Monday, January 30, 2012

BC2012: Rock Names by Adam Dolgins

In case the title isn't self-explanatory, it's subtitled "From ABBA to ZZ Top, How Rock Bands Got Their Names." This is an excellent reference book that actually reads well from start to finish, too. The problem with rock band names is that many of the published explanations are just plain wrong. Sometimes a record label publicist will put out a false story because it's more clever or less embarrassing than the truth. Other times, band members will make up stories during interviews, maybe just for their own amusement or because they dislike the reporter. Dolgins figured this out and decided to conduct his own interviews (usually by phone or fax), and he was surprisingly successful in getting responses.

Even the stories about bands I don't like or haven't heard are interesting, and it's an easy book to pick up and put down if you only have a few minutes at a time to read (I know what you're thinking, but no, I did not read this in the bathroom!). I think it's better to read the whole book than to browse from entry to entry because there is one notable shortcoming: a lack of cross-referencing. For example, Dolgins asks Randy Bachman about the names "The Guess Who" and "Bachman-Turner Overdrive" since he was in both bands. This interview is listed under "The Guess Who". There should be a listing for "Bachman-Turner Overdrive" that says "See 'The Guess Who'" but there is not.

Aside from that, which affects perhaps 12-15 entries, this is a great reference work full of colorful stories. After reading this book, you'll never think of The Lovin' Spoonful the same way ever again!

Note: I read the "new and revised" second edition of this book from 1996. A third edition, which is 70 pages longer, was published in 1998.

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