Bells of St. Mary,” which triggered their band’s name change. The sequel to Bing’s “Going My Way” featured Mr. Crosby as Father Chuck O’Malley, a priest who helps out the Mother Superior of St. Mary’s parish, Ingrid Bergman. Thrashing, feedback-driven songs characterized much of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s output, formed in 1984, and the band was anything but holy with its lyrical drug references, club fights, and an unreleasable single called “Jesus Sucks.” However, a substantial number of their songs like “April Skies,” “Blues From a Gun,” and “Reverence” were able to crack the top 10 in the United Kingdom and had a cult following in the States.

Casting about for a worthy follow-up to his success in the role of the Count in 1931’s “Dracula,” Bela Lugosi signed on to a low-budget eerie thriller set on the island of Haiti. The film was called “White Zombie,” and it detailed the efforts of Lugosi, as the leader of a band of zombies, trying to steal a newlywed wife away from a young tourist couple. Robert Straker, alias Rob Zombie, had a love of these old B-grade-type horror films, so when he named his Black-Sabbath-like band White Zombie in 1985, the reference was understandable. Their album “Astro Creep: 2000 Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head” debuted at #6 on the U.S. charts in April 1995. In 1996, White Zombie was named the Best Metal Band by both Rolling Stone Magazine’s critics and readers, and their song “Thunder Kiss ‘65” was blasted for 4 hours at meddling photographers during Barbra Streisand’s July 1998 wedding to James Brolin.

Six Oscars were bestowed on the Bette Davis/Anne Baxter satirical film, 1950’s “All About Eve,” yet unlike the Broadway star of the movie, who ruthlessly climbed her way to the top, Julianne Regan and Tim Bricheno’s band of the same name, formed in London in 1985, did not reach such heights. With a mixture of folk lamentations and Goth bravado, All About Eve were revered by British critics in the mid-to-late ‘80s with songs like “Martha’s Harbour,” which cracked the UK’s top ten. By 1992, however, the show was over, and the band’s four members went their separate ways.

If you dialed a particular New York phone number in the mid-80s, you would be treated to a new song for that day. This brainchild Dial-A-Song idea was conceived by two musicians, John Linnell and John Flansburgh, who made up the offbeat, sardonic members of the group They Might Be Giants. Their name was based on a 1971 film of the same title, which starred George C. Scott as a daffy man in New York City who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes and is the patient of psychiatrist Dr. Watson, played by Joanne Woodward. They Might Be Giants never garnered a rousing success, but songs like “Don’t Let’s Start” were favorites in the indie/college radio circuits.

Slide guitar aficionados usually bring up the name of Ry Cooder as one of the all-time greats when it comes to this style of playing. Cooder’s influence was definitely studied by one Scottish band, in particular, a band that named themselves after a movie on which Cooder composed its soundtrack. The movie was 1984’s “Paris, Texas,” starring Harry Dean Stanton as an absent man trying his best to reacquaint himself with his wife and son. The band’s name became Texas, one of England’s favorite sons, with the personable Sharleen Spiteri as their lead vocalist. Formed in 1986, the band’s first single “I Don’t Want A Lover” reached number 8 on the U.K. charts in March of 1989. Their last two albums, “White on Blonde” and “Hush” both debuted at number one in Britain, and this band continues to churn out catchy, slide-guitar-driven ditties just waiting to be discovered by a big audience on America’s shores.

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #4

Bands Named After Movies (part one)
“For a golden girl knows when he’s kissed her / It’s the kiss of death from Mister Goldfinger!” You can just about hear the big, brash sounds of Shirley Bassey belting this tune right off the page. “Goldfinger” the song, and the Bond movie from which it is derived, are the epitome of 1960’s “cool.” Perhaps yearning to be associated with that sheen of “coolness,” a California band in 1994 got together and named themselves Goldfinger. They released a hit single “Here In Your Bedroom” and toured extensively with No Doubt and the (re-formed) Sex Pistols.

