Do we of­fend you, yeah?

As Holy F*ck and The F*ck But­tons tune up for gigs in Ire­land (both well worth see­ing, by the way), Kevin Court­ney asks why so many bands are in­clud­ing “rude words” in their names

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

HOLY Fuck! Has it re­ally come to this? Are we so jaded by the whole rock’n’roll rig­ma­role that a band has to put the F-word in its name to get some at­ten­tion? Has rock mu­sic lost all sense of de­cency, or have we just lost all our ca­pac­ity to be shocked?

Canada’s latest mu­sic sen­sa­tion is an elec­tro-indie band called Holy Fuck. You know it’s the end of civil­i­sa­tion when a band called Holy Fuck are tipped to be the next Ar­cade Fire. What’s next – dogs and cats do­ing it in the street? Cliff Richard cov­er­ing Nick Cave’s No Pussy Blues?

Holy Fuck’s at­ten­tion-grab­bing mon­icker has al­ready bagged the band mu­cho col­umn inches in the me­dia (as you may have no­ticed, we rock journos love a story where we can write “fuck” with im­punity), and gained them no­to­ri­ety in the mu­sic biz – not all of it pos­i­tive. Though Holy Fuck’s mu­sic is a largely in­of­fen­sive mish­mash of crunchy indie gui­tars and bleepy Ca­sio sounds, their name has al­ready been bleeped out of some of the more po­lite publi­ca­tions. One jour­nal­ist, re­view­ing Holy Fuck’s sup­port slot with Su­per Furry An­i­mals, re­ferred to them as “a Cana­dian quar­tet with an un­print­able name”.

The band have also had gigs can­celled by jit­tery pro­mot­ers afraid to fling such a filthy word at their pop kids. The Coachella fes­ti­val in the US turned them away, even though they’d al­ready played there be­fore, while the or­gan­is­ers of a Canada Day con­cert in Lon­don’s Trafal­gar Square can­celled their ap­pear­ance at the last minute be­cause the show was due to be broad­cast be­fore the wa­ter­shed. Phew, the morals of Bri­tain’s teenagers were saved just in time.

So, what’s with rock mu­sic and swear words? Why do rock stars have to cuss all the time, and why do they have to think up dis­gust­ing names for their bands, which are guar­an­teed to sabotage their chances of main­stream suc­cess? Ba­si­cally, why are rock­ers so damn puerile?

Be­cause that’s their job – it’s in the con­tract. We want our bands to be shock­ing, rude and out­ra­geous; that way our par­ents are guar­an­teed not to like it. And if our par­ents hate it, then it must be good. Trou­ble is, it’s get­ting harder to shock th­ese days, so bands have to dig a lit­tle deeper in the gut­ter to come up with some­thing that’ll get up the noses of our self-ap­pointed moral guardians.

It was all so much eas­ier to shock back in more in­no­cent days. All Elvis had to do was wig­gle his hips on telly, and all The Bea­tles had to do was claim to be big­ger than Je­sus, and sud­denly the world and his granny were rush­ing out to toss their al­bums on the bon­fire. The raunchi­est name around was prob­a­bly Gary Lewis & the Play­boys. When bands dis­cov­ered drugs, though, they started to dream up more in­ter­est­ing – and of­fen­sive – names.

Those 1960s ston­ers The Fucks knew they couldn’t get a gig with that name, so they changed it to The Fugs and be­came a pop­u­lar draw on the hippy cir­cuit. De­spite the bong­wa­tered-down name, The Fugs still man­aged to push the bound­aries of de­cency and good taste when they played live.

In an era when us­ing the word “high” in a song lyric was deemed in­de­cent, few bands dared to adopt out­right ob­scene names. Some clever clogses, how­ever, came up with dou­ble-mean­ing mon­ick­ers which sounded in­no­cent enough to the ca­sual ear, but which fans knew meant some­thing very naughty.

If any ra­dio DJs copped on that a Steely Dan was a type of metal dildo fea­tured in William Bur­roughs’s novel The Naked Lunch, they weren’t about to tell their sta­tion boss. Same goes for 10CC and The Lovin’ Spoon­ful, both of which re­fer to the av­er­age amount of sperm a man ejac­u­lates.

An­other way to cover up the true na­ture of your name is to use an acro­nym: WASP stands for We Are Sex Per­verts, while Ir­ish funk band PAMF was jive talk for Pussy-Assed Moth­er­fuck­ers.

The ex­plo­sion of punk saw bands scrab­bling to think up ever more un­savoury names and The Sex Pis­tols took full ad­van­tage of the shock value, reach­ing the sta­tus of Pub­lic En­emy No 1 on the strength of their name, the ti­tle of their de­but album, and their very un-pa­tri­otic rants against Her Majesty. Con­cert posters, fanzines and John Peel’s ra­dio show soon were packed with bands named The Slits, Alien Sex Fiend, Buz­zcocks, Re­volt­ing Cocks, The Vi­bra­tors, Nip­ple Erec­tors and The Snivelling Shits.

In the 1980s, a slew of US hard­core bands be­gan delv­ing into the pro­fanisaurus in search of a per­fectly hor­rid mon­icker. Cir­cle Jerks were named af­ter a game pop­u­lar among ado­les­cent boys, while But­t­hole Surfers came from a deroga­tory term for ho­mo­sex­u­als.

But while hav­ing a pro­fane name might help you reach your hard­core fan­base, it’s not much use if you want to be­come megas­tars, earn a guest slot on Parky, or col­lect your OBE at Buck­ing­ham Palace. Johnny and The Self-Abusers re­alised this and so changed their name to the more main­stream-friendly Sim­ple Minds.

To­day, no one bats an eye­lid at the likes of Shit Disco, Crazy Pe­nis (also known as “Crazy P”) and Jackie O Moth­er­fucker, so what’s a band to do if they want to shock, an­noy and of­fend? Sim­ple: they just break the last taboo in print and broad­cast me­dia and put the c-word in their name.

A few years ago, the UK mu­sic press got in a lather about a band named Anal C***. They weren’t ex­actly a three-star band, and they had lit­tle more than cult ap­peal, but their name could go down in his­tory as one of the most of­fen­sive in pop.

Mean­while, let’s hope Holy Fuck don’t make the big cross­over to the main­stream, be­cause then we’d have to lis­ten to our par­ents and work col­leagues say­ing things like: “I re­ally dig those Holy Fuck cats the most!” Now that would re­ally be the end of civil­i­sa­tion.

Holy Fuck: some jit­tery pro­mot­ers can­celled gigs

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