Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Guess Who's on First

I recently learned that there’s an indie singer-songwriter from Philadelphia named Mirah, not to be confused with the ass-kicking rock and roll band from Philadelphia called Marah. Not to be confused? We’re a nation that can’t keep there, their and they’re straight. Of course we’re confused.

When I was a wee tot, I knew that there was one band called The Who and another called The Guess Who, and that one of them had a song that concisely summed up my bewilderment. Tell me, who are you? Likewise, in my adolescent years, I learned that there were not only The Faces, but also The Small Faces, and that they were not the same band, except that they kind of were, and that one had Rod Stewart, and the other had the guy from Humble Pie, which, for reasons I cannot recall, was indistinguishable in my head from Blue Cheer. And Spooky Tooth.

It calls to mind an episode of Eight is Enough, a show remarkable not for eight siblings living together in relative harmony, but for the proposition that Dick Van Patten could get Betty Buckley. The whole show was an exercise in dementia – which one is Joanie? And Susan? And Nancy? – but I remember it most fondly for its 1970s updating of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine. The set-up was a big triple bill at the local enormo-dome featuring The Band, The Who and Yes.

“Who is the band?”
“Yes”
“Who?”
“Yes”
“I mean the band.”
“They’re on the bill, too”
“Who?”
“The Band.”
“The band is who?”
“Exactly. And also The Band. And Yes, course.”
“What?”
“No, Yes.”

You get the picture. I’m also reminded of my third-grade classmate who wondered aloud why an American band would be called Foreigner, not aware that they were a confederation of Brits and Yanks, thus making them foreign wherever they roamed. But mostly I wondered why they seemed indistinguishable from REO Speedwagon. I don’t want to know what love is. I want to which band this is.

With age came savvy, and in the 1990s confusion turned to consternation when I sensed that upstarts called The Refreshments were trying to bathe in the glow of my favorite group of rock and roll miscreants. Some bands can never be replaced.

2 comments:

T. J. said...

so what do we do with a group like the drifters, which had multiple personalities? i don't mean the various constructions of the past 30 years, all in the mold of george washington's ax (replaced the blade three times, replaced the handle five times, etc). but it its heyday it was two bands with significantly different sounds with totally different guys? and what do we do with jefferson starship?

Michael Atchison said...

Here's what we do with Jefferson Starship: Never mention them again.