The Atlantic, “The Loudest Word in Rock and Roll”

August 19, 2014

Dale W. Eisinger, “The Loudest Word in Rock and Roll” (The Atlantic, Aug. 19, 2014)

“The Ink Spots set the model for those vocal groups that became recognized for doo-wop, gospel, and R&B,” said Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer. The Ink Spots began performing under that name in 1934; groups like The Charioteers, The Ravens, and The Southern Sons debuted around then as well. These groups, as well as others, began the trend of “the” being used in the names of acts that were their own entities. …

The Rolling Stones picked up on the pattern early, but later seemed to want to distance themselves from the “the” trend. As Zimmer pointed out, The Rolling Stones released albums with their name on the cover through 1966, but the covers of their three 1967 releases (1967, Between the Buttons, Flowers, and Their Satanic Majesties Request) did not show the band’s name at all. The band then started calling itself “Rolling Stones.”

In the ’70s, the choice to leave off the definitive became more clearly artistically significant. “With punk being a neo-traditional form, returning to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, it explains again why we get ‘the’ names going, along with three-chord progressions and traditional band instrumentations. It shouldn’t try and have pretentions more than that,” Zimmer said. “It gets revived again with The Strokes and The Killers and The Hives.”

Read the rest here.

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