Monday, October 02, 2006

Musical Notes

I have good news, and I have bad news.

The good news is that I have taken on several additional writing and consulting assignments, and my time has filled up very nicely with paying gigs.

The bad news is that I’m unlikely to maintain the two-to-three-essays-per-week schedule that I’ve kept to very well for several months now.

Here’s my plan: one of my typical essays each Monday, with occasional bursts of manic musings at other times. So check in at the start of the week for the post and then a few times during the week for intermittent supplements and the comment train (which, after all, you usually make more entertaining than the story itself).

One of my recent client assignments was to write about the origins of rock band names, which prompted last Wednesday’s quiz on a related subject. My research led me to some interesting factoids that I didn’t include in my assignment—or in that quiz—so I’ll share them with you today.

I was disappointed that some of my favorite rock bands (including Rush, Genesis, and The Police) did not have wicked cool stories behind their names. But some of these you might not know:

  • Collective Soul. Singer and guitarist Ed Roland apparently read the phrase in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and ran with it.

    We should be thankful that he didn’t use another quote from the book, like “You were not born to be a second-hander.” I think you’ll agree: “Second-Handers” would be, quite simply, a crappy band name.

  • Wang Chung. The band originally went by “Huang Chung,” which is a transliteration of “yellow bell,” the term given to ancient Chinese music’s foundation tone; it also was the name of a rationalistic naturalist Chinese thinker 2,000 years ago.

    On the group’s Website, singer Jack Hues says, “It originally came from looking for a name that would wrong-foot everybody, which it did.” And it created the most bizarre verb in the English language through the lyric “Everybody wang chung tonight.”

  • Anthrax. No good story about the origin; “anthrax” was just a cool sounding word from biology class.

    But after the anthrax attacks in the United States, the band issued a press release in October 2001 joking that the group would change its name to “Basket Full of Puppies.” Here’s an excerpt:

    “In light of current events, we are changing the name of the band to something more friendly, "Basket Full Of Puppies". Actually, just the fact that we are making jokes about our name sucks…. Before the tragedy of September 11th the only thing scary about Anthrax was our bad hair in the 80’s and the “Fistful Of Metal” album cover. Most people associated the name Anthrax with the band, not the germ. Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolizes fear, paranoia and death. Suddenly our name is not so cool. To be associated with these things we are against is a strange and stressful situation. To us, and to millions of people, it is just a name. We don't want to change the name of the band, not because it would be a pain in the ass, but because we hope that no further negative events will happen and it won't be necessary. We hope and pray that this problem goes away quietly and we all grow old and fat together.”

    Well said.

  • Old and Fat Together. Now THAT would be a great band name.


At October 02, 2006 8:35 AM, Blogger Ben replied to my musings ...

There was a rumour that they due to pressure from the media they had decided to change their name and rid themselves of this unfortunate tag.

I think "Ricin" was a name they considered.

At October 02, 2006 9:50 AM, Anonymous fred charles replied to my musings ...

I'm looking at cutting back on posts too. I have too much other writing to do.

I enjoyed reading your comment on why my two sentence story is not a story. I can hardly disagree.

At October 02, 2006 10:01 AM, Blogger Janet replied to my musings ...

Wang Chung's story, no matter how inventive, still makes it a sucky band name. That doesnt stop me, however, from "Wang Chunging tonight" at least once a month.:)

At October 02, 2006 10:02 AM, Blogger Curare_Z replied to my musings ...

"Ricin?" LOL. That's great Ben. What about "VX" or "Mustard Gas." Do you think those made the list?

Wang Chung wanted to "wrong-foot" everybody? Is that what it means to "wang chung tonight?"

At October 02, 2006 11:20 AM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

Three Dog Night got their name from an Aborigine custom of sleeping with their dogs on cold nights for warmth, the coldest being a "three dog night".

At October 02, 2006 11:30 AM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

Wang Chung sucks in any language.

At October 02, 2006 12:37 PM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

Wang Chung did the theme to one of my favorite movies of all times, To Live and Die in L.A.; I thought it was a pretty good song.

At October 02, 2006 12:45 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Ben: Thankfully, 'twas just a rumor.

Fred C. : Right on--paying clients come first! And thanks for the follow-up on the "story" discussion; I loved your lines, as you know, it just didn't seem to make up a story. (But it's a damn good start for one.)

Janet, Curare, Fuzz: I think anybody who decides to name their group "Wang Chung" can't be held to normal standards. It would have been worse if they took the name "The Wrong-Footers" to try to "wang chung" people. That's just silly.

Bruce: Some of the best names I didn't use here because I wrote about them for the assignment. Wang Chung was not one of those names. I also loved that song you refer to ... as well as "Dance Hall Days," the group's first big hit in the U.S.

