A Brief History Of Popular Music & ‘The Ampersand’

Mumford & Sons ticketsA Brief History Of Popular Music & ‘The Ampersand’

It’s a tricky subject because how do you know if it’s official or a product of cheap printing? Maybe the owner of the venue shortened the band’s name to fit it on the marquee? Or maybe the internet vendor had to spell it out due to the demands of their Web publishing software? What are we talking about? We’re talking about that most wonderful of all symbols the ampersand (&). It has been used, and not used, all throughout popular music history, but when is it official? When is it actually part of a band’s name? When is it a shortcut?

In this article, the ampersand is official when it’s used in the band’s name on an official studio, live, or compilation album. Also, it only has to appear once. As a matter of due diligence, we also looked at a band’s official Web site. We figured that’s another reliable indicator on whether or not the “&” is official or just a shortcut taken by a third party. However, we paid absolutely no attention to how band names were written on Wikipedia, last.fm, All Music, and other similar internet sites.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Bob Seger struggled as a member of the Bob Seger System and as a solo artist. Then in 1975 he released Beautiful Loser with the help of a group of musicians known as The Silver Bullet Band. The following year they joined forces and called themselves Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. Their first release was a little album called Night Moves. It was eventually certified 6xPlatinum and made both entities household names. You’ll find the ampersand in the band’s appellation on most of their releases.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
The E Street Band is not mentioned on any Bruce Springsteen album until The River (1980) and then only in passing. However, they are credited our tours and live recordings. This is also where you’ll find the ampersand. For example: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Live in New York City (2001) and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/1975-1985 (1989). In the studio, it’s Bruce Springsteen but on the road it’s “Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.”

Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons are a rare breed. They’re English and they’re a folk band. There’s nothing inherently wrong with English folk bands except they’re weird, unnatural, and should never happen. In 2013, Mumford & Sons will be on the road promoting their second opus, Babel. They’ll return to the United States in February of 2013. You’ll find an ampersand on each of their studio albums as well as their Web site.

Mumford & Sons’ 2013 U.S. Dates
>>Feb. 05 – Mumford & Sons in Boston, MA @ TD Garden
>>Feb. 06 & 12 – Mumford & Sons in Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center
>>Feb. 13 & 14 – Mumford & Sons in Fairfax, VA @ Patriot Center
>>Feb. 16 &17 – Mumford & Sons in Camden, NJ @ Susquehanna Bank Center

She & Him
The “she” of She & Him is actress Zooey Deschanel. The “him” of She & Him is guitarist Matthew Stephen Ward, better known as “M. Ward.” And the ampersand in She & Him is of course the word “and.” The duo’s two studio albums, their Christmas album, and their Web site all use the ampersand. By the way, Deschanel can currently be seen on the Fox Television sitcom New Girl.

Siouxsie & The Banshees
Siouxsie & The Banshees are alternative music pioneers and dark wave progenitors. From their beginnings in 1976 to their 1984 album Hyæna they spelled out their name. Then in 1986 they added a stylized ampersand to their name on the cover of their album Tinderbox (the one with “Cities of Dust”). They continued using an ampersand on their albums for the rest of career with the exception of Peepshow (1988). Their Web site spells out the word “and” but it is selling t-shirts with an “&.”

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
In 1987, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers released “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough).” That’s the album with “Jammin’ Me.” Not only is it one of the band’s weakest offerings it’s also the only time they used an ampersand in their name on the cover of a studio release. Ampersands do appear in their name on their 1993 greatest hits compilation and their 2009 The Live Anthology box set. Often, especially late in their career, the band’s name is simply written as “Tom Petty | Heartbreakers.”

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