Sep 102011

Pink Floyd: The "The" Years

The Kills. The Killers. The Liars. The White Stripes. The Hives. The Ravonettes. The Black Keys.

Mr. Royale and I have noticed that many of the new garage-y bands have affixed a “The” to the start of their name. It seems to be a nod to some previous rock era (’50s–60s) when band names began with “The.”

But then there is another retro era (late-’60s–’70s?) when bands started to dispense with “The” as a start to their name. Cream. Fleetwood Mac. Procol Harem. Iron Butterfly. Love. Pink Floyd. Steppenwolf.

What happened to take away the “The?” And how radical was that? Am I missing something here or was there a paradigm shift? Who was the first band to go it alone and ditch the “The?”

For the musicians among us, how did you decide whether to append the “The?” Was it a way to create a “look” or signifier to a previous rock era? A friend who was in a pseudo-well-known band in the ’90s shared that it was very important that the “The” not be attached to the start of their name. Ditto Pixies, Talking Heads, et al.

And then there are the bands whose names start with Thee…

I look forward to The Commentary.


  43 Responses to “The The”

  1. 2000 Man

    The Stones have used the The, and they’ve not used it. I like it better with The in front of it.

    I like the fact that The Eagles want to be known as just Eagles, but only their die hard fans bother to get it right. Now that I’ve been corrected on that score, I refuse to drop the The.

    I’ve always felt that bands using Thee had better deliver the goods, and I think they usually do. I got to Buffalo Killers through the Gabbard’s earlier band, Thee Shams and that worked out really well for me. I also just grabbed Thee Midniters because the album looked cool and I think that was a pretty swell band, too.

    I remember an old TV show where someone’s dad was complaining about how the kids all listened to bands that started with The, and much canned laughter ensued. Since it wasn’t funny I remember asking my dad if the guy would rule out The Cleveland Orchestra and The Boston Pops, too.

  2. tonyola

    After fading out in the early ’70s, “The” came back during the punk years.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    My (least) fave moniker class-out-the-ass-ification move: When The J. Geils Band didn’t just change their name to J. Geils band — or to Geils Band — no, they felt compelled (for one album) to change it to “Geils.” Stupid!

  4. tonyola

    The incredible shrinking name syndrome. The Cult started out as Southern Death Cult, then Death Cult. Grand Funk dropped Railroad as their career when on.

  5. misterioso

    (The) Eagles.

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    But why do you think these bands drop the “The”?

  7. My bands have always had the “THE” mostly because the bands I like have it (THE Rolling Stones, THE Kinks, THE Who, THE Replacements, The Jayhawks) Hence The Stonesouls, the Luxury Kings, The Rollin’ Machine, The a-sides.

    Super pretentious to drop the “the” or insist that you don’t have one (Eurythemics, Talking Heads) I swear The Pixies have always had the “The”

    To me it makes the band sound like a team.

    Thee is just annoying (just slightly less than using Da)

    Using the “THE” where is does not belong makes you sound old and out of touch

    as in “I had to look it up, so I used THE Google to find out who was in THE Crazy Horse with that guy from THE Springfield Buffalos”

  8. bostonhistorian

    It almost seems like a sophistication thing, where “pop” bands use “the” but real artists don’t. In a twist, Madness, after losing keyboard player Mike Barson c. 1986 or so, released an album calling themselves “The Madness,” before reforming and taking their old name back in the 1990s.

  9. BigSteve

    Wasn’t it Cream that led the way into the-lessness? I don’t recall any bands before then without a ‘the,’ and do remember it being uncool to be heard saying “the Cream.”

  10. I like what you say about the “The” giving the band a team sound.

    For editorial purposes on Rock Town Hall I choose to fully respect the “The.” Technically, I believe, I should be writing it lower case when a band is cited in text, but I feel so strongly that when it’s actually a part of the band’s name that the The should be initial cap in the middle of a sentence. Plus, the overkill of capitalizing all those initial Ts gives me a chuckle. There are a few other editorial decisions I make around here for that same purpose.

  11. bostonhistorian

    I can only think of a few bands prior to Cream not using “the”: Herman’s Hermits, Them, Small Faces (or were they The Small Faces?).

  12. BigSteve

    Think of the pince nez that would come down if someone called this The Rock Town Hall!

  13. misterioso

    The Them would’ve been funny.

  14. There are bands that don’t officially have the “the” in their name but you can still can still use it and not sound stupid — As in “hey, did you hear Sam Llanas quit the BoDeans last month?” for example. But some would some would sound really stupid — like The Oasis.

  15. Funny, I was going to say something about the whole BoDeans thing. I have a friend who plays with them from time to time and he did not think they got along very well anymore. Sam just wanted to do the hits and tour and Kurt wanted them to continue to create new music. They would have preferred to do solo projects but could not attract a solo following.

    I don’t know about a Sam-less BoDeans, I’ve always preferred his songs and his voice over Kurt’s.

