The Ongoing History of New Music Episode 718: Two Piece Bands

After a two week hiatus in which I communed with orang-utans in the jungles of Borneo–I’m not kidding–it’s time to get back to work with brand new episodes.

Musical groups come in all sorts of permutations…trios, quartets, quintet, sextets, septets and octets Above eight and you’re approaching “orchestra” territory.

So “three” is the number you need before you can call your musical combo a “group.” Or is it? This can get confusing.

Let’s start with defining the word “group”.

Group:  noun. Any collection or assemblage of persons or things; aggregation; cluster

Okay, so is “two” a “collection,” an “assemblage,” “aggregation” or “cluster?” That seems like a “duo” or “couple” at best.

All right, let’s try this: what’s the definition of a “band?”

Band: Noun. A group of instrumentalists playing music of a specialized type.

Great. Circular definitions. This isn’t helping.

Maybe I’m just too hung up on words and their traditional definitions. Can you have a rock group with just two people? Absolutely. I think we’ve established that over the last decade. But this is still a relatively new thing.

As late as the middle 90s, the idea of having just two people in a “rock band” was considered crazy. Oh, maybe you could—if you were keyboards-and-electronics-based; a little bit of midi programming and you were good to go.

But I’m talking about guitars and drums. You know, proper rock band gear.  This is a history of alt-rock’s greatest two-piece bands. Groups. Duos. Whatever.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

And if things go well, the show will soon be heard on a few other stations. We just lost Winnipeg this week (not our fault; a format change).  I’m also looking for outlets in Vancouver, Kamloops, Kelowna, Red Deer, Grand Prairie, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. Anyone? Anyone want to start a campaign?

Meanwhile, if you want to go really deep into some of this stories, head to, which is the official archive of all things Ongoing History. This is a place for super fans of alt-rock. Hope you can take a look and start contributing to the stories.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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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