JAIMIE VERNON – WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Vernon_WeddingBass

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”
– Juliet Capulet
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

romeo-and-julietJuliet was a smart cookie by realizing that names are just that – names. Romeo was her hunka hunka burnin’ love. She would have been obsessed with him even if his name had been Enoch or Buford. In Rock and Roll, however, names are everything. Every band that’s ever existed has spent as much time coming up with a suitable name as they have working on their music and stage appearance. Except for KISS.  They only worked on the name and the stage appearance part. Music was third on their priority list. “Torpedo Girl”? Really?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR2eZahdxdU

rainbowbuttmonkeysA co-worker of mine giggled this week when I pointed out that “Paralyzer” hit makers Finger Eleven were once called the Rainbow Butt Monkeys. The toss away moniker actually got them a record deal and sizeable radio airplay with the tune “Circles” in the 1990s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0lVjky2roU before they hit a brick wall with their era-specific white funk rock. They re-evaluated their marketability and re-emerged with the Finger Eleven handle a few years later. For the record the name comes from the band’s song “Thin Spirits”. Not entirely sure the current name is any better as it’s quite vague and, well, any finger is a bad finger in some social circles.

PoisedI was faced with a similar marketing problem when I signed Soap Opera to my label in 1999. The band was already into production of their debut album, Poised, when the drummer, Stacey Washington – a dear old friend of mine – came to me looking for money to get Terry Brown (Rush, Cutting Crew, Klaatu, Max Webster) to mix it. We signed the group and had Terry do the mix. He liked the band so much he then came on board during the pre-production phase for record #2. But there was still the name issue. I didn’t like it. He didn’t like it – and this is the guy that begged Klaatu NOT to use their name before finding massive success in the 1970s with “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”.

Welcome To The TangiersBut Soap Opera was adamant and went with it again for the sophomore release Ladies And Gentlemen…Welcome to the Tangiers‘. We got some significant radio attention on Alt-Rock and Campus stations but this was early days of the internet and when you typed the word Soap Opera into a search engine (pre-Google, pre-Youtube…yes, kids, such a time DID exist) you got nothing but images of stars from ‘Young & Restless’, ‘General Hospital’, and ‘Days of Our Lives’. It was very difficult to build an internet presence for the group. We, again, begged them to change the name.

Messages From Deep SpaceAs luck would have it, a natural evolution of circumstances resulted in one of the members – a key songwriter/singer/guitarist – to be booted from the band. Soap Opera saw immediately that the group dynamic FIRST TIME_ITS ON_HighRezwas going to be placed entirely on the shoulders of the alternate guitarist/second vocalist. They opted for a name change to disassociate themselves from the departed member of the band.

And so…they became The First Time. And it did not improve their visibility at all. It was the equivalent to changing your name from Nearly Black to Slightly More Black. Another album, It’s On, and still no internet traction despite three successful radio singles. You know what happens when you Google search “The First Time”? Yeah, lots of stories about losing one’s virginity…and accompanying porn.

Brand-Logos

For the bands following along out there, your name is your brand. It’s your hallmark and calling card. It’s your Jell-o. Your Kleenex. Your Nike. Your Walmart. Your Jay-Z. Notice anything about those names? They’re unique. They’re not like something else. There is no confusion. No accidental misidentification with a similar brand.

Another Bullseye RecordsAt the time I registered my corporate label name – Bullseye Records – there were none in the market place…and had only been one back in the 1960s. I had no competition and our identity remained sound until the Bullseye Blues label popped up in the US. You wouldn’t believe how many emails I still get asking me about albums by Walter Trout. But, by then we had become self-reliant in our global presence and both labels co-existed peaceably.

Beautiful-Nothing2So, when I got an album this week by a band called Beautiful Nothing I was a bit concerned. What does the name mean? Would its ambiguity make it forgettable? What kind of music would a group called Beautiful Nothing perform? In a retail situation I may not have paid any mind at all. Generic names have a tendency to fall right out of my skull, though that might just be because of my age.

Turns out if you Google search the term Beautiful Nothing you get…this band. The first ten links are related to them and it reveals that they are actually brothers named Anthony, Luke and Shane Ludgate from somewhere in Southern Ontario. Well played, Ludgates. Well played. http://www.beautifulnothing.com

Having bypassed my unwarranted bias of the band’s name I came to realize that this album is a massively entertaining slice of Power Pop and New Rock – while simultaneously being neither. I’ve been listening to music religiously for the better part of 40 years and I have to say that Beautiful Nothing has managed to defy both categorization and influence spotting. If they’ve been sipping the Pop Kool-Aid then I’m not familiar with their go-to influences (though I do hear some U2/Coldplayisms on “Stuck In the Clouds”).

The album fires on all cylinders with the first single, “Come Color Me“, a melange of ’80s brooding melodicism and a finger-popping bass hook courtesy James Featherstone reminiscent of local heroes Chalk Circle or even Breeding Ground. It’s unlike most of the remainder of the songs on the record.

From there, the album shoots upwards from here in terms of energy. “If It Ever Came Down” is a rocking pop classic in the making with real guitar breaks courtesy of Luke Ludgate and Sven Petrovic.

The band gets progressively heavier throughout the album with the brain eating gang anthem “Everybody Got A Gun”, the rap funk-meets-Blue Oyster Cult’s “Veterans of the Psychic Wars” feel to “Highway to the Sky”, the Swamp Rock channeled Alice In Chains harmonized “La La (a Time to Give)” and the frenetic paced staccato piano ditty “On and On”.

Beautiful-Nothing3It’s Anthony Ludgate’s voice that stands front and centre and has a Feargal Sharkey range and elasticity about it (Google him – he was in The Undertones). Fortunately, Anthony can sing without Sharkey’s debilitating vibrato. Just check out the danceable earworm “Finer Things” (think Hedley meets Finger Eleven’s “Paralyzer”) – a song that’s screaming out to be the next single. He knows how to work dynamically, particularly on the jazzy Chris Isaac flavoured “Never Found What You’re Looking For” and “Tom’s Song”.

Finally, the production by Anthony Ludgate and Bill McDowell is first rate on this disc – well above indie band level. As it should be coming from the Universal Music machine. Here’s hoping the band’s name doesn’t get them lost in the shuffle of media image and hyperbolic WOW! However, the upshot is that by not calling themselves Ludgate (or how about Fludgate?), the group won’t suffer a Jonas Brothers-like identity crisis down the line if members decide to go their own way one day. Well played, again, Ludgates. Well played.

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

 

 

 

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – WHAT’S IN A NAME?”

  1. Thanks for the awesome review Jaimie!

    Anthony – Beautiful Nothing

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