My old man's a rock star, see?

If you're a pop icon, you've got to give your baby a suitably wacky name. John Walsh explains
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The Independent Culture

Gene. Gene Gallagher. A nice name. Almost a sensible name, despite the inescapable fact that, to those ignorant of rock'n'roll nomenclature, it sounds like a lady biology teacher. To those in the know, it's a name redolent of rock history, from Gene Vincent the leather-clad, oily-quiffed, high-adrenalin singer of "Be-Bop-a-Lula", through the reedy-voiced, clean-cut preppy Gene Pitney of "24 Hours from Tulsa" fame, up to "The Gene Genie", David Bowie's inscrutable tribute to, er, Jean Genet. The name may mean a whole bunch of other things to the baby's dad, Liam Gallagher. But what's important is that the pugilistic rock singer is keeping faith with a fine tradition of gazing upon your tiny offspring, welcoming him or her to the world and then landing him with a name that he'd probably grow up to regret.

Liam Gallagher's last baby, with Patsy Kensit, was Lennon. This is fair enough as tributes go, given the number of riffs, tunes and titles Oasis have pinched from The Beatles over the years. But going for too-obvious rock names always seems a little effortful – like Pamela Anderson Lee naming her second kid Dylan Jagger (what, no Elvis or Ringo?). I cannot see that Woody Allen did two of his children much good by saddling them with jazzmen names (Satchel and Bechet) that they'll have to spend a lifetime explaining to everyone they meet.

"I chose the name Gene," said Gene's aunt Natalie on Monday, "because you can't fuck around with it. You can't turn it into a silly nickname." Rock stars do not, on the whole, usually radiate such good sense. Quite the contrary. Far from worrying about their child's name becoming a silly nick-name, they supply the silly name themselves. What was Bono thinking when he named his second son Elijah Bob Patricius Guggi Q Hewson? What on earth is Bob doing in this procession of grotesques? And isn't it strangely formal of him to end the child's name with his real-life surname of Hewson, after a lifetime of persuading people to call him Bono? Meanwhile, the only daughter of U2's guitarist The Edge (Dave Evans) is stuck with being called Blue Angel and treated to a lifetime of crap Marlene Dietrich jokes.

The history of celebrity first names is stiff with discarded, once-wacky abominations. Keith Richards' first daughter Dandelion (the Rolling Stones recorded a song about her) is now Angela; Zowie Bowie settled for the musical but ordinary Joey, while David Carradine, the Buddhist novitiate from television's Kung Fu, married Barbara Hershey and fathered a son, whom they named Free. Can you imagine a lifetime spent saying, "Hello, I'm Free," like Mr Humphreys in Are You Being Served?. Free is now called Tom.

Moon Unit Zappa has never renounced the name her dad, Frank, gave her (it was the time of the Apollo landings); neither has her brother Dweezil, which was, apparently, the pet name Frank called his wife's little toe. Rolan Bolan appears happy to stick with his nursery-rhyme name (I hope he marries an Irish girl called Dolan and moves to Poland). Sly Stallone's daughter Sage Moon Blood may have second thoughts around the time she hits puberty, while the actress Marisa Berenson's daughter Starlite Melody could be forgiven for suing her mother for naming her after the most egregiously winsome of the My Little Pony range of plastic horses.

Why do they do it? Because pop stars, sport and film stars are so entrenched as the new aristocracy that they can – indeed they must – turn their backs on the tired parade of Charleses and Williams and Rachels and Sophies that have labelled the denizens of Who's Who for so long. Freed from tradition, unenslaved by the bourgeois handles recommended in baby-name books, they can make up their own. You can't immediately tell if Snoop Dogg has done the right thing in calling his child Chordé, but you know there aren't too many of them around. Ditto the craggy actor Morgan Freeman, proud father of Saifoulaye, and the late Louis Malle, who christened his firstborn Cuathemoc. In none of these cases do you get any clue as to the kid's gender, but that may, of course, be the attraction.

Which is something that cannot be said about the seven children of the boxer George Foreman. His first son was christened George Jnr. Then came George III, George IV and George V. Then, by some bizarre caprice of fate, his wife had a girl. They named it Freeda [sic] George. Baby No 6 was another girl and you can almost hear them by now, struggling to find a name to please the paterfamilias. They settled on Georgetta. Lastly, they were blessed with a final boy. With a sigh of relief, George VI was welcomed into the Foreman household. Sometimes, when it comes to names, you can take tradition too seriously.

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