This is the thirty-fifth in a series of examinations of music legends and whether they are true or false. Today we look at whether a missing “D” led to the name of a famous rock band, whether 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” infringed on a bizarre 2 Live Crew copyright and learn what famous rock song was named after an insurance company!
Click here to view an archive of the previous music urban legends.
MUSIC LEGEND: Due to a marquee missing a “D,” the Food Fighters became the Foo Fighters.
The Foo Fighters are a popular rock band formed by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl in 1994, soon after Nirvana disbanded (following the death of lead singer Kurt Cobain).
A story about their unusual name was that the original name for the band was the Food Fighters, possibly named after the obscure late 1980s action figures…
, but when they were to play at a local theater in an early appearance of the band, the marquee at the theater was shy a letter D, so the band just went on as the “Foo Fighters.”
This question made it into Gavin Richards’ neat book, Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries and Richards pointed out that, first of all, the band recorded their first album before ever performing live.
Secondly, though, and most importantly, the band’s name has a specific origin. It refers to mysterious “moving fireballs” that some U.S. pilots reported while in Germany in World War II. They called these mysterious “unidentified flying objects” “foo fighters.” These were some of the very first reported sightings of what people would later think of as UFOs.
Grohl also named his record label Roswell, after the town in New Mexico where an alien craft supposedly landed in the years after World War II.
Thanks to Gavin Richards for the information!
MUSIC LEGEND: 50 Cent was sued over the use of the term “it’s your birthday” in “In Da Club.”
50 Cent’s debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was a monster smash hit.
The biggest single off of the album was the resounding dance club song, “In Da Club.”
While obviously the beat is the most memorable part of the song, the most repeated lyrics from the song is likely the introduction of the tune, where 50 Cent notes:
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go shawty
It’s your birthday
We gon’ party like it’s yo birthday
We gon’ sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday
And you know we don’t give a f***
It’s not your birthday!
Amazingly enough, 50 Cent was actually sued by Joseph Weinberger, former manager of 2 Live Crew, who owns the rights to the 2 Live Crew catalog. Weinberger contested that 50 Cent plagiarized the lines “its your birthday” from Luther Campbell (lead singer for 2 Live Crew) from the 2 Live Crew album Still a Freak for Life.
Not so amazingly, the lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, who noted in his ruling that the phrase was a “common, unoriginal and noncopyrightable element of the song”.
Pretty amazing attempt at a lawsuit, huh?
MUSIC LEGEND: The song “Mony Mony” was named after the bank Mutual of New York.
“Mony Mony” was a big hit for Tommy James and the Shondells in 1968.
It was later a hit for Billy Idol, as well.
In an interview with Song Facts, James explained the interesting name of the song:
Originally, we did the track without a song. And the idea was to create a party rock record; in 1968 that was pretty much of a throwback to the early ’60s. Nobody was making party rock records really in 1968, those big-drum-California-sun-what-I-sing-money-type songs. And so I wanted to do a party rock record. And we went in the studio, and we pasted this thing together out of drums here, and a guitar riff here. It was called sound surgery, and we finally put it together in probably a month. We had most of the words to the song, but we still had no title. And it’s just driving us nuts, because we’re looking for like a ‘Sloopy’ or some crazy name – it had to be a two-syllable girl’s name that was memorable and silly and kind of stupid sounding. So we knew what kind of a word we had, it’s just that everything we came up with sounded so bad. So Ritchie Cordell, my songwriting partner and I, are up in my apartment up at 888 Eighth Avenue in New York. And finally we get disgusted, we throw our guitars down, we go out on the terrace, we light up a cigarette, and we look up into the sky. And the first thing our eyes fall on is the Mutual of New York Insurance Company. M-O-N-Y. True story. With a dollar sign in the middle of the O, and it gave you the time and the temperature. I had looked at this thing for years, and it was sitting there looking me right in the face. We saw this at the same time, and we both just started laughing. We said, ‘That’s perfect! What could be more perfect than that?’ Mony, M-O-N-Y, Mutual of New York. And so we must have laughed for about ten minutes, and that became the title of the song. When we made the record, we had our usual studio band, but we also dragged in people off the street, we had secretaries come downstairs. This was in the 1650 Broadway Building, the basement of 1650 was a big music industry building. All the writers and publishers were there, so we invited them all downstairs, and it was really a party that got captured on tape.
Here’s the building in question…
Thanks to Tommy James and Song Facts for the information!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org