“Steely Dan” Is Not the Singer’s Name

KELSO: Jackie, why do you wanna go anyway? You hate Led Zeppelin.
JACKIE: I never said I hated them, Michael. For your information, I think Led is hot.
     –Excerpted from the transcript of That 70s Show — Fez Gets the Girl (Season 3, Episode 12)

I loved it when Jackie uttered those words on That 70s Show. It confirmed that I was not the only person who finds it comical when people ignorantly refer to band names as if they were actual people. Here’s a short list of rock bands that more commonly suffer this particular form of abuse:

Jethro Tull

This one is somewhat understandable since it is, technically, a person's name. Jethro Tull was a real, flesh-and-blood individual, but having lived during the 17th century, was not available when his namesake rock band was formed in the early 1960s. Too bad, too, because other than being famous for inventing the seed drill, I hear that Mr. Tull was also said to be quite skilled with a juice harp (an instrument which, as any music major worth his weight in written noise complaints knows, is the quintessentially perfect accent to the flute). Plus, being a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach, he probably did a better version of Bourée.

Anyway, having absolutely nothing at all in common with a relatively unknown English agriculturist, I'm willing to bet that Ian Anderson (the band's flute-blowing front man) has been called Jethro more times than he cares to admit. Which, I’m sure, then leads to tedious jokes centered around the Beverly Hillbillies.

Pink Floyd

I suppose this one should get a pass considering the band’s evident acceptance of it. The main character in The Wall is named Pink and then there’s the lyric from the song Have a Cigar: "Oh, by the way, which one's Pink?" But just because the band acknowledged the fact that some people assume their name is that of one of the members doesn't mean it's not totally annoying to sycophantic Pink Floyd fans such as myself. I'd like to think their use of Pink as an individual’s name is actually done in a mocking vein, but similarly to Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd's moniker does indeed come from the names of real people. The guys in the band simply put together the first names of two Georgia bluesmen, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. So, I guess there could be a person named Pink Floyd.

But there isn't.

Blondie

Okay, so the hot female singer was a blonde. Her name is Debbie Harry (Deborah to you). Together with her group of nerds in skinny pants they were Blondie. I wonder if Ms. Harry had a sense of humor about it or if she occasionally smacked the smiles off of people who called her Blondie. She always struck me as having attitude. I could totally see her knocking someone’s noodle for assuming she'd have such a bimboesque name*.

Led Zeppelin

I really don't get this one at all. Led is a word. Zeppelin is a word. Neither are names. How could anyone think Led Zeppelin is a person's name, actual freak names like Yahoo Serious and Moon Unit Zappa notwithstanding? Guess you'd have to ask a ditz like Jackie Burkhart.

Franz Ferdinand

Seriously? Attention people who think Franz is in the band: study effing history! In this particular case, check out “World War I, causes of”.

*Yeah, I'm dissing on Dagwood's wife, what about it?

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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17 Responses to “Steely Dan” Is Not the Singer’s Name

  1. Jeepz says:

    Guess who's here?Who?Yes.Yes?Yes.Who?No, Yes.(h)ELP?Sorry, I couldn't resist. It just popped into my head and I had to share it. No, really, had to. Your post made me smile, as I've run into people you describe, mostly around Jethro Tull. The Pink Floyd one is hard to believe, but I wouldn't put it past people. I could so see Ms. Harry kicking a stupid Dagwood's ass for calling her that.

  2. Jay says:

    I've gritted my teeth down to nubs over all the times I've heard someone say "I like Jethro Tull too. He's an awesome flautist." Usually the speaker would then beam a little bit at his use of the word "flautist", thinking himself rather sharp. Of course, if you try to correct them, you'll just get a frustrated "what-ever" and most likely a very pointedly-rolled pair of eyes.One band name that always made me chuckle was Ben Folds Five, in which there were three members. Good one.Let's not leave out The Who's commonly misnamed song Baba O'Riley, which most know as "Teenage Wasteland". Simple enough mistake, but again most folks don't like to be corrected.And…..Duran Duran. Neither one's a Duran. Discuss.

  3. sonyaseattle says:

    While we're talking about oddly misnamed songs, how about Dylan's wonderful Rainy Day Women #12 & 35? (Not to mention Subterranean Homesick Blues.)

