David Bruce: 250 Music Anecdotes (Names, Originality)


• Sassy, a magazine for North American teenagers, once mentioned the deodorant Teen Spirit, which it liked, but about which the Sassywriter also wrote the phrase “gag on the name.” Supposedly, Kathleen Hanna, lead singer for the riot grrrl band Bikini Kill, read Sassyand then spray-painted “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on a wall at Kurt Cobain’s dwelling. Of course, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became the lead song off Nevermind, an album by Kurt’s band, Nirvana. Also, of course, Kurt also married Courtney Love, and they were very much in love. Courtney once apologized to Kurt because she had a zit, and Kurt replied, “Zits are beauty marks.”

• Larry Parnes was an early British rock-star manager. He often discovered talent and gave the performers new, more exciting names. Often, the first name was homey, and the second name was dynamic: Vince Eager, Georgie Fame, Johnny Goode, Dickie Pride, and Marty Wilde. Of course, some names were better than others. Vince Eager complained about another name that Mr. Parnes had thought up after giving Mr. Eager his name: “Why couldn’t Larry have christened meBilly Fury?”

• Rap stars can be interesting people. Two examples: 1) When he was growing up, Jay “Jam Master Jay” Mizell wore shoelaces in his sneakers that matched the color of his clothing. Why did he stop wearing laces in his sneakers? He explains, “It took too long to put them in.” 2) Rap star L.L. Cool J can’t be accused of being humble. His initials “L.L.” stand for “Ladies Love,” so his full stage name is “Ladies Love Cool J.”


• Musician Mirah Zeitlyn spent time in the early ’90s in Olympia, Washington. While she was at Evergreen State College, she organized her record collection according to gender. Why? She explains, “Sometimes I want to listen to this stuff that men make, and sometimes I want to listen to this stuff that women make.” Olympia is one of the places where riot grrrl music — which was influenced by punk music and feminism — started. In 1981, Sharon Cheslow was a founding member of Chalk Circle, the first all-female punk group in Washington, D.C. At a concert featuring the Mo-dettes, an all-female punk band from London, she had asked singer Romana Carlier for advice. Ms. Cheslow says, “I’ll never forget the music she gave me. She said, ‘You can’t deny the fact that you’re a woman, but the most important thing is to focus on creating music.’” Creating music is the most important thing, but another important thing is being free to create the music. Ms. Cheslow says, “I wasn’t interested in joining some other culture. I wanted to create my own culture. That’s what punk had taught me, that I should be free to create as a girl.” By the way, some of the riot grrrls were adored. One fan wrote in a riot grrrl zine titled MTM, “I am considering calling the man/boy/guy/male who gave it to me a god.” The “it” was a lock of the hair of Kathleen Hanna, who became one of the musicians who founded Bikini Kill in Olympia in 1990.

• Ken Nordine is most famous for a series of Word Jazzalbums. As a creative person, he leads a life of wit and originality. When he was a boy, he was bothered because his minister would not get wet during baptisms because he wore thigh-high boots. Therefore, young Ken secretly made a hole in one of the boots. He remembers that at the next baptism he “could seethe Christian anger arise in [the minister’s] reddening face. He walked out with a big boot full of water, and when he got to his study, he released a small flood!” Sometimes, the people around Ken are the original ones. For example, a man once stripped to his shorts and then painted himself white in Ken’s garden. Ken called 911 and told the police about the man. The police arrived, thinking that Ken might be kidding them, but they found the man’s pants and a bucket and paintbrush that the man had used to paint himself white. They then took off after the man, first radioing the police station to say, “The guy who painted himself white is heading north, and we’ve got his pants.” Ken says, “If I were to thinkof something like that, people would say, ‘Man, you are really sick.’” By the way, Ken’s wife is also original. She once held a party, and it took Ken two hours to realize what was unusual about the party: Every man whom she had invited was named John. (She also thought about having a “Mary” party.)


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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