Music HistoryOngoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Umlaut bands

Anyone who has made their way through the world of rock over the last 50 years has come across umlaut bands. These are groups who spell their name with two dots randomly placed above a letter or two. That’s an “umlaut,” a type of accent mark that was originally used in languages like German to signify how certain vowels should sound.

In the case of rock band names, the use of umlauts (or “rock dots,” as some people call them) is pretty much entirely gratuitous. It just looks cool, evil, and heavy. There’s Mötorhead, Mötley Crue, Spinal Tap (over the “n” which can’t be found in Word), The Accüsed, Green Jellÿ, and a bunch of others.

But who was the first band to use the rock dots? It appears to have been Blue Öyster Cult back in about 1970 when they were on a mission to become America’s version of Black Sabbath. The umlaut looked cool and mysterious, promising some kind of hidden power. It worked and it stuck.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “Ongoing History Daily: Umlaut bands

  • > But who was the first band to use the rock dots? It appears to have been Blue Öyster Cult

    Your exhaustive and intense research (ahem!) has clearly failed to throw up the name of Amon Düül II (1968)…

    Reply

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