Bands that are named after places are noticeably worse than bands named after movies and books. Perhaps it's the fact that there is nothing more boring than being somewhere. It's always better to either be on your way to somewhere or to be sleeping, where you aren't actually anywhere at all. There is something stagnant about naming yourself after a place.
Of course, that didn't stop me from naming my band "Flint" back in the early 1990s and then writing songs about the Flint experience, which I just assumed from watching Roger & Me wasn't a very good experience.
As I wrote then, "In Easton, PA, they do what they want / In Flint, MI, no one gets to choose / There are two ways out / and either way you lose."
I still have no idea why Easton, Pennsylvania is superior. But that's what we call poetic license.
Toronto: An old friend from my radio station days, Jennifer Leonard, reminded me of Toronto, a band whose song "Your Daddy Don't Know" made me wish I had played it back in the day. An entire album from the group would surely be torture. But hey, it's either Toronto or Nico's The Marble Index!
24) Alabama: I recently received an advance of the new Brad Paisley album where I was told in the press kit that the album featured the "legendary" group Alabama. Interesting choice of words. The only reason I own their box set is because I received it for free and no one ever bid on it when I put it on eBay!
America: OK, I give them "Sister Goldenhair," "Ventura Highway" and that Neil Young soundalike tune, "A Horse With No Name," which is three more songs than most groups have, but still. It's like they named the band America because no one would want to be heard saying they hated America! Except for us liberal weasels who are still figuring out ways to live off your hard work! Dude, your car is mine!
22) Asia: I like "Heat of the Moment," in theory. That is, until I actually hear it. Then it takes too long. There really is nothing worse than progressive rock that isn't progressive. Except maybe punk rock that doesn't rock? John Wetton and Steve Howe had seen better days.
Chicago: I admit when it comes to "horns in rock," I'm not much of a fan. Once in awhile, OK, but early Chicago is only made worse by what came later: the David Foster-era Chicago when we received such tunes as "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" and "Hard Habit to Break." Couldn't the band be in trouble for interstate trafficking of inappropriately advertised music? Hard?
20) Boston: No. People who say "More Than A Feeling" is the exact same song as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are short-cutting. Yes, the structure and chords are similar in spots, but where Nirvana had energy, these guys had inertia.
The E Street Band: Springsteen's back-up group were named after the street in Belmar, NJ, where David Sancious' mother lived and allowed the group to rehearse. Sancious smartly left the group before having to listen to the constant pounding of drummer Max Weinberg.
18) Europe: This column often causes me to learn more about a band than I want. I don't bother telling you much of what I learn since it's even more boring than the crap I write! Yeah, that bad. Europe had a hit with "The Final Countdown," but what disturbs me is that they are from Sweden, a country I really had more faith in.
Kansas: I don't care how wonderful their playing is. Fact is, if you want one good reason for punk rock, here it is, on a multi-platinum platter. If we had only followed the 'What Happens in Kansas, Stays in Kansas' doctrine, the rest of the country - and the world - would be spared from ever hearing "Dust In the Wind."
16) U.K.: U.K. didn't last long enough the first time around for me to form an opinion. I like John Wetton and Bill Bruford in King Crimson (some of the time). But why not name the group Wetton, Bruford, Jobson and Holdsworth? WBJH!!!! Catchy, eh? Sounds like a radio station no one listens to.
Nazareth: What teenager didn't listen to Nazareth's song "Hair of the Dog" and not enjoy the line, "Now you're messin' with a son of a b***h"? Huh? Yeah. Funniest thing about "researching" this band is people's claim that they took their name from the Band song "The Weight," where the Band sing "Pulled into Nazareth" as if musicians are incapable of discovering an ancient town on their own! And if they really didn't know about the legendary city (or its counterpart in Pennsylvania where Martin guitars have their homebase) and had to take it from a song, then musicians should be forced to go to school once in awhile or at least buy a map.
14) The Village People: I should really hope they meant Greenwich Village. Because Greenwich Village could always use more Indians!
Architecture in Helsinki: True story: I was on the phone with my bank trying to work out a few issues when the representative on the line asks me about my line of work and before I knew it we were discussing things like I Am Robot, Cloud Cult, Detective Byron and Architecture in Helsinki! Turns out the band isn't from Finland but Australia! What next? A Finnish group called Landscaping In Melbourne? Or a 27-piece Swedish band called I'm From Barcelona?
