What’s In A Name?

September 10, 2007 at 6:16 pm (Babyslave Music, Concepts)

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Or, more specifically – what makes a good band name? A play on words? (Daisy Chainsaw, Captain Beefheart): Something which sounds smart, but ultimately means very little? (The Teardrop Explodes, Jane’s Addiction): Something lifted from literary and/or literal history (The Cure, The Fall or Franz Ferdinand?): Or just plain, understated and non-commital (like James, Can or even Blur?)

Etymology or Bust?

Or is it more about how we come to view these names within the context of the musicians who use them? The BEATLES is (if you actually consider the word itself) one of THE most crass/lazy puns in the history of popular culture, yet the very word “Beatles” (or even the phonetic “Beetles”?) has now become SO associated with that four-piece, popular beat combo from Liverpool that any other meaning or semantics within it (Les Beat, Beetles-with-an-A, a young skiffle band hoping to emulate Buddy Holly and The Crickets) are no longer relevant (just look it up on Google if you can be bothered to wade through 47,300,000+ references on the world wide web alone!).

Likewise: Joy Division Although the term itself comes from Yehiel De-Nur Ka-Tzentik’s 1955 novel “The House Of Dolls”, and refers specifically to the practice within certain Nazi concentration camps where Jewish women were housed for sexual slavery – I would suggest that (to the average man/woman-on-the-street in 2007) that it specifically (and exclusively) refers to the post-punk combo from Salford fronted by Ian Curtis.

Ditto Pink Floyd. Do the words make us think of the two unsung Carolina Bluesmen who inspired the name (i.e. Pink Anderson and Floyd Council), or does it make us think of Dark Side Of The Moon, Crazy Syd and David Gilmour’s (seemingly) endless guitar solos? No contest.

This doesn’t, however just apply to the rich and famous. A fair proportion of the “local” musicians/bands I’ve personally worked with have (initially) awkward names like DoubleJoHnGrey, iForwardRussia!, or iliketrains. Yet (after a time) any intention or reasoning behind/about these names becomes rather irrelevant – they simply refer to the group of musicians in question. Nothing more, nothing less.

And so, to “Babyslave”…

Well………Google (yet again) throws up some interesting answers: First up is a blog called “Master and Babyslave” – which describes the sub/dom lifestyle of two consenting middle age gay men. Nothing particularly shocking here (other than some stunningly dull web-design and naff use of cliched typefaces!)

Likewise www.myspace.com/babyslave – More of the same – fairly textbook Marquis De Sade (lite) – only this time from a heterosexual couple based in Dallas, Texas. “This weekend we went shopping, caught a film and went home and spanked each other whilst watching CSI Miami on Sky”. Well, good for you! Bravo!

More intriguingly, there’s a (rather touching) blog called “Motherhood: The S&M Perspective” written by another American woman about her relationship with her 3 year old son, affectionately referred to as the “little master” due to his constant demands for attention and love.. It’s well written, quite funny in places and has a lot more in common with Sue Townsend than it does Aleister Crowley. It’s also about as risqué as ITV1 on a Sunday evening.

Somewhat less appealingly (if you scroll in about 4 pages into google-search, with all “safety settings” removed) you’ll find just ONE, extremely distasteful piece of narrative, in the form of written paedophilic roleplay. Although I have no desire to recount it’s content here, I do concede that this would be a highly selective and arrogant blog-entry if I tried to deny that the term “Babyslave” also might have unpleasant connotations in relation to the abuse of minors.

HOWEVER…. I would also stress that I have, on my travels found just this ONE, solitary reference to paedophillia – as oppose to 80% of the links provided by Google which refer to a certain post-industrial music project from Manchester and Nottingham, fronted by Miss Hypnotique, yours truly and that-bloke-called-Charlie who used to be in the Monochrome Set. Yes, that’ll be Us then.

The rest of the references – as described above – are either adult roleplay (infantilism, relatively mild fetishism) and a lot of fairly meaningless sub-gothic posturing – not exactly a top-ten entry for “NAMBLA buzzwords of 2007”!

Indeed – if the name “Babyslave” really is a sensationalist example of taste-defying obscenity then what does this say about noted pop classics like “Babylove” (The Supremes) “Baby I Need Your Lovin” (The Temptations) and even cuddly Ronan Keating’s sickly sweet rendition of “Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight”?

Facetiousness aside (and I’m more than happy to debate the point here) – I think it says absolutely nothing. Beauty (or in this case an implication of vile thought or action) lies in the eye of the beholder…

So – what does Babyslave mean to US?

