Jan 032013

All of these Cougar/Mellencamps is not like the other

In order to put as much distance as possible between our terrifyingly brilliant hive of Rock know-it-all brains and Mod’s latest, most incomprehensible post about Fonzie’s light blue windbreaker, I suggest we put the power of the RTH Hive to work on a project that’s really worthy of our unique skill set: determining, once and for all, which artist or band went through the greatest number of name changes over its history. Lurker Sgtpeppermintpatty suggested this thread idea when he said he was having trouble determining an answer to this question on his own. Stroking his beard thoughtfully, the Sergeant looked across the office divider that separates us and wondered aloud: “The way I see it, it’s a tie between John Cougar Mellencamp and Jefferson Airplane. Both went through three name changes.”

In a flash, I leapt across the office wall and grabbed him by the lapels. I slapped his cheek, as if to wake him from a deep sleep, and screamed, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! Johnny Cougar has had FOUR names over his career!” I grabbed a handful of his hair and steadied myself to bash his forehead into his computer monitor — you know, to teach him a lesson about accuracy in rock trivia. It was then that I stopped, frozen. Frozen with shame. Frozen with confusion. I stopped myself because I had to admit: *I* didn’t know who really held the coveted band/artist name change title.

I released the Sarge from my kung-fu grip, and leaned back against the fabric wall that separates our workstations. Hands trembling, I fished in my breast pocket for a cigarette. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and I felt vaguely sick. A hypocrite — that’s what I was. A know-nothing, an idiot. I had to make good on this situation. But I needed rules. It wouldn’t be good enough just to pick a band that had 15 different incarnations as unrecorded teenagers before hitting it big. No, rule number one had to be: your names don’t get counted when you’re not recording for a label you don’t own. Wiping the blood from his upper lip and spitting out busted teeth like corn niblets, SPP suggested that there’d have to be a maximal mathematical band member change percentage to ensure the band’s name wasn’t changing because the band itself really had changed. We decided on a maximal band member change percentage per name change of 25%.

With these rules in hand, we felt prepared to face this question head-on. But we still need your help. So pitch in. Muck in. Do your part. Help us unravel this mystery. Please.

I look forward to your responses.



  26 Responses to “The Mellencamp Factor: the Artist or Band With the Greatest Number of Name Changes”

  1. Bronzed Nordic God

    Spinal Tap might have this one locked up. The Originals, The New Originals, The Thamesmen, Spinal Tap, and Spinal Tap Mark 2.

    As for real bands, The Cult went through three progressively shorter names. The Southern Death Cult, The Death Cult, and finally of course The Cult.

  2. Sgt. Peppermint Petty

    Ah yes… The Cult, of course. Well done.

  3. bostonhistorian

    Didn’t the Beatles go through a bunch of names? Quarrymen/Johnny and the Moondogs/Silver Beetles/Beetles/Beatles

  4. alexmagic

    I would think someone in hip hop would run away with this, depending on how official we want to be, i.e. are we talking about names used for actual releases?

    Even if so, I’ll throw down DOOM as the likely champ. He has Zev Love X, DOOM, MF Doom, King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn as full aliases under which he’s released records, and used “Metal Fingers” for his instrumental only collections (basically, his Thrillington). That’s six right there without even touching on some of the names he’s used for high profile collaborations (Madvillain, Danger Doom, JJ Doom).

  5. I can’t speak for Doom etc, but didn’t hardcore band MDC change what the abbreviation stood for frequently?

    I’d also be curious to know how many names Will Bonnie Prince Oldham has recorded under. I think he’s had at least three variations.

    Soon will be tough to beat!

  6. OK, I had to consult the interweb for an accurate readout of Pete Wylie’s full Wah! dynasty. Here goes: Wah!, Wah! Heat, Shambeko! SayWah!, JF Wah, The Mighty Wah!, and Wah! the Mongrel. I think there may have been a few more, the eighties was a whirlygig time for band name runarounds.

