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Friday, April 3, 2015

Boston Rock of the 1980s: Boston Band Names

How important is having a good band name? It is most important! Most bands agonize over the name and they should too. For a band it’s about something bigger than the sum of its parts, it’s the name you hang out front, it’s what people will remember…or not. A good band name is a sign of imagination, an indication of your collective creativity and…it’s a king-size pain in the ass!

It’s so tough to get band members to agree on a stupid band name. “Jeez, just call it anything.” Oh, but it can’t be just ANYTHING! It’s got to mean SOMETHING, right?

Our first band, Cool McCool, was a trio and yet it took us three months to agree on a name. Tony thought “Second Sight” was a really cool name which James and I thought rightly, of course, was just plain stupid. At one point in our machinations I cracked and blurted out; “We don’t want anything sullen and gloomy like “Nuclear Winter” or anything like that do we?!”  At this James and Tony looked at each other and said “Now THAT would be a good name.”

I don’t know who it was but someone said that, with his dark hair and mustache, James looked just like that cartoon character Cool McCool that was on Saturday morning TV right after George of the Jungle. Whether it was fatigue, the fact we didn’t dismiss it out of hand or that we may actually have liked it, we agreed on it at any rate and were able to move on with our lives, our imaginations and collective creativity exhausted.

Anyway, I didn’t get to see all of these bands but here are some of the Boston Bands whose names I thought were really cool back in the day:
Arms Akimbo: Never saw them but they played the Rat a lot as well as other places in town. I remember reading that Amie Mann said she liked them back when she was fronting Til Tuesday. If you don’t know already it’s the term for falling backwards with your arms outstretched. Pretty clever in mho.
Band 19: Not to be confused with Forever 19 that had a rehearsal room next to ours at the Pixie Theater in Hyde Park. The story goes that this was the bandleader’s 19th band that he had put together. That’s enough personnel changes to last a lifetime.
Berlin Airlift: Rick Berlin’s band, get it? I guess he could have just called the band “Berlin”. Previously Rick had put together a much talked about act named; Orchestra Luna.
Del Fuegos: “Of the Fire” in Spanish. Wonder how they came up with that one? These guys endured some hardships along the way when they were touring the country all crammed into a ford van, had all their shit stolen and a local radio station held a radio-thon to raise some money for them and put their album on the air and the band on the map. We shared the stage with them twice ourselves and I still cover “Don’t Run Wild” solo. Frank Zane has recorded a few children’s music projects that can be found in stores. Liked the name, liked the band.
Extreme: Not remarkable in itself except the back story was that this band was first called “The Dream” and then the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) was developing a series about a young band trying (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) to climb their way to the top and this TV band and the series was to be called The Dream. So the story goes that NBC paid The Dream handsomely for their name so they could produce their very very short lived series. The Dream became the “Ex-Dream” or “The Extreme”. Coincidence? Perhaps. A fairy tale? I don’t know.
Girl on Top: A trio fronted by a chic guitar player. Played a gig with them in the waning days of Green Street Station.  Good attention grabbing name I think. Got my attention at any rate.

Loners Shoot Presidents: This is a great name for a punk band which they were. Tim Catz, the drummer for this group went on to win the 1991 Rock & Roll Rumble with the band Seka, named for an “exotic dancer” in Boston’s red light district known as the Combat Zone. 

Pajama Slave Dancers: I really enjoyed these guys; they were hardcore and funny at the same time. Songs like “Defreeze Walt Disney”, “Farm Rap” and “Homo Truck Driving Man” are classics. I think they put out three albums in all of which I have two. I was told they were originally from Springfield, MA. The name is a wacky as the band's stage show. You see that name, you pretty much know what you're going to get. Cool.

Plate o’ Shrimp: A ska band most likely out of Brighton since it seems all the ska bands in town emanate from there. This came from a monologue by the character Miller in one of my favorite movies of all time, Repo Man. After Miller’s monologue an ad with the term can also be seen on a wall of a fast food place in the movie.

Rash of Stabbings: This name was fine for these guys for years and years and then all of a sudden somebody somewhere realized they found it offensive. Sort of like the character of Uncle Fester on the Adams Family. One day you hear it and say “Hey, do you know what that name really means?” They had to go as RoS afterwards since nobody would book them. I think it’s a cool name reflective of the kind of rock & roll they played. They didn’t invent the term.

Sleep Chamber: As far as I know, this band only ever played at Chet’s Last Call but they had very cool, very erotic hand drawn black & white posters with women in bondage themes. One band I really wish I could have seen live.

Stop Calling Me Frank: Our friends from Hyde Park. Never got a straight answer as to how they came up with the name. The explanation changed with each telling. Dave Forbes on guitar and Lenny was the frontman. Three chord full speed ahead rock & roll band. Their big hit was “Cyclone Ranger” “My baby treat me like a cyclone ranger, she spin me round and round, she pick me up, she put me down, she spin me round and round”. That’s gold!

Valdez the Sinner: Saw these guys at “Chetstock” and never saw their name on a marque ever again. The one set I ever saw them play was a great one, however. How they came up with this name is a mystery. Nobody was named Valdez. Maybe it was someone they knew? 

Perhaps this will be food for thought for fledgling groups banging their heads against a wall trying to come up with a band name.

Good Luck!




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