By Darren Johnson
One thing I’ve noticed about people under 25 is that they no longer wear rock T-shirts, at least not from current bands. I do see plenty of teens and young adults in shirts with band names from yesteryear — Nirvana, the Ramones, Hendrix. These show great taste.
But there were other great bands from back in the day. Just they haven’t stood the test of time as well. I think it’s because they had bad band names.
These are the top 5 bands that really rocked, but aren’t as revered today as they should be, in part, because of their band names, in reverse order:
5. The Monkees. This band really was good; their songs are well crafted, tight and with solid lyrics. Not a big drop-off from the band they were formed to compete against — the Beatles. Ultra-talented Michael Nesmith (the tall one in the hat) could have been McCartney-esque in stature with better luck. Sure, they had help early on by studio musicians, but everyone did back then, even the Beatles. What typecast them was their goofy TV show and a lot of bad press that they were “manufactured.” There was a huge tryout to form the band, and Stephen Stills, later of CSNY, was even rejected. The recently departed Davey Jones, the short Brit who mainly sang in a whiny accent and played the tambourine, did seem like a plant; a response to the British Invasion of the era. But, in this “American Idol” era, aren’t so many bands manufactured? The name does seem like a ripoff of similar animal-related names of the day (such as Beatles, Buddy Holly’s Crickets, and even a band called The Animals), thus furthering the “manufactured” argument.
4. Men Without Hats. This Canadian band is best known for “The Safety Dance” song and the weird video with the little person where they are wandering along some Medieval countryside. But this group’s 1980s albums were solid through and through, and they had a sound that really captures the spirit of the era. The gimmicky band name is great for short-term success, but hasn’t been taken seriously by newer generations.
3. Boy George/Culture Club. I don’t think Boy George needed the gimmicks, though maybe he really did prefer to cross-dress. The guy really can sing with passion, and the songs are timeless. But the idea of wearing a Boy George or Culture Club T-shirt? Totally uncool.
2.The Psychedelic Furs. I’m not saying that this band is as great as the other bands on this list, but their name is a big flop. This band came out well past the “psychedelic” era of trippy music from the 1960s and mostly had a punk/new wave sound. Their biggest hit is the title song to the 1986 movie “Pretty in Pink.” The name totally miscategorized them.
1. Duran Duran. Quality-wise, this band is just as talented, prolific and tight as, say, The Who. Get the 1982 “Rio” album — a rare treat that works as both a full LP but also has several real hits that all flow together well; the Beatles could claim the same duality with their albums. But Duran Duran, a Second British Invasion band named after a character in the stupid sci-fi movie “Barbarella,” just isn’t mentioned as a major band on either the classic rock or 80s alternative rock channels. It has to be the name. Other bands from that era — think of the overrated Sex Pistols or the Dead Kennedys — seemed to get a boost from their bold names. Perhaps Duran Duran should have looked to punk rock for inspiration when picking a moniker.
You can hear some of these bands on the 1980s alternative/punk/new wave channel 631Radio.com.
ADD: Some readers wrote in: The Guess Who (gimmicky name, and added confusion when compared to the better band, The Who) and Spandau Ballet (just too soft).