Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Buyer Beware

Track 120 | One of these things is not like the other.

Back in the day, one of my Xmas wish lists included the debut album Funeral by Arcade Fire. They were basically brand new at the time. But Santa clearly wasn’t wearing his glasses on Christmas Eve 2004, because he brought me Watch Out! by Alexisonfire. Not quite, Santa. A similar thing happened to a college friend of mine who got a Firehouse album instead of a fIREHOSE album.

As someone with a decent record collection, who also sells a slew of records (which I have to catalogue), I can tell you there are a good many opportunities for mix ups such as these. There are only so many band names out there, you know. Not only do some groups and artists have similar names, but there are a fair number with exactly the same name. Like Nirvana and Nirvana — though finding copies of the late-’60s British psych-pop band’s albums would be no easy feat. It’s also unlikely anyone would confuse the two.

Some have probably confused Steely Dan and Steeleye Span, however. The former is an influential jazzy, acerbic rock/pop duo, reportedly named after a fictional dildo, while the former is a progressive folk collective named after a fictional character in the traditional British folk suite Lincolnshire Posy, specifically the Horkstow Grange part.

“Pity them what see him suffer,
Pity poor old Steeleye Span,
John Bowlin’s deeds they will be remembered,
Bowlin’s deeds at Horkstow Grange.”

One of my college professors once asked me if JJ Cale and “the guy in The Velvet Underground” were the same person. No, John Cale is quite a bit different than the bluesy, original slowhand. The late JJ Cale wrote classics like Cocaine, Crazy Mama and Call Me The Breeze. John Cale was a genre-defying, often experimental multi-instrumentalist best-known for his collaborations with Lou Reed and Nico.

In 1994 when Loser came out, I was certain Beck (Hansen) would forever be confused with the legendary British guitarist Jeff Beck of The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck Group and illustrious solo career. But this is one example where both men had (Jeff died in 2022) very successful careers making dissimilar music. And if you think the opportunity for confusion wasn’t significant due to the fact that one man went by two names and the other just by his given name, don’t forget Jeff Beck was one of “the big three.” He and guitarists Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton were often, if not usually, referred to by their last names only.

When I was a kid, Bryan Adams was the most popular musician around. The only issue with his name was people who sometimes spelled it Brian instead of Bryan. But it’s a safe bet nobody mistakenly got anything other than a Bryan Adams record if they asked for one — that is, until Ryan Adams came along around 2001. It didn’t take long for some “fans” at Ryan’s shows to start calling out requests for Summer Of ’69. In the fall of 2002, he actually stopped playing to confront a heckler calling for the Bryan hit — handing him two $20 bills and asking him to leave.

Ryan seems to have come around to the lighter side of it all, eventually occasionally performing a stripped-down cover of Summer Of ’69 at his live shows. It’s actually rather great.

I guess we’ll never get to see a Ryan Adams / Tina Turner duet. Might have been awesome, too. Certainly it would be much better than if James Taylor (Fire & Rain) was the lead singer of Kool & The Gang, and not James JT Taylor. Still, I feel a strong desire to create a mashup of Cherish and Handyman now.

Speaking of two Taylors, it goes without saying that if Roger Taylor was both the drummer of Queen AND Duran Duran, he’d probably be one of the richest drummers in popular music. But he ain’t. It’s two different guys, of course.

Just as bizarre as James Taylor fronting Kool & The Gang would be perennial ’70s guest star Paul Williams fronting The Temptations (whose lead singer is also named Paul Williams). The squat, bespeckled Williams wrote The Rainbow Connection for The Muppet Movie and appeared on many of the era’s prime time shows. He also starred in the cult classic Phantom Of The Paradise. Oh, and imagine this — Robert Smith of The Cure fronting The Spinners (lead singer Bob Smith).

“You were stone white, so delicate
Lost in the cold
And I keep working my way back to you, babe.”

Both Tom Petty and Johnny Thunders had Heartbreakers as their backing bands — entirely different people. Related to the Thunders’ scene was ex-Television member Richard Hell, who was also in Johnny’s Heartbreakers. He also had his own backing band called The Voidoids, not to be confused with Quebec’s prog-metal Voivod.

Some bands get their names shortened to initials — KGLW (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard), BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival), CSN CSNY (Crosby Stills Nash / & Young), GNR (Guns N’ Roses), so sometimes there can be acronym confusion. For example, Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP) or Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).

Depending on the era, someone getting an album by The Guess Who instead of The Who would probably be disappointed. Though that Guess Who rock opera Timmy about the deaf, dumb and blind doughnut prodigy is top-notch, eh. Then there’s I Can See For Kilometres and Behind These Eyes. I’ll stop.

Let’s move on to cults! I wonder if any Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam fans wound up with gifts of The Cult or Blue Öyster Cult records? Doubtful. But, FYI, The Cult used to be called Southern Death Cult. I guess their machine removes more than just love.

Personally, I always get White Lion and Great White mixed up. I imagine some folks throw Whiesnake into that mix as well. I don’t, but I often mix up the Whitesnake album Slide It In with the Black Flag album Slip It In. Good lord, that’s a helluva song, and features Suzi Gardner on backing vocals before she went on to form L7.

Legendary British Bluesbreaker John Mayall and guitarist John Mayer have probably been confused for each other, in name only.

My brother actually bought a Patty Smyth album thinking he was buying a Patti Smith album. This will cause a ruckus, but I don’t care for either. You should have seen his face when he put it on and realized he bought a solo album by the woman who sang The Warrior with Scandal. I can’t really make fun of him, though — when I was young, I thought Mick Jones of Foreigner was also in The Clash. Let’s face it, Sandinista! could use some Juke Box Heroics, urgently.

Then you’ve got a bunch of bands who had to alter their names to differentiate themselves from either their U.K. or U.S. namesakes: Yazoo (U.K.) is the same band as Yaz (U.S.). Same with Charlatans / Charlatans UK and The Beat / The English Beat. Initially I wondered if The Verve and The Verve Pipe were one of these bands, but not for long because that’s boring. The Verve pre-date The Verve Pipe but the Americans would be forgiven for not hearing of them — the pipeless namesake wouldn’t really become well known until their 1997 album Urban Hymns and the hit Bittersweet Symphony.

Finally, I know they’re not the same person — and I never thought they were — but I can’t be the only person who thought “Weird Al” and Frankie Yankovic HAD to be related. How many Yankovics have you heard of? They both play accordion for gawd’s sake! While they were not related, the pair did collaborate.

I suppose Frankie would have been 44 when Al was born, but age never slowed him down. He made more than 200 recordings.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.