-- david

At October 02, 2006 3:55 PM, Blogger Paige Burns replied to my musings ...

I heard a new band (to me) this morning with an odd name, Vaux, but I couldn't find out any info on their name. And I just signed up for your email updates so I'll know when you post! Congrats on the $$$ gigs!

At October 02, 2006 5:24 PM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

wow - how much fun is your job?!? That's great!

I always wondered where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers got their name from. It's so bizarre. :)

The story of Wang Chung reminded me of Heart, who renamed themselves in later years, to Enlarged Heart, but it wasn't as sexy so they didn't keep it.

At October 02, 2006 5:35 PM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

Hi David,
Your employers are wise in obtaining so valuable an asset as you. I am sure that your creativity will keep this blog lively despite the weight of your other commitments.

I was in a band in high-school called "The Worst". You can guess how we got that name. I also had the concept for a punk-rock band called "Terminal Illness", but it never got off the ground.

An interesting band name origin is "The Beatles" who, unlike "The Beetles", put the "beat" in the 60's.

At October 02, 2006 5:45 PM, Blogger missy replied to my musings ...

Congrats on the jobbies! xx

(I'm frantically catching up on blogs!)

At October 02, 2006 8:37 PM, Blogger angel, jr. replied to my musings ...

I'm pretty boring. I don't know any cool band names or even any histories. But I did read "No One Here Gets Out Alive" about The Doors.

At October 02, 2006 9:13 PM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

There are several bands still playing that should change their names to OaFT.

At October 02, 2006 9:31 PM, Blogger KC replied to my musings ...

There was a local band here in the 80's (then they moved to Boston) named Common Ailments of Maturity. I always liked that name. I'm sure it meant something, but I have no idea what.

At October 03, 2006 1:20 AM, Blogger X. Dell replied to my musings ...

Interesting--especially Wang Chung, for I read another, completely different story about why they took that name (the sound of string noise on a guitar). It's good that you can actually go to official websites, nowadays, and find a more plausible explanation.

At October 03, 2006 7:13 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Paige: I've never heard of Vaux, but I'll have to check it out. Let me know if the e-mail update works!

OMW: Great line about Heart (which, IMO, is a dman good band name).

GW: You are too kind. I like the two band names you give. I always liked the idea of "The Social Works."

Missy: Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoy catching up.

Angel: If you read that, you'v ehad the best. And The Doors are one of those I covered elsewhere: It's taken, via the title of Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, from this William Blake line: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.”

GoldenNib: I'll rephrase: There are several bands playing that shoudl be renamed Moved To Other Careers.

KC: That is a good name, I like it.

K Dell: The two explanations may be related, because that "perfect pitch foundation note" might have been the particular guitar sound they were speaking of. (I just realized that I'm trying to reconcile Wang Chung band name explanations. Odd.)

-- david

At October 03, 2006 7:43 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

Enjoy your writing/consulting gigs! We'll be around when you have time to play ;-)

At October 03, 2006 3:21 PM, Blogger Tai replied to my musings ...

Hey, that was interesting!
I like bits of trivia like any more?

At October 03, 2006 3:34 PM, Blogger Mimi replied to my musings ...

Thanks for the bit of rock education! Sometimes it is real amusing to find out how they come up with their names.

At October 03, 2006 10:42 PM, Blogger Gyrobo replied to my musings ...

A basket of puppies? I can't imagine anything more terrifying. Unless...

Are the puppies vampiric in any way?

At October 03, 2006 10:47 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Congrats good for you!

Wang Chung I knew I think i heard it on VH1 the others I didn't.

Man Duke got SMASHED by UVA, I thought that would be closer, we lost too shitty weekend

At October 03, 2006 11:15 PM, Blogger Death Warmed Over replied to my musings ...

I think all band names should be the first thing the members see that morning. Wouldn't 'Flock of Seagulls' fit into that format? Then we would have groups like:

Two pedestrians on the corner


A dog taking a dump on the grass


Double parked on 22nd street

You get the picture (also a good band name)

Just be original. Anyone can be 'Boston' or 'Chicago'. Why there isn't a band called 'Newark' is beyond me.

At October 04, 2006 12:12 AM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

and how about Kajagoogoo?

Nice post, David...might I inquire if your benefactors are looking for any other freelance work? Naturally I write for 8 music magazines myself and am constantly looking for work. Feel free to email me offsite at Thanks!

At October 04, 2006 4:41 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe replied to my musings ...

Interesting... a bit like asking a blogger the origin of their blog name and why they chose it.

At October 04, 2006 6:38 AM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

PS. Congratulations on all of the paying gigs.

At October 04, 2006 7:21 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Lisa: Thanks, I'll be back, no worries.

Tai: Of course there's more! I'll put out more trivia-type posts from time to time.

