Thursday, March 21, 2002

Name That Band

This week, several more bands were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’ve never been to the Hall of Fame, but I’d like to get there someday. Maybe by then they’ll have an exhibit dedicated to the Best Rock Band Names Ever.

This would have nothing to do with the quality of the music. It would simply pay tribute to the quirky names rock bands have given themselves through the years.

The oddball naming concept probably goes back to the psychedelic era of the late sixties. After the misspelled era of The Beatles and The Byrds, and simpler names like The Rolling Stones and The Supremes, all of a sudden we had Moby Grape, Vanilla Fudge, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

There are two possible explanations for this. Either rockers were experimenting with hallucinogens, or they were so constantly hungry they even needed food in their names.

With some bands, the name sounds a lot better than the music they produced. Oingo Boingo. Kajagoogoo. Bananarama. The Buggles. Scritti Politti.

Other names make you scratch your head. What is a Spooky Tooth? Or a Trogg? How about the Psychedelic Furs?

Animals are a recurring theme. A Flock of Seagulls. Three Dog Night. Here’s an all-timer: Squirrel Nut Zippers. Then there’s Toad The Wet Sprocket, which took its name from a Monty Python skit.

I once asked Bruce Hornsby how his band came to be named The Range, and he said he couldn’t remember exactly, but it just happened. They went through a period where they changed the name daily. One day they were Spankula, the next they were Bludgeon, the next day the name was Pantload. Those are great Rock And Roll Band Names! He also mentioned some names that I can’t even print, which they decided against because they figured no club owner would ever put their name on the marquee.

On the other hand, there are bands that chose their name based solely on their marquee value. Take the Barenaked Ladies for example. How many guys went to that club expecting something other than a rock band? I’ll bet there are at least a half-dozen local bands named Free Beer for that same reason.

While we’re on the subject, remember that there have also been bands named The Hooters and, of course, Hootie & The Blowfish.

The list goes on and on. From Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs to the Meat Puppets. From the Butthole Surfers to Nine Inch Nails. From the Benevolent Mushrooms to the Well Hungarians. From Iron Butterfly to Men Without Hats. From the Flying Burrito Brothers to the Sex Pistols.

My vote for All Time Best Rock And Roll Band Name goes to a group that came out in the early 80s, at a time when the rock landscape already included The Doors, The Eagles, The Cars, The Ramones, etc. Although it didn’t help them become megastars, I give these guys credit for picking the simplest rock band name ever.

They called themselves The The.