Is Dr. Dog the worst band name ever? It is pretty close but that kind of thing can be overcome. The Beatles is a pretty stupid band name too but look what they managed to accomplish. Most notably Dr. Dog are neither doctors nor canines. They are a 60's-indebted rock band from Pennsylvania that make the most of their tight harmonies and bouncing keyboards. Their most recent release, Be the Void, finds their 4-track aesthetic slightly polished but their live performances remain satisfyingly fierce.
Dr. Dog aren't the only doctoral poseurs in the music world. Dr. John, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Dr. Dre, Dr. Hook, and Dr. Teeth are all implying more student loans than they really had to pay. In honor of Dr. Dog's appearance at the Observatory tonight, here are five musicians who actually nabbed a PhD.
Original Velvet Underground guitarist (and occasional bassist) Sterling Morrison lived an interesting life. He put his studies on hold to help start VU and lasted with the group longer than Lou Reed. When things began to fall off in the early 70s, Morrison completed his bachelor's degree and kept on going, eventually obtaining a Ph. D in Medieval Literature from the University of Texas, Austin. What did he do with the degree? He worked on tugboats and occasionally played with his former bandmates until passing away in the mid '90s from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Local rocker Phil Alvin (Hello Downey!) made his name churning out crunchy riffs with the Blasters in the early 1980s alongside his brother Dave. When the party first ended in 1986, Phil decided to return to school eventually earning a PhD from UCLA in mathematics with an emphasis in set theory, determining the “meaning of meaning” as he put it. Heavy shit but his true passion was the guitar and he reformed the Blasters before the 80s were through. Their still rocking with a new release earlier this summer.
The Descendants lead vocalist has gotten a lot of mileage out of his penchant for education. The first full-length from the South Bay punk rockers was entitled Milo Goes to College. They could have riffed on that theme for several more years because Aukerman went on to obtain a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is making his family proud by actually using that degree to make some dough out in the wilds of Delaware but the bespectacled frontman still steps out of the lab to shout about coffee.
The band Caribou, which is pretty much just Dan Snaith, can get pretty out there. His dense, dance-able rock rewards repeated listening and complete attention without ever losing the beat. It is fitting that his attention to detail has led him to a PhD in mathematics from Imperial College London but no amount of education can help explain how punk rock bartender Handsome Dick Manitoba succeeded in convincing Snaith into changing his original band name, Manitoba.
Snaith isn't the only overly-educated musician to graduate with a PhD from the Imperial College. One of the most melodic guitarists of all time, Queen's Brian May, holds a PhD in astrophysics because, well, why not? The curly-haired master of the six string is enamored with the cosmos but as far as he may look, he will never find another Freddie Mercury. Currently he holds the title of Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University. I wonder if any of his colleagues are familiar with his earlier odes to fat bottomed girls.