Tuesday 13 February 2024

Rock and Roll Stories #5 - It's all in the bands name

Lets start with a quiz for you, first correct answer wins you a pat on the back for yourself. Why are all of these bands famous

The Pendletones 

The Rattlesnakes

The Polka Tulk Blues Band



Sigma 6


Tom and Jerry

The N'Betweens

The Detours

Did you get it? They are all the orignal names of rather well known bands, you can find out the answers  (and some other rather interesting ones) here List_of_original_names_of_bands. I found this list when I was researching the subject. I didn't know any of these (although none of the bands are ones I am deeply attached to). I knew The Who had been called the High Numbers, but hadn't known they'd had another name before. So why are we looking at bandnames today? Well a week or so ago, my Band, The False Dots celebrated our 45th anniversary at the Dublin Castle. After the gig, at least five people asked me why we had the name. A couple asked if we'd always been called that.

Naming the band has been the most painful aspect of the entire career of The False Dots. When I was first putting the band together with Pete Conway, we decided that we wouldn't look for other members until we'd got a name and written a band manifesto (our principles). We decided that if we let other people join, we could end up with a name we didn't like and principles we didn't agree with. As we felt the principles should guide the songs we write, that was a key, but the name had to reflect the manifesto. Back when we were having this discussion in 1978, Rock Against Racism was at it's height. We wanted a name to reflect our dislike of politics of division and fascism. After two weeks, we'd come up with and disregarded names such as "Pineapple chunks" (too frivalous), Ultima Nox (Latin for "Last Night") too poncey and pretentious and Chaos (there were already three bands we knew called that). We were getting nowhere. I was watching a documentary about World War II with my Dad when a historian was talking about the use by the RAF of aluminium strips to confuse German radar in the second world war. He read a quote from Herman Goering, head of the German airforce, which said "these false dots on the radar will see the destruction of the Third Reich". I immediately knew this was the right name. 

I ran to the hall, dialled Pete Conway and excitedly said "I've got the name - The False Dots". Pete said "The Full Stops, that's a pretty cool name". I corrected him and explained it. Pete said that he didn't like it. I said "Ok, you've got a week to choose a better one". Try as he may, he couldn't find one. We wanted to start the band, so "The False Dots" was the choice. Little did I know that forty five years later, I'd still have people saying exactly what Pete said "The Full Stops". We then designed a logo. That was as important. The problem was that we were both rubbish at art. Here are a couple of the early designs. I kept them, but we never actually used them.

What we did do was argue for hours about what we didn't like. Then Pete came up with a cunning plan and decided to get his then girlfriend to draw something. "She's a really cool artist and she'll do something brilliant". Sadly, before she ever produced anything, they'd split up. 

We decided that the logo could wait. For the next 18 months, when Pete was in the band, we'd periodically end up in the pub and he'd say "I don't like the name". He'd come up with something else. They were all rubbish. One time, he announced that his new girlfriend had come up with a name and this time it was not up for debate. It was rubbish (I wish I'd recorded them all). Then in December 1980, Pete left for the last time and I thought the "Band Name" problem had gone away. 

All was good, the band was doing well, until mid 1984. Venessa Sagoe had joined the band and we were doing good gigs, had a great demo and all seemed happy. One day, out of the blue, she turned around and said to me "You know what bothers me most about this band?". I said "No". She said "If we all left tomorrow, you'd simply get a whole new load of members and The False Dots would continue as if nothing had happened". I genuinely had no answer to that. It was 100% true, but I wanted Venessa to feel welcome and wanted. I asked her what I could possibly do to allay her worries. She was brilliant and I really didn't want her to leave. 

She replied "Change the name of the band". She said "That way, we will all be a part of it". I was horrified but I felt that she was our best chance of success, so I reluctantly agreed. We had a band meeting and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority agreed with her. We had a few gigs booked up and I said "look, lets get these out of the way and any ones we book in future, will have the new name". She then announced that she wanted us to write some new songs, that she had more input into. Until then, it was all songs I'd written. I agreed, I always wanted the rest of the band to be as engaged as possible. She started working on some material with Chris Potts, who was our keyboard player and a brilliant musician. I have some tapes of their stuff. I was surprised and disappointed with it, when I heard it. Whilst it was definitely more 'musical', to me it lacked the energy that always made the False Dots different. I am sure that this is as much down to my taste in music as anything wrong with the tracks. I was sharing a flat with Venessa and sadly that drove a wedge between the band. I was not a great flatmate, I am still not easy! As a result, the band split up before "Man Silent" the new name was adopted. I took the name as a bit of a dig at the way I ran the band, but I'm sure it wasn't. 

I was so devastated by the break up of the band, that I didn't play for nine months. When I did, The False Dots were back. I determined that in future, that was a non negotiable. Allen Ashley joined in 1985 and we were back on track. Then at the end of the year, we parted company. Allen was training to be a teacher and wasn't prepared to commit to tour with the band. We discussed this recently and he says I got the wrong end of the stick, but he left. What happened next was perhaps my least favourite period of the band. We put together a nine piece line up, with three saxophones, keyboards etc. I wanted to try and cross the False Dots sound with The Stax soul sound. We auditioned singers, settling on one, who became known as Mark The Fascist. The fact he didn't object to the name probably says it all. First the name went, the band became Urban Dance. Then he decided we had to sack our drummer Graham Ramsey, who is a great friend of mine. Then he insisted we did covers so we could earn money. By this time, I wasn't enjoying it. I didn't keep a record of the gigs with him. I felt it wasn't my band and didn't like the music.

The band limped on for a couple of years after, doing our last gig in 1990. I had had enough. The False Dots had died!

In 1998, we'd established the recording studio. I asked our old bass player Paul Hircombe, if he'd be interested in recording a few of the old numbers. I'd not played for eight years. I had no intention of doing gigs. Paul agreed, we recruited Fil Ross and Tony Caveye and started rehearsing sporadically and doing a few recordings. In 2001, My studio business partner, Ernie Ferebee passed away from Pancreatic Cancer. We decided to play a fundraising gig in his memory at The Red Lion in Colindale in 2002. I insisted it was a one off. A big turn out of friends and a great night meant that I had the bug again. It felt good having a band. The band went through numerous personel changes. 

We've sort of ended up back where we wanted to be when we started. No covers, playing Ska punk. I sort of feel that so long as we are The False Dots and we stick to our principles, we'll be all alright. My daughter, a talented artist, designed us a logo, that I think is pretty cool!

Although The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Coldplay and Black Sabbath have all benefitted from a name change, I have become very superstitious of changing the name and it works for us. After 45 years, it gives us a bit of something most bands lost a long time ago!

Why not come down to see us at The Beehive in Bow. It's a great venue - CLCK HERE FOR TICKETS

Our new single

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