The film world has been influential in many facets of popular culture. Music and film have been virtually symbiotic, especially since the onslaught of music videos in the early 1980s. Nowadays, if a band is hard-pressed to come up with a “knowing” moniker for their outfit, they may look to an obscure film title or movie character to present themselves as a savvy, retro-hip, or counterculture rock unit. Incidentally, “Goldfinger” must be perceived as such a hip movie that another band named itself after the Bond classic. Honor Blackman’s character of Pussy Galore became the name of a punk outfit in Washington D.C. in 1985 whose “Dial M for Mother******” became a moderate underground success and whose lead guitarist went on to form the blistering Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

In 1956 director John Ford focused his lens on his favorite leading man, John Wayne, to create their most famous Western masterpiece “The Searchers.” The story revolved around Wayne, an ex-confederate soldier, riding for years, searching for his niece, Natalie Wood, who has been kidnapped by Indians. Two Liverpool lads by the names of John McNally and Mike Pender began performing at local pubs five years after the movie’s release and decided to honor the film by naming themselves The Searchers. Bringing two other musicians into their fold, The Searchers were ready to launch their career when The Beatles took America by storm. Several of their songs cracked the U.S. 100, and their cover of the Clovers’ “Love Potion #9” made it to #3 on the Billboard charts the week of January 16, 1965.

The rest of the 1960s consisted of bands who focused their branding efforts mostly on psychedelic and “Summer of Love”-sounding titles. A Lancaster, California musician, Don Van Vliet, would oftentimes think of fantastical movie plots. One of his brainstorms for a film, which was never made, was called “Captain Beefheart Meets the Grunt People.” Vliet decided to adopt this movie moniker and started a band called Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band in 1964. The group never had a successful single in the U.S. but broke onto the top 50 charts several times in Britain over the next decade.

As the 1970s rumbled in, two members from the rock band Free and one from Mott the Hoople joined to form a new group in London under the management of Peter Grant. A little-seen 1972 film directed by Robert Benton, and featuring Jeff Bridges and Barry Brown as two outlaw drifters — one carefree and one careful — told the tale of their light-hearted thievery as they headed across the Old West after the Civil War. Grant, having shepherded the image of Led Zeppelin, wanted to give his new band this film’s outlaw aesthetics, so, in 1973, Bad Company was derived from the title of its cinematic forebear. Bad Company’s macho lyrics and gritty guitar crunches put songs like “Can’t Get Enough” at #5 and “Feel Like Makin’ Love” at #10 on the U.S. charts.

In the 1930s depression era, immigrants traveled to the oilfields of Oklahoma to make a scruffy living from the rich black tea that bubbled from the plains and only seemed to benefit but a few entrepreneurs. These new arrivals were highlighted in both the folk singer Woody Guthrie’s biography and a film made on his life in 1976 called “Bound For Glory” which starred David Carradine. Around that same time, Bob Geldof of Dublin, Ireland must’ve felt some camaraderie spirit with these upstarts because he saddled his new band with their name, The Boomtown Rats. The Rats’ infamous best-selling single, ‘I Don’t Like Mondays,” based on the 1979 shooting spree of San Diego schoolgirl Brenda Spencer, was a number one hit in Britain and peaked at #73 on the U.S. charts.

Punk lover Susan Dallion was working as a waitress in Kent, England when she had a chance to sing with a hastily-assembled band at the “100 Club Punk Festival” in London in 1976. She refurbished her given name with a Native-American Indian slant, Siouxsie, and shortly after the gig, hit the club circuit with a backup band christened The Banshees. Their name was derived from the 1970 Vincent Price horror flick “Cry of the Banshee,” a film in which Price plays a magistrate witch-hunter whose family is cursed by a coven of witches. True to the meaning of the word banshee, which concerns a woman who wails to signal a pending death in a family, Siouxsie screeched her way onto British charts many times from the mid-70s to the mid-90s, with albums like her #12-ranked “The Scream,” and the band’s 1983 cover of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” which went to #3 in the U.K.

