And why, you ask, am I showing you this photo of a Melody Maker reviews page from May 1, 1993? Simple.
It’s well-established lore that Daft Punk got their name from a review in MM of a song by the band Darlin’, which consisted of Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Laurent Brancowitz, the latter of whom went on to help form Phoenix. A reproduction of the text of the actual review — which was on a multi-band double 7” called Shimmies in Super 8, released by Stereolab’s Duophonic label and featuring that band as well along with Colm and Huggy Bear — has circulated widely and is understandably well known. Hey, the name of one of the most famous bands in the world emerges almost fully formed, why not capture where?
However, as the image I’ve linked shows, what’s circulated is a cleaned-up scan of the original review but nothing more — Melody Maker singles review pages were just that, a full page of nothing but the singles chosen and written by whoever had the job that week. Thus, no name attached to that review as it has circulated.
So earlier today Simon Price, on an Facebook group for veterans who wrote for MM, asked if anyone remembered exactly who wrote that. I’d noticed the conversation and volunteered that it might be Ian Gittins, though it turns out he was in Siberia (literally) at the time.
One thing I’m secretly fond of is my collection of just about every MM issue I ever bought, mostly running from three years from summer 1991 to sometime in fall 1994. It’s a great portrait of a time and I’ve delved into it every so often to dig up reviews and things upon request, though I’ve had to scrounge my brain every so often. Happily the general time period of the review was already known so it was just a matter of checking through a few issues, and behold!
So at long last it can be confirmed that the person who gets the credit for naming Daft Punk thanks to his quick aside is Dave Jennings, stalwart Wedding Present fan of MM among many other things. This was from the May 1, 1993 issue of MM, with the cover stars being Ozric Tentacles, other features including St. Etienne, Aphex Twin and No-Man, and the lead album reviews being New Order’s Republic by Simon Price and Cranes’ Forever by David Stubbs. Also number one in the official charts that week were George Michael and Lisa Stansfield doing Queen covers in the singles charts (eh, whatever) and Aerosmith’s Get a Grip in the album charts (seriously, WHY?) Also, Ian Gittins did the letters column so maybe he’d just returned.
Meantime, as you can see among the other singles reviews — Drugstore and Utah Saints get a nod, while he trashes Hothouse Flowers, Kingmaker, Rage Against the Machine (I approve) and Depeche Mode (NOW WAIT A GODDAMN MINUTE) — his two full choices that week were the mighty fine Voodoo Queens and Bleed, who I only know the name of and who I kept confusing at the time with Breed.
Also, as an example of fine MM fettle, allow me to quote from the Kingmaker review at the start:
The amazing thing about Kingmaker is the way they manage to adopt all the most infuriating traits of other bands from their peer group, while unerringly avoiding incorporating any of the same bands’ redeeming features.
And that’s how you do a review. And name a famous band while you’re at it.