Charli XCX. Ty Dolla $ign. Zedd. Bobby Shmurda. We certainly don’t lack for creative stage names these days. Just creativity. Unlike the eighties, when we had artists whose music was as fascinating as their alter egos.
“Goody Two Shoes,” Adam Ant
What a malleable stage-name-for-all-seasons the young Stuart Goddard chose for himself. Adam Ant seemed all creepy and netherworldy when he was an underground icon, then when he was a mainstream favorite, it was exciting and alliterative. I wonder if Marvel will use this song on the soundtrack on the Ant-Man movie.
“Electric Co,” U2
It is easier for a camel to crawl through the eye of a needle than it is for me to find a U2 song I can halfway tolerate. However, we are here to celebrate the wise choice made by Paul Hewson when he renamed himself Bon O’Vox. And then O’Vo. And finally, Bono. Yes, he made himself a target for people like Bernard Sumner to refer to him as Bongo and for me to call him Bonio, after a once-popular brand of dog food, but its is also a name that crosses national boundaries.
“Miss Me Blind,” Culture Club
The roads of the record industry are built on the broken bones of unmemorable artists. George O’Dowd was not one of those. His look, his voice, his songs all stood out and so did his choice of moniker. Smartly anticipating the reaction of the nation’s parents who would be forced by their offspring sit through Top Of The Pops, his name was an answer to the UK’s– and soon the world’s– outraged mums and dads demanding of their TV screen, “Is that a boy or a girl?”
“Calling Your Name,” Marilyn
And after the world’s mums and dads were miraculously unaffected by their exposure to Boy George, there was a brief record company gold rush for another gender-ambiguous popstar. The resulted: long time George frenemy Peter Robinson aka Marilyn– a notorious figure –who, if the BBC biopic ‘Worried About The Boy’ is to be be believed, turned aan entire city of straight men gay– wound up in the UK Top 5 with this slice of fake Motown which predates the auto-tune era but comes smack-dab in the middle of the time when producers swamped thin voices with masses of backing vocals.
“Never Ending Story,” Limahl
If there’s been one sour note struck during the whole, generally positive Mad World:The Book experience, it’s...me! Some readers have taken issue with my sullen attitude and lack of blanket approval regarding every single act we covered over 36 chapters. To which I say, fair enough. You can’t please everyone. However. If I have one regret about my cynical nature, it’s perhaps over my commentary about the Limahl chapter in which I made a flip remark about shitting on his band. Now, I’m not a Kajagoogoo fan and I never presented myself as one, but Limahl gave me one of the best and most unexpected interviews in the book, which is why the chapter is so insanely long. I didn’t have to build a statue to his greatness but I also didn’t need to direct quite so much snark in his direction. So, I will take this opportunity to apologize to the former Chris Hamill and applaud this song which, I imagine he will agree, is the finest melody he ever sung.
“Imagination,” Belouis Some
I would like to see the list of names Neville Keighley rejected before deciding Belouis Some was the pseudonym that was going to rocket him to international stardom. I have to think that his choice is one of the main reasons “Imagination,” which was a hot record then and remains a hot record now, never took off. Bonus points to anyone who can make it all the way through this extended, uncensored, ridiculous video.
“Just An Illusion,” Imagination
See what I did there? Imagination’s lead singer John Leslie McGregor made what might have seemed an even more ruinous choice than Neville Keighley when selecting his stage name. He went with Leee John, the extra E completing the acronym, “Extra Erotic Energy”. Despite this, Imagination were a huuuuge influence on the British pop scene of the early eighties. In MW:TB, Gary Kemp talks of hearing them and seeking out their producers, Jolley & Swain, for the True album. Alison Moyet and Bananarama also used Jolley & Swain’s services. Imagination don’t benefit a whole lot from eighties nostalgia but they were the one of the premier UK r&b acts that wasn’t attempting to xerox what they bought from the US import bins, and for that they deserve that extra e in their singer’s name.
“One Better Day,” Madness
Graham McPherson probably didn’t think he was going to be lead singer of Madness for life when he called himself Suggs but it seems like it’s going to work out that way. The name is evocative of a kind of minor Dickensian villain which is appropriate seeing as the band have come to embody a timeless London seediness.
“When You Were Mine,” Bette Bright & The Illuminations
We couldn’t feature Suggs and not shout out his wife, could we? Bette Bright, born Anne Martin, was one of the focal points of Liverpool’s Deaf School, a highly-touted art-pop band who were utterly annihilated by the rise of punk. Regrouping as Bette Bright & The Illuminations, she banged out a series of cover songs, all of which were awesome and none of which came close to being hits. This is her version of Prince’s “When You Were Mine” which–and I might be wrong here– predates the Cyndi Lauper cover.
“Ashes and Diamonds,” Zaine Griff
Known to his parents as Glenn Mikkelson, this Bowie imitator obviously had a bunch of people convinced of his star potential because he kept pumping out records. He came closes to a hit with this one, produced by Bowie’s frequent right-hand man, Tony Visconti.
“Can’t Stop Running,” Space Monkey
Okay, Paul Goodchild, the awesome news is, the guy who discovered and signed both Wham! and ABC thinks you’ve got what it takes to go the distance. the less awesome news: he thinks you should rename yourself Space Monkey. (It probably didn’t go down like that at all. It probably happened more like Dirk Diggler coming up with his porn name in Boogie Nights.)