Saturday, August 30, 2014

McCartney Forgets Song He Wrote


  Just read on CNN that Paul McCartney signed the open letter asking the Scots to vote to stay in the UK. The article mentions "Mull of Kintyre," but fails to mention another, earlier song.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Name of This Band Is . . . .

Boing Boing directed me to an interesting article at The Atlantic about the use of the definite article in orchestral and popular music band names.

The history lesson it gives going back to the 1890's is illuminating, but me being me, I'm most interested in the bands I listen to, most of which have flourished since the beginning of the '60's.

In thinking about music going back that far, it seems to me that the use of the definite article was the more usual one. The Beatles named themselves in deference to The Crickets, who themselves had taken inspiration for their name from the doo-wop groups of the '40's and '50's, who were almost invariably had names of the form /The [songbird]s/.

The Byrds got generic with it, and a little freaky. The Yardbirds got in a jazz reference. And everyone else figured that even if you moved away from our fine feathered friends, you still had to put the word "The" in front of the name of your collective.

The Rolling Stones and The Who and The Kinks and The Beach Boys and The Ventures and The Turtles and The Monkees and The Zombies and The incredible motherfucking Sonics and The Kingsmen and The Trashmen and The Shadows of Knight and The Mindbenders and The Count Five and even The Beau Brummels.

Starting in 1966, that began to change. Small Faces were sometimes advertised with the The, but on their albums were always just Small Faces. They were instantly huge in Britain, though they didn't make the American charts until 1967. Strangely--or maybe not so much--the single that broke them in the US, "Itchycoo Park," credited the band by using the definite article.

American bands to pick up on the trend started by Messrs. Marriott and Jones and Lane and Mclagan were led it seems by San Franciscans. Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jefferson Airplane come rapidly to my mind. A more detailed search of Billboard's Top 100 by year shows that "Somebody to Love," released as a single in April of 1967 makes Jefferson Airplane the first band in Billboard's Top 100 to skip the The.

"A Whiter Shade of Pale" from May of the same year makes Procol Harum the second. Small Faces could have been third, right? In 1968, Billboard's list would include Cream, Steppenwolf, 1910 Fruitgum Company, Blue Cheer, and Vanilla Fudge.

So, raise your consciousness and drop the definite article, everyone.

But consciousness-raising is hard, I guess. It's worth noting that Jefferson Airplane and Cream, although they were never credited on a record with the definite article, were often credited on posters and gig flyers that way.

Status Quo made Billboard's list for "Pictures of Matchstick Men" of course, and when they did so, they went by their name with the definite article attached. In 1969, they decided that they wanted to drop it, so you can date your copy by whether or not "The" appears on the sleeve or the label.

A little similarly with Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett originally named them "The Pink Floyd Sound" which got shortened to "The Pink Floyd" before they signed and then was further chopped to "Pink Floyd" after the release of their first single, "Arnold Layne."

Pink Floyd's mates at the UFO club took a little longer to figure out which they preferred. The Soft Machine was the name of the debut from Robert Wyatt and company, and Volume Two was credited to The Soft Machine as well. But Third was distributed without the "The" on the cover, and every album thereafter while the band was extant. The posthumous--and uneven--Kings of Canterbury revived the definite article, though most other posthumous releases just called 'em Soft Machine.

And give credit where it's due to the collective defined by David Byrne but made great by Eno--they never had any doubt about eschewing that definite article. Maybe it was that the band felt locked in once Eno had written "King's Lead Hat" in their honor, or perhaps they couldn't convince Mr. St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno to write another anagrammatic tune entitled "Led Giant Shaketh."

File under: Nomenclature