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Thread: Why didn't Angst Blossom play the hop? - Nonsensical band names through the decades

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Why didn't Angst Blossom play the hop? - Nonsensical band names through the decades

    This thread is inspired by two events: the sighting of a car plastered with bumper stickers for indie bands, exactly zero of which I've heard of; and the increasing amount of spam popping up on message boards from "street teamers" promoting bands they're fans of. The names of the bands all seem quite random, making no sense, but they all seem distinctly modern.

    Nonsensical band names are nothing new; they've been popular since the 1960s, and there's been a lot of threads that make fun of them.

    This isn't one of them.

    I'm going to throw a random name of a non-existent band out there; Angst Blossom. If I heard that name, I would assume it's a contemporary emo band. Same thing with most of the thread names and word combinations that have inspired people to call out "band name!" on one message board I belong to, like:

    Butt Fairies
    The Definite Article
    Sub-Primal Cut of Pork
    Veeder Sane
    Lost Merkin
    The Traveling Silverfish
    Hitler's Mustache
    13 Minute Blackout
    People Who Hew
    Juicy Poop
    Steel Cut Oatmeal
    Toads Like To Be Stroked
    Primaquine and the Negros


    Here's the names of some real local bands in the Cleveland area.

    Chief Network
    80HD
    Anomaly
    Free Sample Tuesday
    Illusion Sequence
    Lounge Kitty
    Murder by Midnight
    Salt The Wound
    Steve's Big Zipper
    This Is Exploding
    Those Left Behind
    Victory By Default


    There's a lot that's formulaic about 1950s and 1960s-era band names, like the "[name of artist] and [name of group]" title; Dion and the Belmonts, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Shep and the Limelites, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and so on, ad nauseaum. Still, there were plenty of nonsensical band names out there during the time. When I hear them, though, they sound old and dated, like that nonsensical combination somehow seems old-fashioned compared to the nonsensical combination of a more contemporary band.

    To avoid any bias from familiarity -- that is, the fact I know the Rolling Stones and The Who have been around for ages -- I searched for, and found, a Web site with names of 1960s and 1970s-era local bands that I never heard of. Here's some of the names:

    Deuce
    Cocky Fox
    Cinnamon Trolley
    Changing Times
    Bartok's Mountain
    Backwood Memory
    Limousine
    Midnight Flyer
    Morning Star
    Mystic Number National Bank
    Neon Blue
    Next Exit
    Next of Kin


    For some reason, the names of the unknown contemporary nonsensically named bands just sound ... well, newer in some way, compared to the older bands with equally nonsensical names. There's a few names that could pass muster today, but I just can't picture a band with the name of "Midnight Flyer" playing in a club today (unless it's a blue-collar gin mill), or a band with a name like "Free Sample Tuesday" opening for Blondie, The New York Dolls, ELO or Jimi Hendrix - hell, not even a 1990s-era band like Nirvana or Red Hot Chili Peppers.

    I'm wondering ... why? What is it about a new band name that makes it sound new, even though it follows the same formula as older band names?

    There also seems to be a difference between older and newer band names that start with "The". Consider contemporary "The [name]" bands from KC

    The Disasters
    The Famed
    The Setbacks
    The Secret Club
    The Spook Lights
    The Epics
    The Farewells


    Early local/unknown "The [name]" bands from Kansas City:

    The Bygones
    The Organtones
    The Chandeliers
    The Castaways
    The Breakers
    The Escorts
    The Esquires
    The Emeralds


    Again, the 1950s/1960s unknown "The [something]" names sound old-fashioned, while the new "The [something] names sound modern. I just can't picture a band named "The Setbacks" playing the hop at Pleasant Valley High School, or "The Organtones" playing to a crowd of emaciated kids wearing ironic t-shirts. Why?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Well I do like some indie bands with nonsensical names... such as:
    - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    - A Silver Mt. Zion (That later became Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band)
    - Do Make Say Think
    - Murder by Death
    - Minus the Bear (Sorry Bear! )
    - Explosions in the Sky
    - Hrsta (now try pronouncing that!)
    - The Six Parts Seven
    - The Mercury Program

    Those are the ones that come to mind, and they're all quite good (and this is not viral marketing...)

