Micks and Johns and Ians, oh my!: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Name Game

OK, I don’t know what’s up with this, but it seems that at one time there were a lot of rock ‘n’ roll bands out there where different members had similar names.

Sure, for every one of these groups listed here, you can likely name a hundred bands where this was not the case. But some of these bands were very popular, at least for a while. It’s easy to dismiss this doubling up on names as a way of guaranteeing music biz success as simply some kind of supernatural baloney, but as Bela Lugosi said back in 1934 in the movie The Black Cat: “Supernatural, perhaps; baloney, perhaps not.”

So, is it a magical thing — a not-so-secret formula to guarantee a quick ride to the top? Or does it have a mathematical explanation: It’s maybe not so unusual, just falling within the odds because those were some of the most popular names for children in any given year or country? Or is it just rock star vanity — a case of egoists who figure they’re so cool, anyone else with their name must be cool as well?

It seems a little odd, but maybe you’ve got a good explanation for this that others have missed. Obviously, some of these aren’t exact matches, but they are all usually accepted as traditional variants of the same name:

THE ROLLING STONES: Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor — maybe a case of “You’re So Vain,” as Taylor’s tenure lasted only a few years. Jagger probably thought every song was about him(self).

LED ZEPPELIN: John Bonham, John Paul Jones — JPJ was born John Baldwin, so it counts either way.

DEEP PURPLE: Ian Gillan, Ian Paice — Lots of guys went through this band, but Paice and Gillan were part of the most famous “Smoke On the Water” line up, and are still in Deep Purple to this day 40-odd years later. Maybe only these two are needed to make up the magical Purple mojo whammy.

THE SMALL FACES/FACES: Ronnie Lane, Ron Wood — When Lane left the band, he was replaced with an Asian bassist named Tetsu. Maybe that’s “Ronald” in Japanese?

FREE: Paul Rodgers, Paul Kossoff — Tetsu played on Free’s last album as well, so maybe Tetsu’s a double for “Paul,” not “Ronnie.”

THE BEATLES: George Harrison, George Martin — the second of whom was, of course, an honorary “Fifth Beatle.” If that’s too far a stretch for you, Martin also shares the “Sir” with Sir Paul McCartney.

MOTT THE HOOPLE: Mick Ralphs, Mick Ronson — though the two Micks here were not in the band simultaneously. Ronson replacing the guy who had earlier replaced Ralphs.

THE MONKEES: Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz — as a totally unrelated remark: did you know Nesmith’s mother invented liquid paper? She sold the patent for a bundle and died shortly after, leaving her windfall to her son the toqued Monkee.

IGGY AND THE STOOGES: James Osterberg (aka Iggy Pop), James Williamson — it would have been funnier if the guitar slinging Stooge had changed his name to Iggy Williamson. OK, maybe not so funny. What kind of band would ever change their last names to be all the same …

THE RAMONES: Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, Richie and CJ Ramone though, yes, this is kind of a cheat. Relatives don’t count, even fictional relatives because it’s kind of a given their last names will be the same. But watch this rabbit pop out of the proverbial hat: Johnny was born John Cummings, and CJ was born Christopher John Ward. “Gabba Gabba!/We accept you we accept you!/One of us!”

AEROSMITH: Joe Perry, Joey Kramer — close enough.

R.E.M.: Mike Mills, Michael Stipe — two more shiny happy people.

JEFFERSON STARSHIP: Papa John Creach, Johnny Barbata — just for a while at the end there, but it still counts.

THE EAGLES: Don Henley, Don Felder — and it ended in true country-rock style … “This band ain’t big enuff fer the both of us.”

There you go. Mildly interesting to some; a conspiracy theory to others. At the very least, you gotta feel sorry for bands like the Who, or the Doors. With a couple of stage name changes, they might have made it to the top as well.

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JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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