Mimi: I guess this is a small sequel to School of Rock.

Gyrobo: No, but the puppies would have the bodies of small dogs and the faces of Scott Ian, et al. Scary indeed.

Phats: The only difference is that Duke knows it's not a good football team. Purdue hasn't reached that realization yet, hence the greater disappointment.

DWO: I like that "first thing you see" theory of naming bands. That would also help explain The Police, but I'm worried if that's the case for Naplam Death.

Ray: Kajagoogoo, I'd heard, was simply a written-out version of some baby's noises. Sounds fishy to me. I'll try to reach ut to you later today.

Chicky Babe: I suppose you're right--and some of the blog names that I've seen are very clever.

GoldenNib: Thanks. It keeps me busy, hence the decline in blog writing (which doesn't pay)!

-- david

At October 04, 2006 8:48 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

Well, congrats on the paying gigs. That certainly does not suck! :)

At October 04, 2006 9:03 AM, Anonymous fred charles replied to my musings ...

That "story" was more of an experiment for me. I don't usually indulge myself in...erm...self-indulgence, but once in a while it's fun to be off the wall and artsy. Only once in a while.

At October 04, 2006 12:05 PM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...


At October 04, 2006 1:41 PM, Blogger BV replied to my musings ...

It would make for a good band name...but it would only be partially true.

At October 04, 2006 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

Wow! umm we aren't a bad football team, so we won't reach that realization. We are just a team without a defense :) haha

At October 04, 2006 2:09 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Sorry that was me didn't realize I wasn't logged in d'oh!

At October 04, 2006 2:21 PM, Blogger Paige Burns replied to my musings ...

I was sending some ecards from Hallmark today and came across this card about Wang Chung. It's hysterical and thought you'd appreciate it!

At October 04, 2006 4:21 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

I wonder what the ZZ is in ZZ Top?

At October 04, 2006 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

Old and Fat Together would be a great band name. My friend and I always thought that "Colonel Buckfuster and the Monkeybumpers" was going to be our band name...should we ever start one. Our first album would be called "Your mother is a whore". You know....start out really provocative with the first song (for the guys) and then follow it up with a power ballad (for the ladies).

At October 04, 2006 6:53 PM, Blogger Jay replied to my musings ...

Yes, I was thinking just the same thing about old and fat together...quiet poetic, in that suburban kind of way.

At October 04, 2006 8:19 PM, Blogger Trundling Grunt replied to my musings ...

I alwas appreciated Death By Milkfloat and The Pigkeeper's Daughter as band names. The Dead Kennedys was also a good'un. I do wonder about some of the stories that must be out there behind names.

At October 05, 2006 7:31 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Stacy: Thanks, it pays the bills.

Fred C.: It's a great experiment--you came up with one of the better first lines I've seen!

Cube: Ahhh, a minimalist. You and Fred would get along.

BV, Anon, Jay: I'm still not convinced about "Old and Fat Together." Maybe if they came to be known as O.F.T., that's got a nice ring to it.

Phats: Yeah, with that defense, don't start fitting yourself for the BIg Ten crown. I've been rooting for you ... to no avail.

Paige: E-cards rock. I'll check this one out.

Phoenix: I'd heard that they wanted to have a bluesy name, so they chose one that sounded like BB King. I also remember something about wanting fans to always know where in the store to go to find their records. I can't confirm either one of these, but they both sound good.

T. Grunt: I hadn't heard of the Pigkeeper's Daughter. Excellent! One of my favorites has been Spock's Beard.

-- david

At October 06, 2006 2:26 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

Hey we don't play Michigan or OhiO state, anything is possible.

At October 06, 2006 10:43 AM, Anonymous starbender replied to my musings ...

Phats--U don't play Ohio State???
(hmmm, well, I won't have 2 bet against you! heheheeee)

I luv Wang Chung! ...and that is really funny about the Basket Full of Puppies!


At October 08, 2006 11:07 PM, Blogger Sar replied to my musings ...

So what's the story behind Rush? This fan wants to know! (This fan realizes embarrassingly after the fact she should know at the risk of calling herself a fan).

Good luck with the new assignments and look forward to your posts as time affords. :)

At October 12, 2006 6:51 PM, Anonymous mojotek replied to my musings ...

I remember seeing reports on Fox News that a band had named itself Anthrax AFTER the scare... causing even more BS for the band.

At October 19, 2006 4:28 AM, Blogger dragonflyfilly replied to my musings ...

nix to "Old and Fat Together"...and i still like the nam "Anthrax" but "Basket Full of Puppies" is even the way, many many years before the band Wide Mouth Mason existed i wrote a speech on humour, and i named my speech "Wide Mouth Mason"....hmmmmmm....???? i have often wondered if one of the band members mother's heard my speech?

cheers from rainy Vancouver,


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