There is a monster lurking in my basement. It is an evil, insidious, sprawling, clutching thing. To those fortunate-enough not to have glimpsed its contents, it appears completely benign. Innocent, even.
But to those who have, it is a wretched and heinous beast; a honey-do list ignored until it rages, sullen and violent. It is the mouth of hell itself. In this context, ignorance isn’t just bliss. It's a cornucopia of rapture.
You see, I am the owner of a vast music collection. One gone out of control. I have boxes and boxes containing thousands of CDs and cassettes and records. They occupy an entire corner of the cellar and only fitfully yield their contents.
Their mass exceeds the available space on my cranial hard drive, requiring that I catalog it/them. However much of an ordeal it is, I am optimistic this will prevent a fourth copy of Tom Verlaine’s Dreamtime from finding its way into my collection.
To ensure the results are letter perfect, I have refreshed myself in the fine art of alphabetizing. The basics are easy: drop the articles ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’. Bands that assume the name of an fictitious individual (i.e. Alice Cooper) are filed under the first name, and not the surname.
Conversely, solo artists employing a made-up name (i.e. Bob Dylan) are filed under the assumed surname, and not the first name. And band names which incorporate a member’s name into that of the band’s (i.e. the Alan Parsons Project) are filed under the surname. Simple.
But musical entities rarely acquire their names in consultations with Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Which is the reason we encounter grammatical pretzels like Booker T. & the M.G.s. Or …And You Will Know Us by the Trail Of Dead…. Or T. Rex.
So. What’s the standard for band names that contain a member’s entire name except for the surname? Do I pretend it’s there and file Booker T. & the M.G.s under J for Jones? Or pretend that Booker is a stage name and file them under B?
Is D for damn good an option?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether I can find my cherished copy of Melting Pot or not. I mean, who among us can enjoy music while suffering the ravages of a pounding headache?
Moving on, could you point me to the rule for bands whose name begins and ends with ellipsis? Does the article still get deleted, even if it’s part of a quote? Or does the integrity of the quote matter? And what of the integrity of the band?
Or, for that matter, this project?
Maybe I should ignore a decade of being tobacco-free and fire up a Marlboro. Or ponder what happens when a band is known by one name in one place and another name in another place. I mean, the aspirin’s paid for. Right?
And what of Elvis Costello & the Attractions, who invariably end up under E instead of C? Shout “Hey People! That’s not his real name!” everywhere I go? I can tell you, nine out of ten people tend to dial 911 soon afterwards—especially in enclosed spaces.
You’d think my record collection would be done tormenting me by now. Or at least showing signs of tiring. After all, have I not lovingly cared for it over several decades? Kept it dry and away from extreme heat and sunlight?
Does it have even a wisp of an idea how difficult that was in the southwest?
Not a chance.
This can mean only one thing: Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yes. Them.
The band which gifted Western civilization with the phrase hub cap diamond star halo is in cahoots with the record collection monster, hell-bent on twisting and mangling my sense of organization into something grotesque and unrecognizable.
I desperately search the Internet. Front to back. Side to side. And top to bottom. Where oh where is the protocol for bands who are officially known by a contraction of their original name that appears to be an individual’s name—but isn’t?
Does a rule even exist? A theory? How about a guesstimate from Bush number-two?
Was Marc Bolan so consumed by career and chart position that he gave no thought whatsoever to the alphabetizing woes of poor, besieged record collectors who want only to efficiently locate the fruits of his musical labor?
This conundrum wrapped in an enigma is further complicated by the fact their name is sometimes hyphenated (T-Rex) and sometimes includes a period (T. Rex).
I ask you: in a mass-produced, standardized world where even our fruit is genetically engineered for uniformity, can we not agree on one, single, best-practice spelling for these grammatical terrorists?
I won’t even consider the trauma Alice Cooper solo albums could provoke.