Monday, March 22, 2021

Spoonerisms and Celeb Citings

Last evening, co-contributor Steve sent me a link to listen to Ritt Momney's indie-pop cover of Corinne Bailey Ray's "Put Your Records On".

Steve commented that the artist's name, Ritt Momney, "gets me every time".  This is, of course, because Ritt Momney is a parody on the name of US Senator Mitt Romney.

Simple, but effective.

After Steve's message, my brain began slipping down the rabbit hole of bands that either directly reference, or twist the names of famous persons.

A Spoonerism is a type of metathesis in linguistics, defined as, "an error in speech in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched between two words in a phrase. These are named after the Oxford don and ordained minister William Archibald Spooner, who reputedly did this."

Another example of Spoonerisms in music is the synthwave artist Com Truise, which is a twist on the name of actor Tom Cruise.  

Sometimes artists don't rearrange the letters in a celebrity's name, so much as substitute one letter to change the entire meaning, in the case of artists like Joy Orbison (a nod to the late, great Roy Orbison), or Chet Faker (a comedic reference to legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker).

The Dandy Warhols (reference to artist Andy Warhol) still make my regular musical rotation with their '90s staple, "Bohemian Like You"

Probably the most prominent example of this in popular music is the CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse project, Gnarls Barkley which blew up the charts with their 2006 megahit single, "Crazy".  Gnarls Barkley is--surprise--a gnarly twist on basketball star, Charles Barkley.

Here's a few other examples:  

Gringo Starr (Beatles' Ringo Starr)

Ringo Deathstarr (Beatles vs Star Wars)

Steve 'N' Seagulls (actor Steven Seagal)

And, perhaps my favorite of the bunch... The Harmonica Lewinskis (Monica Lewinski)

Then again, sometimes you just don't feel like rearranging the letters in a famous person's name to be clever, so you go for the gusto and directly reference them.

Take Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin for example.  Or maybe Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

How about Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.?  They've since changed their name to just JR JR.

According to Wikipedia:  NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. " a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.  The band emailed him to assure him they were not making fun of him and sent him a few samples of their music."

Perhaps you're more keen on Natalie Portman's Shaved Head (who have since changed their name to Brite Futures), who publicly stated that it had come to their attention that, "...our muse Ms. Portman is not so keen on us using her name in ours..."

It's well documented that Pearl Jam's original name was Mookie Blaylock, after the basketball player. Luscious Jackson were also named after a misspelling of basketball great, Lucious Jackson.

Many bands have borrowed from historical figures.  Scottish band, Franz Ferdinand, owe their name to the former Archduke of Austria.  The '80s hard rock band Tesla were named after inventor Nikola Tesla.  Classic rockers Jethro Tull were named after the English inventor and agricultural pioneer of the same name.  

Sometimes artists even combine two or more famous titles to make them their own.  The Brian Jonestown Massacre were named after the late Rolling Stones' guitarist Brian Jones and the infamous Jonestown Massacre.

Marilyn Manson is a combination of Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, and the band's early members also took on the conjoined names of famous actresses/models and serial killers (e.g. Twiggy Ramirez, Gidget Gein and Madonna Wayne Gacy)

Inspiration apparently strikes in all sorts of places.  You could really go on and on...  

So, do you have a favorite? Who else deserved to be mentioned in this list?  Comment below if you have additions!

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