Sunday, March 3, 2024

"Nomen est omen" or where do bands get their names from?

When you read the name of a band, you often wonder how the musicians came up with it. With "Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich" it's easy, the band members simply took their names or nicknames.

It is also easy for the Klaus Renft Combo. Klaus Jentzsch (his grandmother's name was Renft and he adopted this stage name) as the band's founder and leader made that happen. The Puhdys also made it easy for themselves, using the first letters of their first names and first adding a 'y' ("Puhdy-Quartett") and then an 's'.

With the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the naming process is basically known, but how do you come up with the idea of calling yourself "Death Cab For Cutie" or "10cc" or „Acht Eimer Hühnerherzen" (Eight Buckets of Chicken Hearts)?

Let's start with the simple things. John Lennon named his first band The Quarrymen after the school he and other band members attended. As Lennon greatly admired Buddy Holly, it became the "Beatals" after a suggestion by Stuart Sutcliffe and later "The Silver Beetles" as a tribute to his band "The Crickets" – according to the relevant sources. But what "The Crickets" has to do with beetles is not really clear, except that both are insects. The name The Beatles probably originated in Germany when the band (then still with Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best) performed in the Hamburg strip club "Indra". The story that – after Astrid Kirchherr had given the band members the mushroom head hairstyle (invented by photographer Jürgen Vollmer) – Paul McCartney said: "Hey, we look like beetles!" and the band name was derived from this must be relegated to the realm of legend.

For the Rolling Stones, the story goes that Brian Jones called a newspaper editorial office to place an advertisement for a concert by the band. When he was asked what the band would be called, he replied: "Rollin' Stone". He allegedly had this record lying on the floor in front of him. The story is not really verified, but Muddy Waters played an important role in the band name, whether with the lyric line "I'm a rollin' stone" or with the song title "Rollin' Stone". After all, one of his records brought Jagger and Richards together at Dartford station.

The Who were initially called "The Detours", later "The High Numbers". Their new manager Peter Meaden advised the band, who were known for dismantling their instruments while performing, to choose a different name that would be shorter and more rebellious. In Pete Townshend's opinion, "The Who" would be aggressive and energetic enough – whatever led him to this view.

There are several legends about the choice of name for The Animals. One is that the band members discussed it in a pub in Newcastle upon Tyne and were inspired to choose the name by a poster about an upcoming "Animalism" event. On the other hand, the band would have heard the phrase "They look like animals!" several times from visitors at their gigs as the "Alan Price Combo". In his biography, however, Eric Burdon mentions "Animal" Hogg, the member of "The Squatters", a local band, as the origin of the name.

Ronnie Van Zant and his friends from high school in Jacksonville (Florida) had formed a band called "The Noble Five". Their school's sports teacher, Leonard Skinner, had often warned and reprimanded the five for violating the dress code (which also regulated hair length). When the boys gave up school, they changed the band name to "Leonard Skinner". However, as they were afraid of getting into trouble for this, they exchanged all the vowels for 'y'. And so Lynyrd Skynyrd was born. Skinner died in 2010 and maybe he was the most influential sports teacher in pop culture. Would he have taken that as praise?

Death Cab for Cutie – how do you come up with such a weird name? Ben Gibbard from Bellingham, Washington, had a pretty decent success with his solo project "All-Time Quarterback" in 1997 and then decided to turn it into a band. He quickly found the name – the "Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band" (a group of British art school students who became famous for their appearances in the Beatles film "Magical Mystery Tour") had a song with this title on their 1967 album "Gorilla". And as Gibbard thought it suited the sometimes somewhat dark and mysterious style of his music, it became the name of the band. It did them no harm, they are still successful and were even nominated several times for a Grammy in 2006.

