By the Landlord (also male)
“I call everyone 'Darling' because I can't remember their names.”, said Zsa Zsa Gabor. Richard Attenborough, in his own ‘lovey’ but affectionate and genuine way, also called everyone darling too, for the same reason, though it must have been amusing to see the reaction as he addressed, probably via megaphone, the cast of thousands in the crowd scenes when he directed his 1982 epic biopic, Gandhi. But whether you can remember it or not, there is something in a name. It’s a word that lives with you throughout your life. It is at once meaningful and meaningless. It suits you and yet it does not. It has associations that may differ for others you meet, and you may not have yourself. But how do names work in songs - whether in titles or lyrics? If you can dig out particularly unusual names, and especially those not in the title, then extra credit is due.
Female names are perhaps even more common in songs that their male equivalents. Thousands of love, or unrequited love songs in particular are coloured by them, fuelled by a songwriter’s desire. But whether written by a man or a woman, boys’ names perhaps have a greater array of associations and settings, with the name also conjuring up jealousy, admiration, anger, mystery, or rivalry. So whether it’s, for example, cousin Kevin, David Watts, Ziggy or Elvis, why do names work well in songs? While names all have a formal meaning (Kevin – fair and gentle, David – adored, Ziggy = Siegfried – victorious, and Elvis – elf friend!) their true meaning is more likely to be more about other people you know by that name, or even more likely, for any songwriter or singer, what they rhyme with or what they sound like. So perhaps that’s why there are likely to plenty of Johnnys, Andys, Dannys among others cropping up in your suggestions. Some names work better than others in songs, so perhaps that’s why there aren’t many featuring Aristotle or Marmaduke. Or are there?
Names are full of cultural, sexual, and class associations. If you meet someone called Fairfax, Piers, Jonty or Crispin, you’re unlikely to think they grew up in a housing estate. However, Wayne, Dwain or Darren for some reason have lower class tags. Flamboyant or sexy? Fabrizio, Valentino, or Butch? How about literary or mythical in the form of Uriah, Achilles, Zeus or Xerxes?
Some people go the whole hog and can’t get enough of names. In 2011 an Edinburgh-based man attempted to break the record by changing his name by deed poll to: Barnaby Marmaduke Aloysius Benjy Cobweb Dartagnan Egbert Felix Gaspar Humbert Ignatius Jayden Kasper Leroy Maximilian Neddy Obiajulu Pepin Quilliam Rosencrantz Sexton Teddy Upwood Vivatma Wayland Xylon Yardley Zachary Usansky. But in 2006 David Fearn, a council worker from Stafford, changed his name to: James Dr No From Russia with Love Goldfinger Thunderball You Only Live Twice On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Diamonds Are Forever Live and Let Die The Man with the Golden Gun The Spy Who Loved Me Moonraker For Your Eyes Only Octopussy A View to a Kill The Living Daylights Licence to Kill Golden Eye Tomorrow Never Dies The World Is Not Enough Die Another Day Casino Royale Bond. Clearly he was a film fan, but I can’t for the life of me think which he liked best.
Neither of these lovers of length, however, can compete with Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, a German-born philosopher and typesetter, also known as Wolfe+585, who held this whopper until his death in 1985: Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvim John Kenneth Loyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor Willian Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorffvoralternwarengewissenhaftschafers wesenchafewarenwholgepflegeundsorgfaltigkeitbeschutzenvonangereifen duchihrraubgiriigfeindewelchevorralternzwolftausendjahresvorandieer scheinenbanderersteerdeemmeshedrraumschiffgebrauchlichtalsseinu rsprungvonkraftgestartseinlangefahrthinzwischensternartigraumaufde rsuchenachdiesternwelshegehabtbewohnbarplanetenkreisedrehensichund wohinderneurassevanverstandigmenshlichkeittkonntevortpflanzenundsiche rfreunanlebenslamdlichfreudeundruhemitnichteinfurchtvorangreifenvon andererintlligentgeschopfsvonhinzwischensternartigraum.
Sorry, sir, could you spell that for me? As you can see, he chose forenames from each letter of the alphabet and his surname is roughly translated as: ”A descendant of one who prepared wool for manufacture on a stone, living in a house in the mountain village, who before ages was a conscientious shepherd whose sheep were well tended and diligently protected against attackers who by their rapacity were enemies who 12,000 years ago appeared from the stars to the humans by spaceships with light as an origin of power, started a long voyage within starlike space in search for the star which has habitable planets orbiting and on which the new race of reasonable humanity could thrive and enjoy lifelong happiness and tranquility without fear of attack from other intelligent creatures from within starlike space.” Obvious really.
Pablo Picasso liked to think of himself as a man of the people, but his aspirations of greatness were perhaps revealed in his full name, Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, packed with saints and martyrs, even though is own personal behaviour was rarely saintly. Having religious names in some cultures is common, and rare in others. You will almost never hear of a man christened as Jesus in European countries, but in South America it is very common. Equally Muhammad (and other spelling equivalents) are common in Muslim communities throughout the world. Having said that, Biblical names of saints such as Stephen, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter are, in the west, as common as muck.
Are there any limits to what a man or boy can be called? That’s up to you to decide. But if it’s a name that’s registered somewhere then it counts. Of course sometimes men are given female names, as in Johnny Cash’s famous number:
What's that you say? Don’t call me Shirley?
Leslie Neilson’s famous line from Airplane is a classic, but Shirley could be a boy’s name, such as that of the famous wrestler, also known as Big Daddy, Shirley Crabtree, named after his father before him.
Now then, this week’s topic could be a big one, dear readers, so here are just a quick guideline request. For the sake of this week’s guest guru, please avoid putting multiple lists of songs in the same comment box, and instead put one or two song at a time. Most of you already do this. Lots of nominations in one box gives the guru more to do, and with multiple YouTube links, could possibly crash the system. Not doing this also avoids massive early ‘land grab’ nominations and gives everyone a chance. As this is also a bit of a ‘shooting fish in the barrel’ topic, extra donding will be given for those who can suggest why a particular name works so well in a song, its role and purpose, rather than just being a title. And who is this week’s nom de plume putting your male names into a playlist? It is the truly excellent treefrogdemon, Song Bar’s inaugural guru returning to pull pints and smile at the punters. Name and justify your noms below until last orders called on Monday night for tfd’s lists published on Monday.
And so now darlings, I leave you with this. It’s time to go over the top, perhaps with General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, Lieutenant The Honourable George Colthurst St. Barleigh, Private Baldrick, Captain Edmund Blackadder, and of course, Captain Kevin Darling …
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.