Band name rules

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Fri Feb 2 06:45:44 CST 2007

>From Rolling Stone: 

Rolling Stone’s Rules for the Fair Use of Important Band Names 

Few weeks go by when we don’t hear from some band fighting with former members about whether or not they can tour under the famed name. This week, it’s the Beach Boys, who are in court to determine whether or not Al Jardine and his band of non-Boys can tour as the Beach Boys. Rock & roll doesn’t belong in court, so we’re gonna lay down the law, once and for all.

The Jim Morrison Factor

If the main creative forces and/or voice of the band are no longer in the mix, that band may no longer keep their name and must change. This law can be divided into two corollaries:

The Joy Division/New Order Referendum

When Ian Curtis died just as Joy Division was on the verge of stardom, his bandmates did the right thing: They started from scratch with a new name. Maybe you’ve heard of them: They call themselves New Order. We love when this happens. Other examples: The David Byrne-less Talking Heads simply became the Heads, and post-Jerry Garcia Grateful Dead toured as the Dead. 

The AC/DC Theory

AC/DC and, to a lesser extent, Can, are two bands that lost their lead singer, replaced him, kept their band name and went on to have greater success (Pink Floyd are another case in itself, as we’ll explain later). More recently, classic rockers such as Queen and The Doors have toured the countryside with new singers to replace dead ones.

We see it like this: If you close your eyes, and the band you’re hearing sounds noticeably different from the way it originally sounded, the new formation must change its name. For example, when the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones died, and Mick Taylor took his place, had you closed your eyes during a performance, only the keenest ear would have noticed the change. You would have noticed if Jagger was replaced by any other vocalist, however, and they would no longer be the Rolling Stones.

Got it? Next law.

The Rule of Interchangeable Parts (The Jethro Tull Postulate)

When Graham Coxon left Blur and was replaced by Simon Tong, we were unhappy but cool with it. Coxon’s shoes are tough to fill, but they are fillable, and Damon Albarn was the voice and greater creative force behind Blur, so therefore they could keep the name.

We’ve seen this more than once: the Allman Brothers after the death of Duane Allman, Roxy Music after Brian Eno left, RHCP and their parade of guitarists. To further make our point, we extend our law to include these provisions:

The Law of Fractions

If three-quarters of the band are still together, and one of them is the lead singer, that band can still be referred by their original name. If three-quarters of the band are still together, and the lead singer is not involved, they have two choices: Add the new singer’s name to the original band name (ex. Paul Rodgers & Queen) or alter the initial name (ex. The Doors of the 21st Century)

In the event that only half the band is together, the remaining half must be responsible for both Lead Vocals and Songwriting Duties in order to claim the original band name. The Who may remain The Who despite missing both John Entwistle and Keith Moon. However, had Daltrey and Entwistle been the only remaining members, the band is no longer be The Who. (Townshend is the creative force.)

This law gets more complex when we discuss: 
The Axl Rose Edict

If the lead singer of the band is also the creative force, that individual may assemble any group of musicians and perform under the original name. Therefore, a Guns N’ Roses with only Axl Rose is still GN’R. (Meanwhile, the previous other original members of GN’R joined with Scott Weiland to form Velvet Revolver, a move that follows The Joy Division/New Order corollary. Make sense?)

The Prohibition of Doug Yule

Doug Yule is a multi-instrumentalist who not only replaced John Cale in Velvet Underground, he also took the reins from Lou Reed and released an awful album using the Velvet name. When this happens, the death penalty is sometimes appropriate.

Finally, our final law, which is also the most complex:

The Pink Floyd Paradox

A band’s name is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts.

Pink Floyd is our most difficult case subject. First, the band contravened the Jim Morrison Factor when they replaced Syd Barrett with the combination of Roger Waters and David Gilmour and remained Pink Floyd. It worked out for them.

But fast-forward fifteen years later. Roger Waters, who has assumed chief creative duties in the band, yet has not established himself as the (singing) voice, leaves Pink Floyd. Gilmour announces that the Waters-less Pink Floyd will keep the name. Waters sues. Our take? Under Law Number Two, Amendment Number One — The Law of Fractions (and assuming Waters had taken control of a band for which he could claim an Axl Rose level of centrality) Pink Floyd were within their rights to continue on, without Waters, with the original name.

Coming full circle, apply ROLLING STONE’s laws to the case of the Beach Boys. Result? Mike Love is within his rights to sue Al Jardine for using the name to tour, as Jardine is none of the following: a) an initial member, b) the dominant creative force, c) the primary singer. Likewise, if Mike Love decided to tour using the Beach Boys name, he must employ at least one Wilson brother, otherwise the action may be formally protested. 
So where do you stand on all this? Should Pink Floyd still be considered Pink Floyd? Are there any new rules we should draft?

-- Rolling Stone 

-Brian in Atlanta 
The Who This Month!

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