Band names also change, and sometimes not voluntarily. The GDR band Klosterbrüder (Monastery Brothers) also had to make this experience. It is not really clear why they called themselves that. Since their hometown of Magdeburg had its origins in the Mauritius monastery founded in 937, it stands to reason that the band found this fitting and thus chose their name. The history of the "Klosterbrüder", who were considered the hardest rock band in the GDR (famous for their live performances), is somewhat obscure and it is not really clear whether they were founded in 1963 or 1967. However, the fact that they became famous and even appeared on GDR television also had disadvantages. Because of their informal live performances and their "church-related" band name, they were repeatedly targeted by the GDR cultural authorities, which also led to tensions within the band. At the end of 1975, they gave in to state pressure and changed their name to Magdeburg (with a few new members). The band made a comeback under this name in 1992. Since January 14, 2000, however, they have been called "Klosterbrüder" again.

The New York band Steely Dan claimed for a long time that the name of their band came from an old porn movie in which a steel dildo played a major role. However, the name comes from the novel "Naked Lunch" by William S. Burroughs, which was published in 1959. In it, there is a character called Steely Dan III who has a steel dildo (or penis?). Walter Becker and Donald Fagen found this interesting and named their band after it.

Let's go into the somewhat lesser-known realms of music. Country singer Bill Anderson (James William Anderson III – The Wispering Bill) had a backing band in the 1950s and 60s called the Po' Boys. A radio presenter (unfortunately it is not known who it was) introduced the boys, who were actually only generally referred to as Bill Anderson's band, as "The Po' Boys" during a radio program in 1959. Anderson and the band liked the name so much that they kept it and later changed it to "The Po' Folks". By the way – a po' boy in Louisiana is a sandwich filled with meat and fried seafood.

Speaking of the letter P – the Pet Shop Boys called themselves that because Chris Lowe actually found pet shops interesting and thought that nobody would actually think of naming a pop band after that. Neil Tennant then suggested putting "Boys" after Pet Shop to create a link to other bands that also had "Boys" in their name. The story that they took the name from friends who worked in a pet shop and called themselves that is probably a legend.

The story behind the naming of 10cc is not entirely innocent. The band's manager had read that the largest amount of sperm ever measured in a human ejaculation was 9 cubic centimetres. And that he had had a dream in which he was standing in front of the Hammersmith Odeon in London and a plaque there read: "10cc The Best Band in the World". Graham Gouldman thought that this was appropriate for their potency and so it became the band name.

Allegedly, the Berlin band Die höchste Eisenbahn (The highest railroad) got their name from a record featuring Hans Albers. They discovered this song in the record store "Bis aufs Messer" in Berlin's Marchlewski Street. We would like to believe that if we had ever found a record by the great blond Hans with this title online. It seems to be like all good stories – if it's not true, it's a good invention.

Fury in the Slaughterhouse have better proof of the origin of their name. It comes from a song by "Madness". On their album "The Rise & Fall" from 1982 is the song "Rain" with the lyric "Fury in the slaughterhouse and the rain". Kai and Thorsten Wingenfelder, and their musical comrades-in-arms, found the name interesting and suitable for the style of their band and that's how it stayed.

The band Counting Crows got their name from the British nursery rhyme "One for Sorrow" in which the superstitious counting of magpies – which belong to the crow family – from one to ten is practiced, each with a different meaning. Adam Duritz, the band's singer, was friends with Marie-Luise Parker, who made her screen debut in the 1989 film "Signs of Life". In the movie (which also became known as "One for Sorrow, Two for Joy"), this nursery rhyme appears. Duritz was fascinated not only by his girlfriend, but also by this nursery rhyme, and decided to name the band after the crows to be counted. The entire verse was also incorporated into the song "A Murder of One" on their debut album "August and Everything After".

Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell were looking for a name for their band and read in a newspaper article about the slow movement of people who were in an LSD trip. The article used the term "slow dive" to describe this slow, conscious awareness. Halstead and Goswell found that this term fit perfectly with their music, which is often characterized by dreamy, slow and atmospheric sounds. And so, from then on, there was the band Slow Dive in the shoegaze genre.