A mad scientist yearning to gain possession of the universe is eaten by a lava-lamp-like form that feeds off evil. The latest installment of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” opus? Not likely. The character played by actor Milo O’Shea, was featured in the sexy 1968 Jane Fonda space romp “Barbarella.” Duran Duran was his name and a band from Birmingham, England, that occasionally played gigs at their local Barbarella’s Club, pounced on the name for their group in 1978. Blasting off with the hit “Planet Earth,” the band conquered the cosmos throughout the 1980s with new-wave pop gems like “Rio,” “Hungry Like The Wolf,” “The Reflex,” and “Notorious.” Incidentally, Capitol Records, the band’s label, was the first major record company to introduce a single via the Internet in September 1997 with the release of Duran Duran’s “Electric Barbarella.”

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #3

Bands with the Blues
It’s no mystery that much of what we hear today as rock ‘n’ roll has been mixed, beaten, and pureed in that big musical blender known as the blues. This influence has been translated to the guitar stylings, chord variations, and vocal inflections of practically every rock legend inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. In honor of these often-unheralded guiding forebears, several rock bands have taken to naming themselves after legendary blues artists and their songs.

The most well-known band to name themselves with a blues moniker were The Rolling Stones. Long-time admirers of many blues artists, and having covered several popular blues songs over the years, Jagger and Richards decided to take the name of a Muddy Waters’ tune, “Rollin’ Stone,” as their namesake. Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi and nicknamed by his grandmother for his penchant of getting himself dirty in a childhood creek, made this popular blues song his first single when he began recording for Chess Records in 1950.

Soon, other rock bands jumped on the blues bandwagon. In 1964, Los Angeles band The Stone Poneys played their folkie music in small venues with their lead singer Linda Ronstadt. “Different Drum,” a song written by The Monkees’ Michael Nesmith, would prove to be their only prominent hit in 1967. The group had derived their name from the blues song “Pony Blues” by Charley Patton. Patton, like his co-hort Mr. Waters, was another Mississippi native who had made this riff, about social mobility, his first issued recording when he was offered sessions in Richmond, Indiana.

In Cambridge, England, a man named Syd Barrett was enamored of the South Carolina bluesman Pink Anderson, who had traveled for 30 years playing in a medicine show, oftentimes with another obscure artist by the name of Floyd Council. Syd decided to name his new band, Pink Floyd Sound, in honor of the two men in 1965. Of course, the word Sound was dropped, and Syd’s band went all the way to The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Also in 1965, John Sebastian took a sabbatical from New York and traveled the South, listening to a variety of local artists. One of these artists, Mississippi John Hurt of Teoc, Mississippi, had worked as a farmhand most of his life but also found time to play his brand of blues in several coffeehouses. His song, “Coffee Blues,” had the line, “I love my baby by the lovin’ spoonful.” Sebastian conveyed the term to his partner Zal Yanovsky, and the Lovin’ Spoonful was given birth. The group scored a number 9 hit with “Do You Believe In Magic” in 1965, and a number one hit for three weeks in August 1966 with the seasonal favorite “Summer In The City.”

As a joke, a bluesman in the San Francisco Bay area related a fictitious story of a character named Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane to guitarist Jorma Kaukonen in 1965. The phony name was a spin-off of an actual musician in Couchman, Texas by the name of Blind Lemon Jefferson. Blind Lemon sang in a “country blues” style, spinning tales of early 1900 black culture in the South. Kaukonen made a point to bring up the name with his fellow bandmates Marty Balin and Paul Kantner, and soon after, the Jefferson Airplane took off.

In Terry, Mississippi, Tommy Johnson was perceived as a wild man. Womanizer and alcoholic, who oftentimes turned to Sterno or shoe polish to get his liquid fix, he would brag that he sold his soul to the Devil in order to acquire his astonishing musical talents. His songs were usually autobiographical in some respect, and one, in particular, highlighted his desperate, sobering struggle with the jinxing juice. It was called “Canned Heat Blues.” In 1966, a Los Angeles quintet of musicians settled on this name, and Canned Heat’s boogie blues rocked the Hollywood scene. Their cover of Henry Thomas’ 1928 blues song “Going Up The Country” went to number 11 on the U.S. charts in January 1969.

