A Frivolous Exercise
(Audience participation encouraged!)
Reading the Sunday NY Times Arts section I saw a listing for a band named Internal Bleeding, which I thought was pretty cool. Since the Beatles put that “a” in their clever (yet puerile) take on Buddy Holly’s “Crickets”/insect motif, 1960’s band names led a charge for groups using appellations that have been all over the map --- some clever, some repulsive. I found Internal Bleeding to be catchy, descriptive (I think I can hear their music in my head w/out necessarily hearing them on YouTube or live) and inspiring. Over the years I’ve been fascinated by band names and always think of Richard Manuel talking about how “The Band” got their name. In his interview with Martin Scorsese in The Last Waltz (best concert movie ever --- though the late/great Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense is a close second) Manuel says: “And it was right in the middle of that whole psychedelia. Chocolate Subway, Marshmallow Overcoat. Those kinds of names, you know? We started out with The Crackers. We tried to call ourselves The Honkies. Everybody kind of backed off from that. It was too straight. So we decided just to call ourselves The Band.” That fabulous statement was immediately what I thought of when I saw Internal Bleeding in the Times and it led me to research what has become this frivolous, but I hope fun, Blast.
“That whole psychedelia" thing saw the emergence of bands with names like The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Vanilla Fudge, Pink Floyd, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Chocolate Watchband, Tangerine Dream, The Electric Prunes, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, and Ultimate Spinach, to name a few. The “psychedelia thing” generated some notion of “these are nonsense names --- unless you’ve done a lot of acid!” The names reflected nothing about the band’s talent, personnel, or musical style --- many recognize Jefferson Airplane but few probably remember The Chocolate Watchband, though both names are equally nonsensical. As we headed into the mid/late ‘70’s and saw the emergence of “punk” and “alternative” rock and roll, band names also headed in new directions (like Internal Bleeding ) --- some clever and social-commentary oriented (Talking Heads), some purely descriptive (Blondie) but many designed to provoke or offend --- and those are the ones that I find most hilarious and fascinating.
For example, Rolling Stone magazine created a list of “The 13 Dumbest Names in Rock History.” This included Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Hoobastank, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. You may have heard a couple of those, and you may have even heard their music (I believe I once had a Cherry Poppin’ Daddies CD – swing blues, as I recall --- but certainly not a name that will survive the Cosby abuse 21st century) but there’s little to recommend them beyond the uniquely comical or nonsensical names. A website called dyingscene.com created their own list of “The 10 Most Distasteful American Punk Band Names.” I like that they focused their list on “American Punk Bands,” giving us clear parameters as to who’s responsible (nationality-wise) while creating a genre-specific criteria. They allow readers to “argue your own choices in the comments” (which Blast readers should feel free to do also). Their list consisted of: The Abortion Twins, Bhopal Stiffs (named for a gas leak disaster in India), The Circle Jerks, Copstabber, Dead Kennedys, John Cougar Concentration Camp, Murder Junkies, Rapeman, and Vaginasore Jr. Not exactly household names, totally rude (in keeping with the “punk” movement) with some clever, and even funny, turns of names.
Blast research also uncovered a site (louderthanwars.com) that listed “The 50 Worst Band Names.” I’ll just list ten here and hope I don’t lose my entire readership in one fell swoop. Aborted Hitler Cock, Anal Blast, The Child Molesters, Evil Edna’s Horror Toilet, Midget Handjobs, Nazi’s from Mars, Penis Flytrap, Rainbow Butt Monkeys, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, and TwoDeadSluts OneGoodFuck. I have to admit that “Rainbow” and “Tony Danza” made me laugh. I’m pretty sure you haven’t seen any of those groups at your local venues lately. One last item the research uncovered (at Billboard.com) were original names for famous/popular bands. Take a look at this. Atomic Mass = Def Leppard; Rat Salad = Van Halen; Wicked Lester = Kiss; Mookie Blaylock = Pearl Jam; Screaming Abdabs = Pink Floyd; Soft White Underbelly = Blue Oyster Cult; Blackwood Convention = Phish; The Artistics = Talking Heads; The Weak Heartdrops = The Clash; Smile = Queen; Pud = The Doobie Brothers; Spectrum City = Public Enemy; The Salty Peppers – Earth, Wind, and Fire; The Rattlesnakes = The Bee Gees. Who knew?
The last real band I played in (in the late 1990's) had a drummer named Bill, a lead guitarist named Bill, and I played Bass guitar --- and came up with the name The Overdue Bills Blues Band – it seemed appropriate. As a final challenge in this BLAST, I’m going to encourage people to submit names for a group of their own imagining. Two that I’ll offer --- fantasy bands I’ve created --- are Surface Dirt and Vampire Resurrection. If there are bands you’ve seen or heard of who have bizarre or funny names, submit those, too --- but I’d really love to hear what kinds of crazy names folks might come up with --- maybe something like Donald’s Midnight Twitter or the like. Write it in the “comments” space below and have fun!
(I promise I'll publish any particular funny or offensive names in a later Blast)