Finally, we want to explain the history of Acht Eimer Hühnerherzen. This is a Berlin punk band that has made a name for itself in the scene with its energetic live performances and idiosyncratic, humorous lyrics. Their name comes from a poem by Erich Mühsam, a writer and poet of the Weimar Republic who was killed by the Nazis in the Oranienburg concentration camp in 1934. The poem is called "Bubenmädchenlied" and contains the line "Eight buckets of chicken hearts, if only you could find them." The band rightly felt that this was the right band name for them.

We'll leave it at that for now, maybe we'll continue the article later. We have researched to the best of our knowledge and belief how the band names came about, but as there is a lot written on the net when the day is long, it is quite possible that we have been taken in by one or two legends. Maybe you can send us your stories about strange or unusual band names and how they came about and we'll make a new blog article out of it.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Sampling musicians spread Martin Luther King's American Dream

What does the music of Michael Jackson, DJ Quicksilver, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Bobo and Sabrina Setlur have in common?

All of them and many more artists have made songs in which they have made use of a famous speech by the U.S. civil rights activist Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Born in 1929, King was a spokesman for the Civil Rights Movement, an activism of African-Americans in the U.S., since the 1950s. He fought against racial segregation and, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, used non-violent means to do so. He had great success with his call to the black population to boycott public buses in Montgomery for one day. This call was triggered by criminal proceedings against the black civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who in December 1955 had violated a local regulation requiring her to make a seat available for white passengers and was therefore fined. The successful boycott of public transportation, which then lasted almost a year, made clear what King wanted to demonstrate, namely that entrepreneurs also depended on black customers to be successful. Under the impact of the boycott, the Supreme Court declared racial segregation on Montgomery public transportation unconstitutional.

On August 28, 1963, King held his world-famous speech in Washington, D.C., which has been sampled in many later pieces of music. It deals with injustices against black people, segregation and discrimination, and poverty.

King stated in his famous speech:


Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.


I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.


And this will be the day – this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

“My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From every mountainside

Let freedom ring!”


And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Under the title "The American Dream" this speech was even published on a sound recording by Southeastern Recording Co. Of America as number 636A-7330.

Martin Luther King's moving speech, which quotes two old songs, has found its way into various pieces of music in the original sound. Especially in electronic music these samples are popular. Here we present a selection of these songs:

  1. We start our tour through music history in 1987 with "Refresh Yourself" by Three Wise Men, where at 4:37 we hear the "I have a dream" sample from Martin Luther King's speech, followed by more samples from the speech. The track closes with the conclusion of the speech and the words "Thank God Almighty, we're free at last". Three Wise Men was released on the British independent label Rhythm King Records, but nothing more could be found out about the artists.

  2. In 1988, Out Of The Ordinary used extensive samples from the speech in its electro piece "The Dream." Out Of The Ordinary was the stage name of German DJ Torsten Fenslau, one of the producers of Culture Beat, who had a big hit with "Mr. Vain" in 1993. That year, Fenslau died at the age of only 29 as a result of a traffic accident in which he had a momentary nod at the wheel of his car while not wearing a seatbelt.

  3. Also in 1988, the English electro formation Greater Than One used extensive samples from King's speech for "Now Is The Time." In particular, already the title line "Now Is The Time" is a sample from the speech. Greater Than One was a British music production team that was active between 1985 and 1995 and consisted of husband Michael Wells and wife Lee Newman. It made releases under numerous project names. It was best known for the track "I Wanna Be A Hippy" which they released in 1995 under the name Technohead.

  4. Not sampled, but re-recorded passages from King's speech were used by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five for the song "The King" which appeared on the album "On The Strength" in 1988. Best known is this formation for their 1982 track "The Message" about inner-city poverty.

  5. "A Better Land" is a song by Heavy D & The Boyz from the 1989 album "Big Tyme" that begins right away with a sample from the speech. In the song, rapper Heavy D, who died in 2011 at the age of 44, complains that the rich are getting richer while the poor remain poor. Something has to change about that, he says. The country must be made a better one.