Even though many bands didn’t overtly choose to name themselves after their favorite blues gods, they found great satisfaction in translating bluesy standards for the benefit of their own output. From Led Zeppelin covering Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” and “You Shook Me,” to The Allman Brothers covering Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues,” to Eric Clapton covering Freddie King’s “I’m Tore Down,” there are countless instances in which our legendary rock kings owe a great debt to the bold inventions of their blues forefathers.

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #2

…or, Ono, I Can’t Stop Screaming! –
My name’s Janov. What’s that, I can’t hear you. I SAID MY NAME’S JANOV!! Crank it up, let it wail, bleat it at the top of your lungs. High-decibel psychotherapist Arthur Janov would probably love the sound. He’s the common name tying a trio of artists together as a cathartic link throughout the last three decades.

In 1970, John Lennon was pissed. Paul McCartney had beaten him to the punch, officially quitting the Beatles, and John felt slighted, wanting to be the one to break the news to the world. Feeling humiliated by all the craziness he’d had to endure as a former moptop, John stole away with his gal-pal Yoko to the clinic of Dr. Arthur Janov in Venice, California. The pioneering doctor immersed Lennon in primal scream therapy, a process by which people allegedly can grow emotionally when they break through the superficialities of life and examine their private pain and repressed memories. The result was the timeless “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” album, featuring highly personal songs, many screamed in rage. Unsentimental expressions of John’s psyche with titles like “God,” “Isolation,” “Remember,” and the gut-wrenching “Mother,” had direct ties to the work of Arthur Janov.

In the 1980s, the spirit of Janov would affect the songs of one of Britain’s top acts. Tears For Fears was a name derived from a chapter heading in Janov’s book “Prisoners of Pain.” Fearmen Roland Orzibal and Curt Smith drew heavily on the teachings of Janov’s process for their album “The Hurting,” and their “get-it-off-your-chest” anthem “Shout” ruled the U.S. charts for three weeks in August 1985. Perhaps as a nod to some Janovian link, Tears For Fears’ 1989 album, “The Seeds of Love,” sounded very close in spirit to the work of Mr. John Lennon during his psychedelic Beatles phase.

As the ‘90s began, Arthur’s healthy howlin’ regimen was used to christen the name of one of England’s funkiest, non-stop partying bands. Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie loved Janov’s first book and “Screamadelica,” the band’s 1991 milestone, is considered by many to be the most important dance-rock record of that decade. Interestingly enough, one of the first singles off the album was “Come Together,” a Beatles’ masterpiece written by, yes…now you’re catching on.

© 2000 Ned Truslow

January 2, 2015

What’s in a Name? – #1

Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, The Golliwogs!” Sounds kind of catchy, doesn’t it? Even though it was created to invoke images of a British Invasion-type of band, the members of the Revival hated this original name bestowed to them by their first record label. In 1967, the band had enough confidence and clout to name themselves. Creedence referred to guitarist Tom Fogerty’s friend, Creedence Nuball; Clearwater was from a beer commercial; and the term Revival was selected as a sign of intent.

The Revival’s two most popular albums, both of which reached number one on the U.S. charts, were “Green River” and “Cosmo Factory.” The title “Green River” stemmed from lead singer John Fogerty’s fondness for childhood summers spent along a Northern California creek. The “Cosmo Factory” title originated from the nickname given to their nature-hugging drummer Doug Clifford and the band’s cramped rehearsal space in Doug’s backyard.

The group’s most-covered (and first million-selling) hit was “Proud Mary.” Conceived on the morning of his discharge from the U.S. army, John, for some reason, had visions of a noble “washer woman” when he came up with the title. As he strummed the initial chords, the rhythm made him think of a paddle wheel going round and round. Out went the dignified janitor, in came a riverboat on the mighty Mississippi.

As for the titles to some other CCR hits, well, let’s assume John had a fondness for simply stating where he was hanging out when he thought up song titles like “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Down On The Corner,” “Up Around The Bend,” and “Down On The Bayou,” as well as having a wondrous fascination about precipitation with titles like “Who’ll Stop The Rain?” and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”.

© 2000 Ned Truslow