  7. J.G. Thirlwell has recorded as Foetus, Foetus Under Glass, You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath, Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel, and The Foetus Symphony Orchestra.

  8. Bronzed Nordic God

    Damn, that was going to be my next entry Stupid kids needing to be put to bed! Foetus Interruptus: Thaw is probably the pick of his strange oeuvre.

  9. English punk Ken “Spizz” Spiers formed Spizzoil & an annual name-change became his thing. Athletico Spizz 80, Spizzenergi, The Spizzles, Spizzenergi 2, Spizz Orbit, Spizz & the Astronauties were variations on his theme.
    He claimed the failure of the Guinness Book of Records to recognise his “achievement” brought an end to this nonsense.

    I guess that DOOM will hold the title for some time. Everything I check out by him seems to be under a different name.

  10. ladymisskirroyale

    A special shout-out to Walter/Wendy Carlos who not only changed names but changed genders.

    Any other musicians recording as different genders?

  11. cliff sovinsanity

    I’m not a big fan but that Will Oldham guy started out as Palace Brothers, that went on to Palace Songs before settling on the stage name Bonnie “Prince” Billy that also release an album under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy and The Cairo Gang.

  12. Slim Jade

    Oh, definitely Lady Gaga.

  13. For your perusal Creedance Clearwater Revival. Started out as the “Blue Velvets” then the name as shown above. Then just Creedance. I suppose they wanted to shorten the band to Creed but unfortunately that name was taken.

  14. misterioso

    The Parliaments–Funkadelic–Parliament–Parliament-Funkadelic–P-Funk All Stars, etc.

  15. misterioso


  16. Dee (formerly David) Palmer of Jethro Tull.

  17. misterioso

    Bonzo Dog Dada Band–Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band–Bonzo Dog Band and since these are the ones I can remember I have to think there are others.

  18. bostonhistorian

    Wayne/Jayne County

  19. bostonhistorian

    Billy Childish has been in eleven bands by his count (ending in 2008, he’s added a couple of more by now) but I’m not going to try to do the personnel for each. Needless to say, when you look up “prolific” in the dictionary, his picture is there. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/aug/22/popandrock.billychildish

  20. The Cairo Gang is a Chicago band independent of Oldham, who also recorded as Palace Music and using his given name, which brings his total number of different names to five (Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, Palace Music, Will Oldham, Bonnie “Prince” Billy).

  21. Suburban kid

    The two bands since then are the same band. Vermin Poets and Spartan Dreggs. They just changed the name for the second album. If you like Childish but have had enough, this new band is actually a departure because the one new member is the singer and guitarist and Childish is just the bass player. Mind you it’s still garagepunk fuzz, but there’s definitely a different twist lyrically and vocally.

  22. BigSteve

    I can’t believe I’m the first to mention Robert Pollard, who must hold the record for the number of bands/projects he’s started. His Wikipedia entry even has a subheading called ‘Side projects mentioned by Pollard that have not yet happened.’

  23. Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV founder, Genesis P-Orridge, and his/her “other half”, Lady Jaye (née Jacqueline) Breyer (who died of stomach cancer in 2007), endeavored to become “pandrogynous” beings.

    Dude looks like a lady now.

  24. Wendy Carlos has claimed for several years now that she was never “Walter”, and the whole sexual reassignment story was a hoax (including faked photos of “Walter”). Her current story seems to be that the record company didn’t want to release the type of music she did under a woman’s name…because playing synths was considered man’s work, I guess. Who knows, and at this point, who cares?

  25. You left out their incarnation, between The Blue Velvets and CCR, as The Golliwogs (a name their record company saddled them with in a lame attempt at mimicking British Invasion groups…the band hated it).

  26. Julian Cope has released records under his own name plus Teardrop Explodes (an actual group), Droolian, Brain Donor, Queen Elizabeth and LAMF, according to his website linked on the left.

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