  6. Very good ears has who hears already at the beginning of the track "As I Read My S-A" by Gang Starr that here is a sample from the recording of the speech, because it starts with an "I" repeated by scratching. However, this is not the voice of Martin Luther King, but that of the presenter who announces him ("At this time I have the honor to present to you ..."). Gang Starr is a US hip-hop duo that existed for 20 years from 1986. The song is from their second album "Step In The Arena", produced in 1990.

  7. "Free at last" and "Let freedom ring" are the samples that the British Jungle producer Rebel MC repeatedly refers to in "Set Yourself Free" from the 1990 album "Rebel Music". Rebel MC had a hit with Double Trouble in 1989 with the song "Street Tuff."

  8. In 1993, "Now Is The Time For Bass" was released by the Techno Bass Crew, consisting of Ivan Kopas and Robert J. Bartko. They are described by AllMusic as pioneers of bass music. This track, which contains only the phrase "Now is the time" from the speech, is therefore probably not one of the most creative tracks of the duo, because the melody of this track does not sound hitworthy. But also otherwise no chart successes of the duo are known.

  9. Take a sample from the King speech, then a large-scale sample from "Je t'aime.... moi non plus" by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg and then you have a track with the obscene title "Fickmusik" (German for: music for fucking) by The Speed Freak aka Martin Damm, released in 1993. The man changes his stage names as often as some change their underpants.

  10. "Now Is The Time" is also an electronic music track by The Crystal Method, who used the corresponding sample from the speech in 1994. Originally, The Crystal Method was an electro music duo from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, formed in 1993, consisting of Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan. The latter retired from the music business in 2017, leaving Scott Kirkland to continue on his own. "Now Is The Time" was also found on the soundtrack of the video game "Gran Turismo 2" as well as on The Crystal Method's successful debut album, "Vegas," from which more songs have made it onto movie or game soundtracks.

  11. Also called "Now Is The Time" is a track of the genre Happy Hardcore by Scott Brown Versus DJ Rab S from 1995. Apart from an alienated sample of this title line, the track contains no elements from the speech. Scott Brown is a British music producer who goes by numerous aliases. DJ Rab S is backed by Scottish DJ and producer Robert Simpson.

  12. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, used samples from King's speech at 3:40 and 3:54 in his 1995 song "HIStory" from the album of the same name. The song ends with a sample from the moon landing.

  13. DJ Quicksilver used the lines "I have a dream" and "I still have a dream" for the track "I Have A Dream". It appeared on a single together with "Bellissima" in 1996. DJ Quicksilber is the German DJ Orhan Terzi born in Istanbul. According to Wikipedia, he derived his stage name from a barometer of success, a column of mercury that shot up when he was applauded at a DJ competition.

  14. The "Let freedom ring" sample was also used by Sabrina Setlur in the song "Freisein" (German for: being free), which ends with the "Free at last" sample. The song appeared on the album "Die neue S-Klasse" in 1997. A version with a video clip was produced for the single with which the label 3p introduced a singer from the group Söhne Mannheims, Xavier Naidoo, as a solo artist. The single stayed in the charts for 17 weeks.

  15. Rappers Against Racism made a song called "Key To Your Heart" in 1998, which also featured the sample "I have a dream". The song made it to number 79 in the German charts. Part of the Rappers of Racism formation included the hip-hop duo Down Low and Trooper Da Don, a German rapper from Lüneburg who, along with DJ Tomekk and Lil' Kim, scored the hit "Kimnotyze" in 2002.

  16. In 2001, the German pop duo Modern Talking, consisting of Dieter Bohlen and Thomas Anders, made a song called "America", which appeared on "America - The 10th Album." It begins with the national anthem of the United States and then plays the "I have a dream" sample as a reference to the "American Dream." Modern Talking's best-known hit was "You're My Heart, You're My Soul" in 1984; they split in 1987, but then reunited for the period from 1998 to 2003.

