Beating the Band

by Matt Benoit

Today, I’d like to talk to you about what it takes to be a professionally-successful musician, even though my personal “expertise” (French for “the artist formally known as Pertise”) on the matter is limited to having once performed “Day Tripper” on the guitar, in front of roughly 100 or so people, as part of my school’s talent show when I was in the eighth grade.

But I digress.

Anyone who has ever been in a band or has dreams of doing so knows that the most important aspect of whether or not you will enjoy success lies in the name of your musical group.

This is critical due to the fact that, should your band be good enough to make the “big time,” they will need to have a marketable, easy-to-remember title so that the average person can easily identify them. An example of a band that can be easily recalled would be “The Waffle Donkeys.”

Many groups derive names from other bands. Take the Russian blues band, the “Blues Cousins.” Clearly they chose this name because the “Blues Brothers” was already taken. They have also inspired countless imitators, such as the “Blues Sisters,” “Blues Uncles,” “Blues Neighbors,” “Blues Grandparents,” and of course, the “Blues Second-Cousins Twice Removed.”

Another tactic I’m especially fond of is incorporating literary devices, especially alliteration, into your band name. Here’s some to get you thinking:

  • Pat Pakistan and the Punjab Papas
  • Don Delacroy and the Dilapidated Dishrags
  • Melvin Mashugna and the Malicious Matzos
  • Rhonda Ramjet and the Rough-Shod Rutabagas

After you have come up with an attractive name, the next step to becoming well-known is a hit single, this being a popular song that gets plenty of radio play and puts your band in the spotlight. An example of a Grammy-level hit would be:

Lyrics to “Dental Appointment”

The doc said “Hey Joe!”

We gotta mess up your grill

We’re gonna take out your teeth

With a giant power drill

Of course, you don’t have to have actual, intelligible lyrics. Many a performer—including legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, the 1960s rock band The Kingsmen, and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder—have made a career out of writing songs that allowed people to sing along and then later wonder what the hell they were actually saying.

The Beatles, one of the most popular bands in the history of popular music, have a long history of writing songs with either hidden, indecent meanings or mind-blowingly simple, nonsensical lyrics. Such as the case with their song “Come Together.” Remember, I have not altered these lyrics in any way, although it is likely that at the time they were written, the Beatles themselves probably were:

He bag production he got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease

Come together right now over me

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you can play in key and are likable, the chicks will dig you and the people will clap along to the beat. You could write a song about a colonoscopy, but it really wouldn’t matter if nobody caught on and there was a wailing guitar solo in the middle of it (the song, not the colonoscopy).

Anyway, after getting a solid hit to get your band exposure, you’ll have to contend with your newfound fame and fandom. Chief among these fans are groupies, who will worship the ground that you walk on, idolize anything you touch, and agree with anything you say. They are such dedicated fans, mostly because they want to sleep with you.

Release a couple more noteworthy tunes, and you could be on your way to signing a multi-million dollar record contract. Dreams of Grammys could soon flood your head in a deluge of grandeur and ego.

But perhaps, through this whirlwind of nationwide touring and deciding which Learjet you want to buy, you finally realize that this is not the life you envisioned living. It has exhausted you, sapping the strength of your creative energy.

Receding like the tide to a tiny, isolated, tropical island (which you can now afford), you’d simply like to get away from all the glitz and glamour. You walk away from your contract and disappear like Jimmy Hoffa, leaving the paparazzi clueless as to your whereabouts.

Meanwhile, your records continue to sell like hotcakes and your bank account balloons. Perhaps several years down the road, you can emerge from seclusion and have a reunion tour with your former bandmates.

Doesn’t it sound great?

Well, I certainly think so. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I feel another hit song coming on.

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