12) Phoenix (Phoenix Foundation): By the time I get to "Phoenix," it turns out the band is from France. Why are they doing this to me? So, I decided to try a band called The Phoenix Foundation and discovered they were from Wellington, New Zealand! And they get their name from a fictional organization on the TV show MacGyver! I've heard of reinventing yourself and moving in order to make your dreams come true, but what is up with all this geographical substitution? I know no one wants to be from Arizona anymore, but why be ironic about it?
Berlin: I always thought a band called Berlin should sound like the Lou Reed album Berlin. Or like something drugged up. But these folks from Los Angeles, had a hit with "Take My Breath Away." If this music doesn't start improving, I'm going to have to start taking hostages.
10) Atlanta Rhythm Section: True story: An edition of The Rolling Stone Record Guide gave ARS's album A Rock 'n' Roll Alternative five stars, their highest rating. I found the album for a $1 on 8-track and bought it. I was very young. I did not care for the album. But I had so few albums back then and I did pay a whole dollar that I played it repeatedly on my 8-track player and eventually grew to "like" two songs, "Sky High" and "Don't Miss The Message." I am, most likely, completely wrong.
Of Montreal: These Canadians...er, wait. No, of course not! These youngsters from Athens, Georgia, named because the band's leader, Kevin Barnes, had a failed romance with a woman from the fine town of Montreal and decided to give far too much importance to something he should be over by now. I haven't started a band called Of Ho-Ho-Kus!
8) Black Oak Arkansas: OK, now we're cookin'. Jim "Dandy" Mangrum eventually found huge success as David Lee Roth, but for a time him and "Risky" Rickie Lee "Ricochet" Reynolds led a band that even had a tune called, "When Electricity Came To Arkansas." It has inspired me to write a song called "When High-Speed Internet Came to Upstate NY." It changed our lives, too.
Calexico: Finally a band from Arizona! So, what do they do? They name themselves after the California border town of Calexico, where I once spent four days staring at a fence that kept out Mexico. I eventually made it over to Mexicali, where I purchased Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti on 8-track. Oh, the band is cool, too. Joey Burns and John Convertino of Giant Sand, who have backed up plenty of other musicians as well, including Nancy Sinatra and Iron and Wine. Aren't facts boring?
6) Japan: By this point, you know the drill. Japan were a British group from South London. Naturally. Their music has gotten better over the years, meaning what was once termed "New Romantic" isn't as forced as the tagline suggests. I am still hoping to discover Japan!
Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels: We're in for a little break here. Mitch Ryder's band really was from Detroit. While most people know of Ryder thanks to Bruce Springsteen's "Detroit Medley," Ryder has had a long career of his own, playing to audiences notably smaller than those of the Boss.
4) The Ohio Players: We're on a roll! The Ohio Players were from Dayton, which is in Ohio! They had about 20 different members in the band, so it was more like an apprenticeship than a group. But everyone should own the group's fourteenth album, Jass-Ay-Lay-Dee. It includes the songs, "Funk-O-Nots," "Time Slips Away / Shoot Yer Shot" and "Dance (If Ya Wanta)," which sounds like the group were really trying.
The New York Dolls: Yes! Another group who capitalize on their place of origin! You would think New York being such a known commodity that other bands would have followed suit. The New York Velvet Underground, New York's Talking Heads, The New York Strokes, Ramones N.Y.C. Even Clarence Clemons had a group called The Red Bank Rockers, and that's New Jersey!
2) Warsaw: Oh well. Back to the mixing board. Joy Division once named themselves after the capital of Poland, since the city had about 80% of its buildings destroyed in World War II, the bad, bad war. It is now known as "The Phoenix City" since it has been rebuilt and they import the sun over from Arizona for heat.
Earth: By their name you could assume either they're a Black Sabbath tribute band or a hippie-folk collective that sing songs about "Sharing the Land" and "Being Kind to Small Children and Wild Animals." They're closer to the Sabbath thing. Their newer records are supposedly more diverse, which means lousier. The early records, which I've heard, are really cool drone music that often sound like someone forgot to turn off their amplifier.