“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
I forget who said this, originally – my father, perhaps – but the message is what’s important, here.
(I’m sure most of you are familiar with this quote, but just to cover my bases I’ll go ahead and assume you aren’t.)
Essentially, it trivializes the importance we place on names. Does it really matter what something is called? What someone’s name is? The author is arguing that, no, it does not.
(At least I think that’s what the author is saying; I’ll have to check with my father.)
Now, normally I’d agree, but for the sake of this article I’ll play devil’s advocate: Names do matter. Maybe not in the context of a rose, or star cross’d lovers (wink), but perhaps nowhere does a name matter more than in music – specifically, what the name of a band is. (Or singer/songwriter, for that matter.)
Yes, the band name. Insignificant, to some, of the utmost importance to others.
So, why is this relevant, you ask? It isn’t… not really, at least. But it stemmed from an article I’d intended to write about the Seratones, our cover story.
Now, I’m a fan of the Seratones. I think they’re immensely talented.
But when it came time to write the article, I couldn’t think of a single question to ask them that they hadn’t been asked already. What did stick out to me, though, was their name. The Seratones. Great name, right? So I figured I’d focus on that.
I spoke to lead singer AJ Haynes about how they settled on the name, and what the process was like.
“Seratones came from a weird play on words,” she said. “I originally thought of ‘Ceratones’… ‘cera’, Spanish for wax and playing on the idea of a mother wax record (part of the record pressing process) plus tones, a classic ending. The guys thought that it would look better with an “S” (and) ‘Seratones’ was born. No, it is not based on ‘serotonin’, but is a fun coincidence.”
I totally thought it was based on serotonin, but hey, what do I know?
Apparently there weren’t any other frontrunners… at least, nothing we could print in the magazine.
“There weren’t really any other names that were viable candidates,” Haynes explained, “or anything we think fit to print or mention. Band names are the worst and bring out the most absurd and perverse language combinations.”
Maybe that’s why I find band names so fascinating — they bring out the most absurd and perverse language combinations. What’s not to like? This got me thinking.
Ultimately, if you’re truly talented, it shouldn’t matter what your name is, or what you call yourselves. But just to give you an idea of how things could have gone for some of the musicians we know and love today, here’s what we almost got:
Before Bob Dylan was Bob Dylan he was Robert Zimmerman, which sounds more like the moniker of a Russian spy than it does a folk singer.
And say what you will about Van Halen, but it sure beats Rat Salad, which we can all agree is a bit of a downer. (Fun fact: Rat Salad was considered for the title of this magazine, but ultimately was dismissed because why the hell would we name the magazine Rat Salad?)
Before The Roots were the hottest ticket in late night, they were The Square Roots, which is a better name for an academic decathlon team than it is a funk/hip-hop powerhouse.
Sometimes it isn’t even that the name is bad, so much as it’s… well, exhausting. Which is probably why The Red Hot Chili Peppers ditched their original name, Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. Try saying that three times fast.
Local band The Hubcaps were originally Johnny Raymond and the Hubcaps from Outer Space – which – come to think of it, I sort of like better.
Then there are times when the name just doesn’t fit the group. I’m looking at you, Bee Gees. Believe it or not, The Bee Gees initially went by the Rattlesnakes. Next time you hear “More Than a Woman”, try imagining it came from a group called the Rattlesnakes. No, really. Try it.
Sometimes you just need to be yourself. Just ask Simon and Garfunkel. The pair initially went by Tom and Jerry before deciding to use their real names, which could have stemmed from a desire to stay true to themselves but might have come on the heels of a Hanna-Barbera lawsuit.
At the end of the day, I’m sure the Seratones would do just fine under a different handle. So long as it wasn’t Rat Salad. Seriously, Rat Salad is the worst.