What's In a Name?
In Scott's Own Words
(Published on ClarksOnline.com in 1997)
Michael Kanotz at FSU law school asked the age old question,
"Where did you get your name?"
There are several answers that have been known to surface when asked that particular question. Mood, situation, amount of time available to explain, etc..all determine the outcome. The quickest, and most interview-friendly explanation is this, "We're big fans of Lewis and Clark."
But that doesn't quite cover it.
(Note: What started as a simple, personal response to Michael's question has become the all-encompassing, time-devouring beast of carbon-copied correspondence you have before you.)
In the year 1 B.C. (Before Clarks), in the little town of Indiana, Pa., there was this band called the Administration. It was me on vocals, Rob on guitar, Dave on drums, a friend named Mike on bass and another friend on saxophone. It was Rob and Dave who started the band. Rob heard from a mutual friend that I played a couple Neil Young tunes at a bar uptown, and asked if I'd be interested in playing in a band. Dave thought I "looked" like a singer, what with my ultra-hip parachute pants and long-in-the-front, mid-80's hairstyle. We played one semester with that line-up, fraternities mostly, doing covers by U2, the Cure, Joe Jackson, English Beat, etc... We basically played for free beer, and maybe a hundred dollars if they made alot of money at the door. That spring, our sax player graduated and our bass player transferred.
The fall of '86, Greg joined the band and we decided a name change was in order. "The Clarks" was someone's suggestion at practice one day. The change came rather unceremoniously, and at the time, like the band itself, was not looked on as a permanent thing.
Our second gig was supposed to be at this big outdoor beer party in a field somewhere near Indiana, Pa. When we got there, we noticed quite a few drunk "townies", and an unorganized fiasco in the making. Rather than risk our own personal Altamont by playing "new wave" for a bunch of Skynyrd-lovin' bikers, we drove back to campus and found a fraternity that would let us play their party that night. No money, we just wanted to play. I remember all of us feeling pretty good after that one.
The next spring, we wrote our first batch of original tunes and took second place in a band competition in Pittsburgh. Along with some free studio time, came name recognition and new fans. Another name change at such a crucial time would've been ill-advised.
We also had a singer friend of ours at IUP suggest we get a real name. Maybe something more along the lines of his band's name, Steel Heart. Yeah right! Maybe we should do more Rush covers too.
These events solidified a commitment to our new name...and to each other.
We came to appreciate unforeseen qualities in our namesake. The name the Clarks is rather musically vague. It doesn't give away what kind of music we play, and similarly, doesn't restrict us to a particular style. It doesn't attach itself to a particular time. It's not trendy, or clever, and as such, seems timeless.
It's very Western Pennsylvania. There are Clarksburgs and Clarksvilles. There are plenty of Clark streets and avenues, not to mention more than one Clarks bar. A friend of mine bought the shirt off a guy's back in the Upstage one night. It reads, "Clark's, Cold Beer..No Flies". I still have it with all my other Clarks paraphanalia.
Spelling is a no-brainer and it rarely requires explaining, although it has been misunderstood on occasion. A newsweekly in Washington DC once printed The Clogs in the club listings, probably a result of the club owner's Middle Eastern accent. Our friends the Epicurians send their newsletter to Das Klarken. And more than one Pittsburgher has asked the obvious, "Yunz named after that candy bar?"
It's grown with us and now feels as familiar as my given name. I occasionally use "Scott from the Clarks" in certain phone/business situations. There is extended Clark family, and I've been known to refer to the crew as Team Clark. The name has fit nicely into those usages.
...Maybe we should call the new record, "The Name Remains the Same".