Well, personally, I see it as a reflection of the way socio-cultural expectations are imposed on the individual from birth. Speaking from a semi-priveleged first person perspective, that’ll be white, western, middle class preconceptions of 2.4 children, a mortgage and a steady career. However, this might as well apply to any other raft of global society. We are all (to a greater or lesser extent and for better/worse) defined and compromised by the circumstances of our birth and upbringing.

To me, it’s also about the tedious misuse of the term “Baby” in popular culture – both in terms of lowest-common-denominator lyrical content (yes, that means you again Mr Keating), but also the whole idea of in chauvinistic patriarchy in both the entertainment industry (and, indeed the world at large!)

Cue Little Baby Nothing by the Manic Street Preachers if you want a relevant lyrical critique of the subject.

Another good parallel (in terms of race as opposed to gender) is the debut LP by the late East-Coast rap pioneer Notorious B.I.G.: Ready To Die

Even at the time of its’ release, I was immediately struck by the powerful critical symbolism of it’s sleeve design – a tiny black baby (with all it’s inherent innocence) surrounded by a vast expanse of “white”. It was this kind of simple, yet emphatic visual/titular statement that I’d ideally like to aspire to with our future releases/projects. (n.b. – The fact that “Biggie” himself was shot dead within 18 months of the album’s release, to me underlines the point in the most damning way imaginable).

As for how this “relates” to the actual content of OUR work, I’m not so sure there’s a case for “controversy” here either. Of the four or five vocal tracks we’ve so far put in the public domain – we’ve got stuff about Arabian Nights, Telekinesis, David Icke pretending to be the messiah and a large helping of Naked Lunch inspired random cut-ups and pop trivia.

The rest is almost entirely instrumental and (to my mind) evokes artists like

Volcano The Bear, Fritz Lang, Volcano The Bear, Peter Saville, Throbbing Gristle, Can, Delia Derbyshire,Nurse With Wound, Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone, GirlsAloud and Marlene Dietrich

NOTHING to do with literal slavery (be it minors or adults), and certainly nothing to do with Frits Bernard or Gary Glitter.

Interpret as you will…

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3 Comments

  1. Mick Bordet said,

    All good points. To follow up on the Google search you mentioned – this can (or should) potentially be another factor in coming up with a name in these connected times. A made-up name is a good starting point for a high Google ranking, but many bands are fated to disappear into a forest of homonyms as a result of using only common words in their name.

    A case study… A search on “The Deserters” brings back over 88,000 results, and this shoots up to over 2 million when you drop the quotation marks (and how many Google users even know how to use quotes to refine a search?) You’ll have to excuse us – we didn’t anticipate the internet back in the early 80’s.

    A search for “The Lunacy Board” without quotes brings back a slightly better 800,000 hits, but use the quotes and you’re rewarded with a wonderfully low 69 results, most of which are for the band. Good news for us, a bit annoying if you’re trying to do historic research into mental health care.

  2. babyslave said,

    I think the term ‘baby’ in pop music is overused and should be reclaimed – by us. ‘Baby love’, a la Diana Ross and the Supremes, is a lovely, sweet bubble gum pop song about the innocence of aspiring adolescent romance….I think I missed out on that in my own life. Life down pit in Nottinghamshire was hard, weren’t in Joe?

    Some background on name:
    The ‘original’ 2003 incarnation of Babyslave came about because I was asked by Carya Amara if I wanted to do a music project with him, he said he liked name Babyslave, I agreed it was fab, and wanted to be in a band, almost because the name was so cool! It was based on some kind of cod-Romantic sci-fi novel which had a line about some giant worm asking the maiden to ‘be thine babyslave’. I’m shaky on details, he’d have to confirm. So that was that, only before we put out our debut cute little mini-CD, Mr Amara renegued on name and thought it had the wrong/too extreme connotations. So we compromised on Rhymthmicon instead.
    ttp://www.rhythmicon.com

    I personally still believe it’s the right name, and it’s better just to stick with the beast you create – rather brute than bland in my book. And like The Beatles, The Flying Lizards or Neds Atomic Dustbin, the name will become synonymous with the product, good bad or indifferent, and sink or swim on its merits.

    But having a look at a v. average indie music promoters billing, e.g.:
    http://www.zootmusic.net/
    I’m not inspired to get out there on a cold dark winter night to see Indigo Shadow, Dirty Soul, and definitely not I Bring The Rain. I kinda guess how these bands will sound, and the associated senses don’t make me feel inspired or upbeat.

    Now Babyslave, they sound damning, dirty and intriguing…

  3. Anonymous said,

    Yeah, but they suck!.

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