  16. Didn’t they start life as “The Angry Young Them,” or was that just an early album title?

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    One of my fave Hendrix live moments is on some album I own, where he laments the breakup of Cream, and he says something like, oh, mannn… we were so bummed out when we heard about one of our favorite bands breaking up, and it just seemed so WRONG, and we love them so much, and… the band is called “The Cream”…

    … at which point the JHE tears into a smoking version of “Sunshine of Your Love.” But the cool part is the way that blissed out Jimi says the words “The Cream.” It’s just cool.

    We need a Battle Royale on Most Quotable Stage Banter From Classic Live Albums!

  18. misterioso

    “You don’t want me trousers to fall down now do you?”

  19. We did something like that proposed Battle Royale in the past, but it may have been more of a compendium rather than a Battle Royale. Let’s see if we can find the old piece (search “stage banter,” I believe) and see if this proposed BR won’t be redundant.

  20. misterioso

    “I don’t believe you…You’re a liar!”

  21. Yeah — it’s not exactly Pink Floyd without Roger Waters (more like English Beat without Ranking Roger), but continuing as the BoDeans without Sammy will be kind of weird. That they stayed together as long as they did — with some breaks — is a minor miracle. A well-loved band by some, but had to make their money touring, since none of their albums sold that well.

  22. ladymisskirroyale

    We were trying to think of the earliest band to not use the “The.” Fairport Convention? Can anyone think of another?

  23. BigSteve

    Well Cream pre-dates Fairport Convention by about a year. And Them and Herman’s Hermits by several years. I’m not sure Small Faces ever successfully dropped the ‘The.’

  24. misterioso

    I think they tried, though–I don’t think their records employ the definite article, though I sure haven’t checked them all.

  25. misterioso

    Jefferson Airplane?

  26. That’s a good one. I didn’t realize they formed as far back at ’65. I did see this poster from ’66, however. Who knows if this is what the band called themselves at that time or if the graphic artist messed up:

    I was thinking Bee Gees, who usually don’t have the “the,” might be the first, but I found a sleeve for their 1965 single “Spicks and Specs” and it read The Bee Gees.

    Spooky Tooth, if you were wondering, formed in 1967. Tomorrow played as The In Crowd prior to ’67, but they didn’t become Tomorrow until that year.

  27. tonyola

    Sounds Orchestral was a studio easy-listening group created in 1964, and they never used “The” in their name. They had a minor 1965 hit with “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”.

  28. misterioso

    It seems to me that there was a fluidity about these things, which might be a way of saying that no one paid much attention to it.

    The Spooky Tooth–that would be damn funny.

  29. Moby Grape formed in 1966 but Buffalo Springfield got the drop on them by a few months and the Airplane got there first by a year. Food for thought: Skip Spence was originally in Jefforson Airplane and then formed Moby Grape. Can he be considered the Father of the The-less bands?

  30. There seemed to have been a few bands in the mid-80s that simultaneously went with Das instead of The. Many did not realize that if you are using that THE article in front of a plural word, you should use Die instead of Das.

    Then again, there probably aren’t strict grammar rules when you use a German article in front of an English word.

  31. cliff sovinsanity

    Officially The Ramones are just Ramones, but it just sounds better with the the. It would be weird to say…”up in heaven Joey, Johnny and DeeDee are putting Ramones back together”.

    Funny story, when I was ordering tickets for Neil Young back in 1991, I ask the guy who was opening and he said “The Sonic Youth and The Social Distortion”. Ever since then, I’ve always wished those bands had added the the to their name.

  32. tonyola

    Wow. Pink Floyd, Hendrix, The Move, and The Nice sharing a bill. I assume that’s December 1967. That must have been one hell of a show.

  33. I agree with those who’ve suggested that “The” suggests the band as a team. Also, after the era of no-The, when bands went after bigger, more bombastic or more esoteric or spiritual names, using “The” in a later generation often indicates a return to rock simplicity and directness. The Clash as opposed to Led Zeppelin.

  34. tonyola

    Yep, The Moody Blues, The Strawbs, The Alan Parsons Project, The Art of Noise, and The Residents are all exemplars of rock simplicity and directness, aren’t they?

  35. misterioso

    Not to mention Eire Apparent. Cool name, and no article.

  36. Tonyola, you’re a master of the obvious and unconvincing retort. To prove that something is not true in 100% of cases doesn’t prove that it has no truth at all. Sorry.

  37. misterioso

    I like to think that somewhere out there there is a poster or handbill for “England’s Newest Blues Sensation, The Led Zeppelin.”

  38. tonyola

    You’re no fun. I’m crying myself to sleep tonight.

  39. jeangray

    The liner notes of Cream’s first album refer to them several times as The Cream as in “…of the crop.”

  40. One of my mom’s more endearing quirks is putting “the”s where they don’t really belong, as in “Are you going to see The Styx with your friends?” My favorite is when she refers to a local band known as Kapena as The Kapenas.

    Some of the best money I never spent was having a friend bring back the “Chicken Zombies” CD from Japan’s Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. Highly enjoyable. Sort of like “Hey Hey My My” Neil Young joined up with debut album Clash, only spouting Japanese. “HI China!” indeed


  41. I vote for The Nixon’s Head

  42. ladymisskirroyale

    Thanks, y’all. You’re making things much clearer.

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