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by SkeLeton
    Well I do like some indie bands with nonsensical names... such as:
    - Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    - A Silver Mt. Zion (That later became Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-la-la Band)
    - Do Make Say Think
    - Murder by Death
    - Minus the Bear (Sorry Bear! )
    - Explosions in the Sky
    - Hrsta (now try pronouncing that!)
    - The Six Parts Seven
    - The Mercury Program

    Those are the ones that come to mind, and they're all quite good (and this is not viral marketing...)
    My favourite indie band name is:

    ...And you will know us by the trail of dead.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I've always liked these names:

    Wall of Voodoo (I'm on a Mexican radio....)
    Timbuk 3 (....I gotta wear shades...I gotta wear shades)
    'Til Tuesday (I had the hots for Aimee Mann)
    Frankie Goes to Hollywood (relax....)
    Oingo Boinko (...leave your body and soul at the door)
    They Might be Giants
    Bronski Beat
    Annoyingly insensitive

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Some from back in the day.....

    Electric Prunes ("I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night".....uincredible garage rocker.)
    Captain Beefhart & His Magic Band
    Mothers Of Invention (Perhaps "sensical" but the music was not)
    Magic Mushrooms
    Chocolate Watch Band
    Litter
    Strawberry Alarm Clock ("Along Comes Mary"......was it about weed?)
    Third Bardo

    My ex-bro-in-law was in a band called "Dog Breath". I went to a party in a dude's basement (back in the late 1960's) and the band playing was called "Vagina".

    Bear
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  6. #6
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    IMO the biggest change in band naming conventions/formulae coincided with the introduction and popularization of hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and marijuana in the 60's. At first a handful of pioneering musicians (who used the aforementioned substances) adopted names that completly echoed non-formulaic lysergic strangeness like the 'Grateful Dead' or 'Jefferson Airplane'. As the psychadelic movement gained momentum and the numbers of musicians (and listeners) 'sparking up' increased, the popularity of this notion of coming up with a band name that bespoke 'under the influence' caught on as well. Before long, bands where the members had never so much as seen a psychotropic drug before began adopting those strange names, and thus a 'formula' was born.

    One difference between bizarre names from 30-40 years ago and today is that there was a tendency to put completely nonsensical words together that would never found next to each other in any plausible context e.g. Cinnamon Trolley, Electric Prunes, Blue Cheer, Strawberry Alarm Clock. While both todays and yesterdays band names were all about strangeness, today's strange naming convention appears to be more geared towards achieving obscurity of context - the names/phrases are unlikely but you can imagine something obscurely referential. e.g. Explosions in the sky, 13 Minute Blackout, Big Whooshing Sound, People Who Hew, etc. There are other differences but I will leave that for others to identify.

    Concerning the "The [something]s" naming convention, look at the old names...the Esquires, The Imperials, The Chandeliers, The Supremes, The Coasters, The Emeralds, etc.; there is general tendency to come up with a name that evoke either classiness, or coolness in the form of a persons or objects having those cultural connotations. In keeping with the post psychadelic trend, today's "The" names have an 'out of any obvious context' feel to them and more freely use adjectives, adverbs, and verbs e.g. The Spook Lights, The Farewells, The Famous, The Speed etc.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  7. #7
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Toad the Wet Sprocket

    any other name is simply inferior
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    How about "The The"?
    Annoyingly insensitive

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    Interesting observation Dan, my guess is as we are living in Post Modern times (the social economic philosophical movement, not the architectural) The more disembodied or irrelevant the combination of words sounds the more contemporary they are (i.e. “meaning as we understood it has died, in rather a compressed time also) A more cynical person, which I am, would say that simply the new kids are reaching to be cool.

    Its as if lacking context the name or rather phrase that is being presented as a name takes on a level of clever while telling you its not trying to be clever.

