by Hans ten Cate
Wednesday, 9 September 1998

Toad the Wet Sprocket, an American band that took its name from one of Eric Idle's playful and satirical Python monologues (Rock Notes), has called it quits. The band announced on their website on July 24 that emerging differences had made it difficult to keep all of the members satisfied within the confines of the band. The band's break-up echoes somewhat Eric's original sketch which mocks how some bands spend many years breaking up: "... Dead Monkeys are to split up again,... They've been in the business now ten years, nine as other groups."

The sketch can be found on the Monty Python Contractual Obligation album, which the Pythons released in 1980. Eric Idle explained the origins back in 1996, "...initially it was for a Rutland Weekend Television [RTW] sketch, and then I recycled it into a Python bit on one of the records... Many years later I was driving down the freeway and nearly drove off the road when the DJ announced the name of the group!" Eric would later confide to the members of Toad that he originally thought of the name because he wanted "to think of a name so silly and unusual no one would ever consider it for a group."

The members of Toad met at high school in their native Santa Barbara and thought, when they first performed in 1986, that the name was so bad that it was good. "It's [from] a Monty Python skit," explained bassist Dean Dinning on the liner notes to one of their albums, "It's on the track called 'Rock Notes'." Dinning then slips into a recognizable Python accent and recites: "... 'Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad The Wet Sprocket, has had to have an elbow removed following their recent worldwide successful tour of Finland.'"

"It's not that we're all huge Monty Python fans," explained guitarist Tod Nichols on the album. "It was kind of an excuse for not being able to think of anything better," Dinning continued. Then, drumer Randy Guss chimes in: "We thought it was funny. And then, when we had our first gig comin' up, we had no name, we thought it was so funny that in the newspaper it said, 'At the Shack: Toad The Wet Sprocket."

"We were gonna think of something better," Singer Glen Phillips, explained almost apologetically. "We were going to think of a good name, and a real name, but it just never happened."

So, have the members of Toad the Wet Sprocket thanked Monty Python for the instantly-memorable band name? "They very kindly sent me a Platinum disk of their latest album 'Dulcinea,'" Eric remarked in 1996, "which I thought was very sweet of them." The band members presented the disk to Eric in December 1995 through a mutual friend. Eric quickly wrote a nice letter back for their gesture.

Rock Notes
Monty Python's Contractual Obligations Album (1980)
Performer/Writer: Eric Idle

Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket has had to have an elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland. Flamboyant ambidextrous Rex apparently fell off the back of a motorcycle. "Fell off the back of a motorcyclist, most likely," quipped ace drummer Jumbo McCluney upon hearing of the accident. Plans are already afoot for a major tour of Iceland.

Divorced after only eight minutes, popular television singing star, Charisma, changed her mind on the way out of the registry office, when she realized she had married one of the Donkeys by mistake. The evening before in LA's glittering nightspot, the Abitoir, she had proposed to drummer Reg Abbot of Blind Drunk, after a whirlwind romance and a knee-trembler. But when the hangover lifted, it was Keith Sly of the Donkeys who was on her arm in the registry office. Keith, who was too ill to notice, remained unsteady during the short ceremony and when asked to exchange vows, began to recite names and addresses of people who also used the stuff. Charisma spotted the error as Keith was being carried into the wedding ambulance and became emotionally upset. However, the mistake was soon cleared up, and she stayed long enough to consummate their divorce.

Dead Monkeys are to split up again, according to their manager, Lefty Goldblatt. They've been in the business now ten years, nine as other groups. Originally the Dead Salmon, they became for a while, Trout. Then Fried Trout, then Poached Trout In A White Wine Sauce, and finally, Herring. Splitting up for nearly a month, the re-formed as Red Herring, which became Dead Herring for a while, and then Dead Loss, which reflected the current state of the group. Splitting up again to get their heads together, they reformed a fortnight later as Heads Together, a tight little name which lasted them through a difficult period when their drummer was suspected of suffering from death. It turned out to be only a rumor and they became Dead Together, then Dead Gear, which lead to Dead Donkeys, Lead Donkeys, and the inevitable split up. After nearly ten days, they reformed again as Sole Manier, then Dead Sole, Rock Cod, Turbot, Haddock, White Baith, the Places, Fish, Bream, Mackerel, Salmon, Poached Salmon, Poached Salmon In A White Wine Sauce, Salmon-monia, and Helen Shapiro. This last name, their favorite, had to be dropped following an injunction and they split up again. When they reformed after a recordbreaking two days, they ditched the fishy references and became Dead Monkeys, a name which they stuck with for the rest of their careers. Now, a fortnight later, they've finally split up.