Moss: the rocker who never rolled

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The Independent Online
How well do you know your pop music history? Oh yes, we all think we know our stuff, but how well do we really know our stuff? I mean, really know? Know our stuff, I mean. Well, there's an easy way to find out. Today I am printing eight "facts" about the history of modern popular music, and all you have to say is which ones are true. OK? Here we go, then ...

1. In 1965, when the Rolling Stones were looking for a new drummer, they held auditions, at which their eye was caught by a musician called Jackie Moss. They favoured asking him to join the group, until their manager pointed out that although the name of the group didn't mean much, if it meant anything, it meant that they gathered no moss. To ask a musician called Moss to join the group was asking for long-term embarrassment. So Jackie Moss, who had as good as been told that he had the job, found to his surprise that he was unemployed again. He later gave up music and became a park ranger on the Brecon Beacons.

2. The Irish group U2 chose their name partly in memory of the US spy plane of the same name, partly because they reckoned that it was such a simple name that nobody round the world would have trouble with writing or pronouncing it (unlike, for example, the Pet Shop Boys or Wet Wet Wet, whose names sound pretty stupid in other languages, as indeed they do in English). U2's notion has paid off everywhere - except in Germany, where it has unfortunate overtones, as U2 is the name of a famous submarine (or U-Boat) of the war. So in Germany, U2 is known as 2U. (A German pop group had a hit record out in Germany two years ago called "Happy Birthday 2U".)

3. The singer Neil Sedaka was not born with that name but took it from the title of his favourite science fiction book, An Alien Desk, of which Neil Sedaka is an anagram. It was quickly pointed out by others in the pop world that in fact Neil had got it wrong and that he had forgotten to include one of the N's from the original title, but it was too late by then - Neil Sedaka had registered his new name and it was too late to change.

4. In the late Seventies, a Welsh group named itself the Brecon Beacons, but were prevented from taking up the name full-time because the National Park of the same name (inspired by one of their park rangers, Jackie Moss, who had a grudge against pop music) took out an injunction against them. The court's ruling was that the group had a right to call itself the Brecon Beacons, but that any profits they made should be paid to the other Brecon Beacons (the National Park). They reluctantly changed their name to Neil Sedaka's Anagram.

5. It is generally known that the song "Happy Birthday To You" is not yet out of copyright. What is not so well known is that the Beatles were once sued for the use of the lyrics. In the group's late Sixties concerts, the crowds used to shout and scream so loud that the group could not be heard, and often the four Beatles used to mime along to their records or just mouth the words, without anyone realising it. Sometimes, just for fun, they sang the words of "Happy Birthday" to "Hey, Jude" or one of their own songs. One of these concerts was televised and a hawk-eyed lip-reading executive of the firm that owned the copyright happened to be watching. His lawyers swooped the next day.

6. In 1988, Neil Sedaka tried to get his name changed to Nneil Sedaka, to accommodate the missing N. He was unsuccessful, being opposed in his bid by his record company, his family and the Welsh group Neil Sedaka's Anagram.

7. There is no agreed word in French for "synthesiser". The early word for synthesiser, "Moog", after the inventor, was banned in France as it was not of French origin. The common English abbreviation for the instrument, "synth", is not used in French, as it is almost impossible for a Frenchman to say without his teeth falling out (it comes out as something like "zynce"). The Acadmie Franaise appointed a committee in 1983 to come up with an appropriate word, but it has not yet met.

8. One of the problems faced by the Irish government is the enormous annual expense of staging the Eurovision Song Contest, which they keep winning. They are desperate not to win this year, but do not want to be seen to try to lose. One of the secret clauses in the agreement between Dublin and London over Northern Ireland is John Major's undertaking that Great Britain this year will not cast any of its votes for the Irish entry.

Answers: Only the last one is true.

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