  17. "We've got a long way to go / It's beyond Martin Luther / Upgrade computer" are the lyrics of the song "Long Way To Go" by Gwen Stefani, the front woman of the pop-rock band No Doubt, and Andre 3000, a member of the group OutKast. The song is the closing track of the 2004 album "Love.Angel.Music.Baby."

  18. Opening with a sample from King's speech and various other samples is a French hip-hop track called "Je suis" by Explicit Samouraï from the 2004 album "La danse du sabre." Explicit Samouraï consists of Leeroy Kesiah, Specta and DJ Eddy Kent. The former two are also members of the Saïan Supa crew, which has already collaborated with the Berlin formation Seeed, namely on "Thing", the English version of the 2006 hit "Ding".

  19. "I have a dream, I still have a dream" are King's words cut together, which DJ BoBo uses at the beginning of his 2005 track "Give Peace A Chance." The title sounds like a cover of the song of the same name written by John Lennon, but it is not. Rather, the Swiss DJ, whose real name is René Baumann, raps an independent song. The chorus is partly sung by a woman who is not named in the credits. Without a doubt, this is one of the most melodic tracks on this listing.

  20. Another track worth listening to from the genre of hip hop is "A Dream" by Common, an artist from Chicago, Illinois, whose real name is Lonnie Rashied Lynn Jr. The chorus is sung by, who is known as a member of the group Black Eyed Peas. The video clip also features clips from the video recording of King's speech. The song appeared on the soundtrack to the movie "Freedom Writers" in 2006.

  21. Unity Calling was a project of British DJ John Edward with his friends Jaywes and Deeko. Edward wanted to focus on creating music with a deeper purposeful meaning. The result was the album "History" in 2007 which in its second track, "I Have A Dream", samples from King's speech, including at the beginning "Free at last".

  22. Florian Arndt understood "Let Freedom Reign" (instead of "Let freedom ring") and named his 2007 track accordingly. His house track picks up various samples from King's speech. The record also features a version of the same name together with Mike De Ville, a German trance producer whose real name is Michael Schuessleder.

  23. "Now Is The Time" is also the sample that the two Austrians from Discotronic, Stephan Deutsch and Thomas Greisl, chose in 2007 for their track from the genre Hands Up and added more vocals: "Now is the time, here is the place, cut the midrange, drop the bass." In 2006 Discotronic had become known with their hit "Tricky Disco". With it, they had landed a club hit throughout Europe. In Germany, the single had reached the top 5 of the dance charts.

  24. "Impact avec le diable" by MC Solaar picks up the sample "I have a dream that one day ..." among others. The song appeared on "Chapitre 7" in 2007. Fittingly for a song that is about the devil, a sample from a speech by Adolf Hitler was also included. MC Solaar was born in Dakar, Senegal in 1969 and moved to France with his parents when he was still a baby. MC Solaar achieved fame beyond France thanks to his collaboration with American rapper Missy Elliott in the song "All N My Grill" in which he took over the French rap part in 1999.

  25. Polish DJ Matush, real name Tomasz Matuszak, used "I Have A Dream" and other samples from the King speech. This track from the genre of progressive house was released in 2008.

  26. A song by Guns n' Roses also joins the list, namely "Madagascar" from the 2008 album "Chinese Democracy". The song was first played live by the band in 2001 and has been performed frequently at their concerts ever since.

  27. An electro-house version is the one by Y&D called "I Have A Dream" from 2009 which contains other phrases from the speech besides the "I have a dream" sample. Behind Y&D is the Swiss duo Dan Daniel & Ivan Lujic.

  28. The Italian label Sunflower Records released the house track "Let Freedom Ring" by Counterfiters in 2008. This track also contains various samples from King's speech. It is not known who is behind Counterfiters.

