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  • Writer's pictureDan Synge

How (Not) To Become a Pop Star #1: The Band Name

What you decide to call your band is an almost entirely subjective affair with members rarely agreeing unanimously on those word configurations that end up (hopefully) on the centre of a recorded disc. Occasionally the music and the brand collide perfectly (The Smiths, De La Soul, Camper Van Beethoven), while at other times the band simply score an embarrassing own goal (Def Leppard, Butthole Surfers, Limp Bizkit). And remember also that some of the most successful bands of all time have really quite terrible names: Nirvana, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys (main photo), The Weeknd and many, many more.

By choosing the name Illicit Kiss for our musical venture, I’m prepared to admit we got this one wrong. Paul the singer came up with the idea. Like his lyrics that alluded to secret loves and unrequited passions across crowded rooms (I think he rather fancied himself as a latter-day Oscar Wilde), we tried to evoke an ever-so-slightly seedy romantic neverland that might have also looked good printed on a single cover or even mentioned by a DJ during a chart rundown. In its defence, word coupling was a popular trope of early 1980’s groups such as Aztec Camera, China Crisis, Orange Juice and Prefab Sprout so we weren’t so completely wide of the mark. Of course, these were all bands we would have killed to have been in ourselves.

However, to convey what we wanted to convey and to be as cool as the bands we were listening to, probably required a bit more subtlety. I remember writing these words on demo tapes and home-made gig posters deep in the knowledge that we would be unlikely to ‘crack America’ in this guise. “Hey y’all, how’s about a big hand for these guys who’ve come all the way over from good ole England just to be here tonight…er, Illicit Kiss?”

At least we had the good sense to rebrand ourselves a year or two later as the more results orientated Daniel Takes A Train. The goal? Getting a two or three album record deal with one of the major labels of the day. Again, we were running with the zeitgeist as the charts were now filled with singles by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Curiosity Killed The Cat and Johnny Hates Jazz. So who was Daniel and where exactly was he taking a train to? Despite the promise of exotic railway adventures, the name was simply a lift from a relatively obscure Hungarian film as seen from the back of a car as we sped past the Notting Hill Coronet cinema. Well, it did look good in lights!

Extract from You Really Got A Hold On Me, a music memoir out soon.

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