For years I kept a running list of potential “band names” but none of them seemed quite right. I play different types of music; some names were too evocative of a particular musical style. Others were too forgettable, too much tied (in my mind) to a specific incident, or just too long. As I didn’t have a garage band at that time there was no real impetus for deciding on a name and nothing on the slowly growing list stood out.
A good name must be memorable, but at the same time somewhat ambiguous, so that the listener can imprint their own connotations to the name as they become familiar with the music.
“Gymshoes” popped into my head because it’s something I say (or rather, used to say…Since “Gymshoes” has become my identity I’ve stopped saying it because it was too weirdly self-referential). It’s something I picked up from Dogg’s Hamlet/Cahoot’s McBeth by Tom Stoppard. Most of the characters speak “Dogg”, which is English, but every word means something different from the normal meaning. It’s a terrific–and successful–experiment in language. Even if the characters don’t correctly understand one another they still manage to communicate without being aware that the words have a different meaning. (One character doesn’t speak Dogg, though he is infected with it and gradually lapses into Dogg by the end of the play.) It’s great fun. After reading it I noticed bits of “Dogg” were slipping into my everyday language. “Slab”, “Cube”, “Bicycles!” “Marmalade”, “Gymshoes!” and though I haven’t (yet) had occasion to use them even more colorful expressions like “Daisy vanilla squire” and “Afternoon, squire!”
“Gymshoes!” translated from Dogg to standard English means “Excellent!” It can also mean “fine”, as in “Geraniums?” (“How are you?”) Reply: “Gymshoes” (“Fine.”) As I found I was exclaiming “Gymshoes!” as often as “Excellent”, the idea came to me that this might be a good name under which to make music. The name does not have an exclamation point after it because I’m adhering the theory put forth in Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs that having an exclam at the end of a name was the kiss of death for any band. It’s so difficult to live up to all that is implied by punctuation that I think I’ll just stop here, without even a period