December 31, 2014

Good things

Sure, it’s easy to sit back and brainstorm about bands whose name consists of no more than four letters. INXS, Korn, Asia, Hole, Rush, Chic, Styx, Toto, Abba, we could go on and on….
But, here are some of those brave pioneers of rock who boldly wrapped their identity in names consisting of three letters or less:

ABC With Martin Fry’s lush, crooning voice, hits from this Sheffield, Yorkshire band of the ‘80s like, “When Smokey Sings,” “Be Near Me,” and “The Look of Love” rose in the U.S. charts to #5, #9, and #18 respectively.
Ah-ha This Norwegian pop band, whose name was chosen because it was a universally-recognized exclamation, traversed the fjord of success by reaching number 1 with their MTV darling, “Take on Me.”
Air Heralded by music critics everywhere as one of the best albums of 1998, French duo Air’s “Moon Safari” debut floated dreamy soundscapes through smoky St. Tropez lounges and international cosmetic ads.
Ash Punk power pop sounds from this northern Ireland band drew comparisons with Brit bad boys Oasis and helped fan the flames of commerce, driving their 1996 album, “1977” to number 1 on the UK charts.
Can Germans and avant-garde electronic rock seem to be inseparable and Can certainly didn’t stray far from this stereotype. Unfortunately, “I Want More” featuring Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on guitar was their only chart appearance.
dB’s The decibels were just right for this charming pop group out of North Carolina. Their jangly, knowing songs caught the ears of R.E.M. in the late 1970s, and dBers Peter Holsapple and Mitch Easter soon went to work with the Athens, Georgia band on several efforts.
E “A Man Called E” and “Broken Toy Shop” were wry, melodic, albums by this Southern California musician, whose layered sounds caught the ears of Msrs. Spielberg, Geffen and Katzenberg. They promptly made E and his new band Eels one of their first DreamWorks acts in 1997.
EMF Whichever meaning their name stood for (either “Epson Mad Funkers” or “Ecstasy Mother F**kers”), this Gloucester band made the incredible leap to number one on the U.S. charts in July 1991 with their bouncy jive smash “Unbelievable.”
L7 The preeminent riot grrrl group of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, L7’s all-female punk pedal-to-the-metal songs like “Pretend We’re Dead” and albums like “Hungry for Stink” stomped on the moaning, navel-gazing grunge movement of the period like Joan Jett guest speaking at a Junior League lunch.
NWA Bustin’ out of the South Central ravages circa 1986, NWA (N***ers With Attitude) shouted their rap milestone bestsellers “F**k tha Police,” “Straight Outta Compton,” and “Gangsta Gangsta,” to a world of controversy and disaffected youth.
R.E>M. “We’re thinking about Rapid Eye Movement,” drummer Bill Berry said to this author and assorted hall-mates, as he thumbed through a biology book late one night at his University of Georgia dorm. In what seemed like a blink of the eye, R.E.M went on to score eye-popping success with scads of hits and two number 1 albums, “Out of Time” and “Monster.”

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