Rock Star Names: Lots Of Roger-ing, Not A Lot of Colins 


We all know that rock stars have a free pass when it comes to choosing the names of their offspring. From Chris Martin naming his child after a technology company to David Bowie wanting to find a name that rhymed with his made up surname, there are plenty of slightly left-field choices. 

And good luck to them. Snobbery over names has no place here, and if people want to burden their kids with a whacky name as a result of being off their faces on hallucinogenic drugs, then they can fill their boots. Carry on. Yes, even you Liam Gallagher.

What is more interesting is the choices that rock stars make before they are famous. When they realise that their names aren’t very rock n roll and they still want to be rock stars. What do you do when you rebel against your mum and dad, only to find they have stymied your every move by calling you “Rupert” or “Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong”. 

Or “Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno”?

The sketch with Rowan Atkinson quizzing Elton John (real name Reginald Dwight) on his unusual choice of first name (“Why not “John Elton?”) is a case in point.

Not every pop star had a choice of course. If you wanted to sign up to Larry Parnes’ stable, you had to sign up to having a ludicrous adjective as a surname, such as Vince Eager, Billy Fury, Johnny Gentle or more dubiously, Dickie Pride. Parnes rather brilliantly tried to persuade Joe Brown to change his name to Elmer Twitch, but thankfully Brown declined. As a result, Joe Brown still had a career after 1968.

Not every star has the imagination to make such a choice either. Jon Bon Jovi used to be called John Bongiovi, which rather makes you wonder why he bothered. Michael Bolton was originally called Michael Bolotin, making him more of a crossword anagram expert than a name-changer. And let’s not ask which “brilliant” anagram Axl Rose’s name came from. 

Well done William. Very mature…

Lots of rock stars found themselves in such a position. For example, it is difficult to imagine a less cool rock and roll name than Roger. 

And still: Daltrey somehow got away with having the name, having had a successful career in rock for fifty years without actually making the name fashionable. How did that happen? Why are there so many rock n roll Rogers?

There’s Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, Queen’s Roger Taylor, Duran Duran’s Roger Taylor and no less than two members of Pink Floyd called Roger (Waters, whose actual first name is George and – trial pursuit question alert – Syd Barrett’s given name was Roger). 

In fact, the better trivia question here is which member of Pink Floyd has the first name of Roger? Answer: Syd. 

It seems unlikely, but there are now more ageing rockers than accountants going by the name of Roger, despite no rock star (or for that matter accountant) calling themselves Roger in thirty years. They can’t all have been Captain Pugwash fans…

Yet, blessed with the slightly more rock n roll name of James (Jimmy Page, Jimmy Bain, Jimmy Barnes, Jim Jones Review, Jamie T, er, James Blunt) Jim McGuinn plumped for the name of Roger, and formed The Byrds.

Not everyone is happy with Jim of course. Paul McCartney is one such person. It’s another decent trivia question to note that Paul McCartney’s middle name is Paul. His first name is James, but he was called Paul presumably to avoid confusion with his father, also called James. 

Jim Osterburg was similarly unimpressed with Jim and made up a name – Iggy Pop – to shed the burden of Jim.

Statistically, Colin is probably a worse name for a rock star to be born with than both Jim and Roger, though. 

No-one was in rock n roll and still called themselves Colin, except perhaps Colin Hodgkinson, the bass player from Whitesnake – or should I say “one of” the bass players from Whitesnake. He didn’t last long, presumably entirely because of his name.

Yet, when Paul Stanley (a man whose real name is Stanley Bert Eisen and who rightly understood that Stanley is also one of those not-very-rock-and-roll names) had a son he called him Colin, perhaps because he wasn’t keen for his offspring to follow in his stack-heeled footsteps.

Well, once you’ve had a plaster-cast made of your genitalia and had sex with just about everything that moved (that your band mates didn’t get to first at least), you probably don’t want that kind of thing for your children in a world where social diseases are slightly more prevalent than they were when The Starchild was impressing the occupants of the ladies room with his seven inch…..leather heels. 

More recently, PJ Harvey used the technique used by female authors before and since (see also: the Bronte sisters, PL Travers, George Elliott, JK Rowling) of disguising her gender instead of using her given name of Polly Jean. The game is given away once you see her onstage naturally. But PJ wasn’t the first Polly in rock, with Poly Styrene (real name: Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) being the trail-blazer. I think perhaps that makes Polly (or Poly) the most rock n roll name for females.

The charts now are full of people called Drake (real name Aubrey), Calvin, Calum, Shawn, Kent (previously only a surname of a superhero, or county town of England), Justin and Clean Bandit. It’s nice to see the latter is a band consisting of people called Jack, Luke, Grace and Neil. By comparison it rather sounds like they jumped off the pages of an Enid Blyton book. 

Maybe the way things are going there’s space for another Colin in the top 40 after all…?



Categories: Music

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22 replies

  1. A very insightful post, I never thought of rock star names that way. May I also add two more famous ‘Jims?’ Morrison and Croche. It also brings me back to my recent post on John Cougar Mellencamp. Originally, he took the Cougar surname because his recording company told him Mellencamp wasn’t a rock and roll name.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Colin may not be very rock’n’roll but what about Athol as in Australia’s own Seekers(Athol Guy)? Well, yeah, i guess they weren’t very rock and roll..

    Wasn’t Paul Stanley’s real name Stanley Eisen?

    Like

  3. Of course there is also Roger Taylor of Duran Duran.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Colin and Athol are difficult but Ian is hard to come to terms with, much more suited to some faceless civil servant.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. May I also mention the sheer amount of ‘John’s (a name that is seemingly very un-rock’n’roll indeed) – Lennon, Bonham, Entwistle, (Paul) Jones, Deacon, Fogerty… (Not forgetting Ramone, Rotten and Cash should one include ‘Johnny’ as well!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Not to mention the Colins Moulding (XTC), Hay (Men At Work), Peterson (Bee Gees), Meloy (The Decemberists), Burgess (Masters Apprentices), and Vearcombe (although he proved your point by changing his name to Black).

    Athol Guy eventually faced the facts about his hopelessly uncool name and launched a second career as a conservative politician, and got elected to parliament. But then, he wound up back in The Seekers again. Which probably makes him the most successful Athol who has ever lived. Small field.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Quite a bit if fun. I’m glad the reposndent above (Dave) got to XTC and Men at Work before I did. And i liked the Poly Styrene/PJ Harvey bit very much. Now, had you heard that Mr. McGuinn became Roger after a religious conversion? One wonders just what sect that was.

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  8. Hi! I hope that you see this. Posting, as I have in the past, as Phillip Helbig with my WordPress account doesn’t work—no error message, just nothing happens. However, posting with another email address, name, etc does work. From this I conclude that the IP address is not blocked (which it shouldn’t be anyway), but for some reason posts from my real identity which I use all over the internet are not getting through to your site, although they did in the past. Please check it out and in any case get back to me at helCAMELbig@multivax.de (remove animal to reply). Thanks, Phillip

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for the grins! Dig your humor.

    Liked by 1 person

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