  4. Budd says:

    Well, Freddy Mercury was a "Queen." I doubt the band was named for that though.
    Growing up, I thought the lead singer to Rush was a chick. The whole "Working Man" line should have straightened me out, but it didn't.
    They Might Be Giants just might be.

  5. Yep – I've actually heard people refer to Steven Tyler as Aerosmith.

  6. Kirk says:

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. So fun to stimulate conversation.Jp: Add in to that the band "The Guess Who" and you have a real mess.Jay: The Ben Folds Five thing always cracked me up too. I thought it was a right clever name. Duran Duran should have been called Taylor Taylor Taylor.Sonya: That one Dylan song would have probably sold even more copies if he'd have just titled it "Everybody Must Get Stoned." :)Budd: I know
    I'm picking nits here, but technically, Freddie Mercury was bisexual.
    In fact, he left all his money to his ex-girlfriend, Mary Austin. He
    even said he could never love a man as much as he loved her. That said,
    I remember an issue of Mad Magazine when I was a kid that picked up on
    the gayness of the name "Queen" as far back as 1975. So… yeah.
    Freddie Mercury was probably the most talented "homo" I ever saw.
    Librace was good on the piano, but Freddie was Freddie! (Big, big, BIG
    Queen fan, can you tell?)Geddy Lee is, like, the ugliest girl ever! :)Jam
    Master Jordan: I totally forgot about that one! I've heard Tyler called
    Aerosmith, too! Makes as much sense as the Led Zeppelin one.

  7. JamesTr says:

    Good post, you got me on Jethro Tull and Blondie (I figured it was her nickname or something).

  8. Kirk says:

    Well, just so long as you don't take me too seriously. I think sometimes I turn people off who don't realize I'm joking around. I actually replaced the word "boneheads" the watered-down term "people" in the first paragraph because I didn't want to immediately offend anyone who thought Blondie was Debbie Harry's nickname. *wink* But let's face it, "boneheads" is a funnier word than "people". You bonehead. :)Thanks for the comment Jamestr!

  9. Budd says:

    I should clarify and state that I never saw a picture of the band, I only heard them on the radio. I still think that Rosie beats him in the ugly catagory, or so the Trump would think.

  10. Kirk says:

    Yes, but he really did look like a hideous crone with that hooked nose, scrawny body and long, straight hair. Paint his face green and put a pointy black hat on his head and you're well on your way to a remake of The Wizard of Oz. So, even if you had seen him, your belief that he was a woman still wouldn't be that unbelievable. And he does have a freaking high voice.

  11. Lystelle says:

    Don't forget Phil Lynott, people used to think that he was called 'Skid' because before 'Thin Lizzy' he was in a blues-rock band called 'Skid Row'.

  12. Kirk says:

    "Don't forget Phil Lynott…"I was actually going to include Thin Lizzy, but I couldn't come up with anything decent to quip about them. But I definitely knew people who thought there was someone named "Lizzy" in the band.I had no idea Lynott was in a band called Skid Row.Man, Lynott was such an amazing dude though.

  13. Matthew 25 says:

    Okay so I am old, but Steely Dan is still my favorite group/duo. Their biting satire is just too wonderful. I have several favorites, but Haitian Divorce (Royal Scam) and Dallas (the first Steely Dan single and not on CD to my knowledge) are near the top.

  14. Anna says:

    I reverse-corrected someone on Jethro Tull once (we were playing a game that involved finding names to go with certain sets of initials):ME: "Jethro Tull!"HIM: "…is a band."ME: "…named after a historical figure!" :DOne band that really trips me up is Clem Snide, which is led by Eef Barzelay, which sounds way less like someone's name than Clem Snide does.

  15. Good Drop says:

    Agreed. It can also happen in reverse, like M. Ward and to a lesser degree, Bright Eyes and others who name their solo projects something other than their name

  16. "She asked me why the singer's name was Alice. I said listen baby you really wouldn't understand."~Alice Cooper, Be My Lover (Killer, 1971)(really showing my age!)

  17. Kiss Me Cate says:

    Good one as always. I've never heard anyone who thought that Pink Floyd was actually someone's name, but I am sure they are out there. For some reason people with a lack of at least very basic musical knowledge annoy me. Alot.

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