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WHAT'S IN A NAME?

28-06-2007

Would The Beatles ever have been such a big success if they'd been called something else? And would Laurence Inman now be a bloated rock star if his band had chosen a better moniker? Er, probably not.

One night many decades ago I persuaded a girl to come back with me to my flat in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. She was American, from a fairly well-off family in Connecticut, and had the finest legs which creation had ever fashioned. (We didn’t have political correctness in those days.)

When she heard the word ‘flat’ she probably envisioned a room with a bed, a place to cook and wash up, a shower, a couple of armchairs, bookcases, rows of hooks on which one could hang one’s coats, clean walls. You know: a flat.

The truth was rather more prosaic. It was a room all right, one of many in a crumbling house I shared with seven unstable psychopaths. One of its most charming features, apart from the constant screaming upstairs, was the plaster which flaked away from the walls at the merest accidental touch.

I didn’t mind too much because it was virtually rent-free. This was because Theo, the landlord’s agent who came to collect the rent every Friday teatime, (‘Meester Lawry, ees me, Theo, you ‘ave money, no ?’) was invariably blind drunk and offered to play three-card-brag for it, double or quits.

He always insisted that Chris, the medic in the next room, (‘Meester Chrees’) joined us to make a three-hander. He never worked out that I knew this was because he was trying to stack the cards and that I used a simple ploy for turning the tables on him. It would take too long to explain.

The room itself would probably make millions today as an art-installation. It would be called ‘Arrangement in socks, pants, cigarette-ash, chip-wrappers, bottles and bed, #23’ Its ingenious touch was that you couldn’t tell where any one of its components ended and next began.

Anyway, back to the point. The American girl.

I moved the door aside (it was off its hinges and leaned against the frame) brushed the plaster-dust from her hair and she entered.

‘Great,’ she said, ‘no guitar.’

There was a guitar, but Chris had borrowed it.

‘What do you mean ?’ I asked.

Whenever I see a guitar in a guy’s room I know that in five minutes I’m going to be listening to the jerk trying to sing Dylan or else some crap he’s written himself and set to music.’

How did she know ? If Americans were so prescient, I thought, how come they never saw what a mess Vietnam would turn out to be ?

I mention all this because I still own a guitar (and a ukulele, and an electric keyboard.) I occasionally play the guitar, just to check that the tips of fingers on my left hand are still up to it and that I haven’t forgotten the five chords of which I am the unrivalled master.

I viciously protect a tiny bit of the ambition I once had to be part of a successful band. This started around the time Please Please Me came out. I had a snare drum, sticks, brushes and a fairly expensive harmonica, on which I could play the intro to Love Me Do.

My mate Baz was going to be the bass player. He didn’t have a bass, but he was saving up for one. Tez was on rhythm guitar and Nobsy on lead. Or the other way round. They actually had instruments and became quite proficient.

The plan was to learn our chops, do a few gigs (school dances, stuff like that,) get a manager, become famous, write our own classic songs and retire to a country mansion.

All this would have been quite easy compared to the task which proved to be our downfall: coming up with a name on which we could all agree. The nearest, nearest, we ever got was The Bakelites.

I think this is the hardest job any group of spotty adolescents has to wrestle with, so I’m willing to part with the three best names I’ve ever come up with for bands I’ve fantasised about starting over the years. For the right price.

Orphanage Explosion. This would suit a grungy, sneering rebel type of band. Big baggy trousers showing their pants, you know the sort of thing.

Successive Intercessions. A New Romantic revival outfit. Huge hair. Stick-thin. A flame-haired female lead singer.

The Bogs. An early Fall-type punk band. Completely shapeless, physically and musically.

I’ll leave you with this thought. The Who have needed a drummer and bass-player for some time now. The Beatles consist of only a drummer and bass-player. The new super-group could be called And Who Pray Are The Beatles ?

If that needs explaining you’re too young to be reading this column.

Greatest band names you’ve ever heard? Leave a comment in the Music section of our Message Board.

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