  29. In 2010 Tiger and Dragon came around the corner with "The Dream" whose original club mix appeared on "Tunnel Trance Force Vol. 54". Tiger and Dragon is a project of German house and techno producer Dietmar Otter aka Deat Marotta. In 2009 Tiger & Dragon, this time spelled with ampersands, had released a cover version of the iio hit "Rapture".

  30. Dutch DJ Lodewijk Fluttert, known as Bakermat, achieved great success with the use of King's speech. "Vandaag" was the name of his track in 2012, which means "today" in Dutch. It made it into the top 10 in Austria, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. In 2014, the track then appeared again under the title "One Day (Vandaag)" after licensing with Sony. A video clip was then also released for this and the song celebrated success in other European countries, including number 4 in Germany.

  31. In 2013, Californian rapper Jayceon Terrell Taylor, better known as The Game, used a sample from the speech for the beginning of the song "Life Is But A Dream" in which he features R&B singer Elijah Blake.

  32. In 2014, the Wu-Tang Clan took on the speech. "Never Let Go" from their sixth studio album "A Better Tomorrow" samples from the speech. In Germany, Wu-Tang Clan is best known for the success of its single "Gravel Pit" in 2000.

  33. "Blancos y negros somos uno" (Whites and blacks, we are one) was sung in 2020 by dance-hall artist Abel Xanders, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1990. In 2019, he collaborated with Daddy Yankee as a percussionist and keyboardist on concerts. With that, we end our ride through King samples.

So we have a whole selection of different tracks with different melodies, all sampling the same speech. However, there are a larger number of other tracks that could be mentioned here. WhoSampled even lists a total of 129. However, not only samples are counted there, but also newly recorded or performed sentences from King's speech.

The protests initiated by Martin Luther King were one of the reasons why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 officially abolished racial segregation. But King did not only make friends and was threatened for his commitment as well as his family. The Civil Rights Act was not the end for him either because real differences between blacks and whites, especially economic ones, continued to require commitment against racism. On April 3, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee for the Poor People's March, a protest movement for social justice, where he gave a speech. The following day, he was shot and killed on a motel balcony. A perpetrator was caught and convicted for the assassination, but it is still disputed whether it was a contract killing by parts of the government for whom King's involvement was a thorn. Martin Luther King Jr. reached the age of only 39.

The cause of fighting against unjust discrimination is still relevant and perhaps always will be. There will probably always be people in power who try to oppress certain segments of the population, and numerous followers will then make this possible.

Therefore it is good and important that musicians have taken up the speech of Martin Luther King and thereby reminded of his important concerns. It should only not result in a commercial exploitation of his fight against racism.


Saturday, October 1, 2022

Another letter to an unknown user

Dear W.I.,

I have to call you like this, because you consistently hide your name and your mail address and write to us only with these two letters as sender. You are very conscientious in informing us about spelling mistakes on our page – mostly immediately after a new entry has been made – for which we are grateful. In most cases you are concerned about the upper/lower case of song titles, which we, in contrast to other websites, always display as it is correct in the respective language. Only the English song titles always have a capital letter at the beginning of the word – as it is internationally common.

But sometimes there are exceptions to this basic rule, which we would be happy to explain to you – if we had a connection to you. For example, in the current case you complained that we had written 'Port au Prince' with a small a in the song title here and that this would look funny in a list of new entries. Maybe, but we also have the rule that we take the song titles (and artists) as they are printed on the record label. And that is clearly visible here on the label photo of the B-side.

Another case: you might know that there was a spelling reform in Denmark in 1948, which introduced a few other letters (e. g. the Å instead of Aa) and also the consistent lower case. Before that – similar to German – nouns were also written in capital letters. Therefore you will find Danish song titles at our site in different spellings, depending on whether the record was produced before or after 1948.

We could explain all this to you if we had an e-mail address from you. Since we don't have it, we have to get rid of the information to you this way. I can only repeat here what I already wrote in the blog article to the 'dot': We don't bite (at least very, very rarely) and we don't give addresses to sneaky data collectors who then want to flood you with spam. So please think about adding a mail address to your next ticket.