    That being said my favorite college band was “Guadalcanal Diary” pretty irrelevant but the story was they came up with the name while watching the WWII movie of the same moniker, no other real reason behind it. In the mid-80’s I think that was actually pretty cutting edge, but not pretentious, being as they had a reason (though not a relevant one) for picking the name. They did not leave you guessing as to how it came about, or were reaching for some enigmatic random arrangement of words to keep you guessing.

    Of course the 80’s also produced

    Camper Von Beethoven
    Love and Rockets
    Romeo Void
    Shriekback
    Gene loves Jezebel
    Dreams so Real
    The Afgan Whigs
    Sig Sig Sputnik
    Front 242
    Nitzer Ebb
    Husker Du
    My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult
    Aztec Camera

    Honestly if rock and roll was about pushing the boundaries, can their be any boundaries left? Its all a rehash.
    She has been a bad girl, she is like a chemical, though you try and stop it she is like a narcotic.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    So many from the 80s

    Spandau Ballet
    The Psychedelic Furs
    Tom Tom Club
    ZZ Top
    Fine Young Cannibals
    Bananarama
    The Buggles
    Def Leppard
    Heaven 17
    Mr. Mister
    Hoodoo Gurus
    Ebn Ozn
    Dukes of Stratosphear
    Dead Milkmen

    Nonsensical was in with the big hair.

    90s/00s... Pop Will Eat Itself, Blind Melon, Sky Cries Mary, Screaming Trees, Reel Big Fish, Queens of the Stone Age, Rhymes with Orange, One Groovy Coconut, Meat Beat Manifesto, Local H, Let's Go Bowling, Aquabats, G Love and Special Sauce, Fountains of Wayne, Death From Above 1979, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, arctic monkeys...

    A lot of newish Canadian bands that I like have kind of bizarre names...

    Magneta Lane
    Hot Hot Heat
    Murder City Sparrows
    Red Shag Carpet

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I concur with Maister's analysis. (I even sound like a planner talking about band names.)

    Another thing to keep in mind is that after almost half a century of rock band names its just harder to come up with something that hasn't been used before. You can't come up with something as simple as The Eagles or The Aminals and get away with it without a team of copyright lawyers. That's one reason why Name & Number names became popular a few years ago. "Blink" has been probably been used before but "Blink 182" hasn't.

  12. #12
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    Another thing to keep in mind is that after almost half a century of rock band names its just harder to come up with something that hasn't been used before.
    69.61% of the cool nouns in the world have already been used up for band names. The days of 'cheap band names' are over and peak naming is past. They'll have to spend more and more time trying to get new names. Perhaps they should consider alternate naming sources?......at least we haven't heard of a band named the 'Sparkplugs' yet (actually that sounds kinda cool)

    Just noticed another difference between new nonsense band names and old. If you compile a list of random words found in wierd 60's band names you get words like:
    airplane, dead, experience, strawberry, country, fish, air force, Jefferson, electric, midnight, neon, cheer, blue, grateful and so on. Make a similar list for newer nonsense band names and we see words like: sprocket, hew, Godspeed, sub-primal, Mt. Zion, illusion, anamoly, sequence, zipper........note how much less commonly used these words are in typical daily conversation/usage.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Are there any sensible rock band names?

    IS 'ROllign Stoines' or 'Kinks' sensible? No, just more familiar.

    Tain't sappose ta B senible, Elmer!
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  14. #14
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Tain't sappose ta B senible, Elmer!
    That's an excellent name for a band by the way!
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    That's an excellent name for a band by the way!
    Already out with a CD.....

    SENIBLE B PLAN ME

    Includes the following tracks.....

    Curb Cut Fashion Karma Police Rag
    Zoning Matilda With An E
    Nine Mile
    Snoop Kitten Dun Kilt
    (We Will) Zone Yu
    Kode Wa-Wa Tang Sum B Plan Them
    Big Box Gonna Burn
    Elmer's Gettin' Jiggy
    Ziggy Moonpowder's Twisted Yo

    Available at CD stores near U.

    Watzupbearpaw
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Once again, my typing skills betray me! It was supposed to read "sensible"

    Good try, though, guys.

    "T'aint sappose ta B sensible, Elmer!" as a band name. Hmmmm.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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