x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rebrand your band, in the name of the law

Many bands have had to change their names after threats of legal action, but only one has received a Banksy work to boot.

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Many bands have had to change their names after threats of legal action, but for one group the blow has been softened with a valuable Banksy artwork. He's an amiable sort is Banksy, judging by recent events, for the famed street-artist handed over one of his works last week to a 41-year old web developer from London completely gratis. And that work has now been valued at £200,000 (Dh1.13 million).

Why has the hooded graffiti sleuth done so? To thank Simon Duncan, the gift's recipient, for changing his band's name to Brace Yourself! from Exit Through the Gift-Shop because that is the title of Banksy's recent film. Having played under that name since 2006, Duncan's amateur band agreed to change their name after receiving an e-mail from Banksy asking them to do so and offering a new backdrop in compensation. That backdrop duly arrived last week, 2.5 by 1.5 metres, featuring a grim reaper in a dodgem car with the words Brace Yourself!, sketched on its front. Having been valued for the whopping sum, it has since been safely handed over to Sotheby's for its protection. A happy ending for all involved.

Not so for other bands, however, who have met with more trouble over their monikers and received no such bounty as a reward. Most recently, there was the unfortunate case of a British band from Essex formerly known as Wills Fargo. Those with a sprinkling of financial knowledge might notice that this name sounds uncannily like that of the great American financial institution, Wells Fargo. So too did the rainmakers at Wells Fargo notice the similarities, and last November the band was slapped with a threatening legal notice.

"They said we should desist from infringing the copyright of the bank. I thought it was someone having a laugh at first. It is a stupid thing to happen," said the band's bassist, Dave Bronze in an interview with The Guardian

U2, Green Day, the Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam all started out life under a different banner. (Respectively, Feedback and then The Hype; Sweet Children; Warlocks and Mookie Blaylock). Queen were known as Smile until Freddie Mercury swanned along, and Creedence Clearwater Revival perhaps sensibly changed their name from The Golliwogs in 1967. And they're in excellent company. Such as, er, Linkin Park. The American group was once known as Hybrid Theory until a Welsh group called Hybrid kicked up a fuss. The story goes, they decided to rebrand themselves Lincoln Park in honour of a park in Santa Monica (the band grew up in California) but couldn't afford the domain name lincolnpark.com. Hence the changed spelling to "Linkin" instead. What a happy quirk of fate that none of them wanted to be grammar teachers.

A similar tale lies behind The Verve, which was originally to be called just Verve before the same-styled American jazz label chucked the law at them too. The answer? Richard Ashcroft and co simply slapped "The" before "Verve." So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, angry lawsuit. With a fond sigh, some of you might remember the chopping and changing of Nirvana's name in their early days. Remember Skid Row? Pen Cap Chew? Ted Ed Fred? Nirvana was the one Kurt Cobain eventually settled on, because he wanted a name that was "nice and pretty". Which is, of course, entirely suitable for a band peddling grunge music. And, ironically, didn't stop them being the subject of a lawsuit, settled out of court, from a 1960s and 1970s psychedelic rock band of the same name.

Prince? He was a different case again; settling on a name, altering it to extract himself from a record deal with Warner Bros (under which his name had been trademarked), and then swapping it back again several years later. So even though Simon Duncan and his bandmates have been forced to change their name from something vaguely witty to something shamefully teenage in tone, with a complementary exclamation mark chucked in, at least they got a Banksy to boot.