Ongoing History Daily: Umlaut bands

Anyone who has made their way through the world of rock over the last 50 years has come across umlaut bands. These are groups who spell their name with two dots randomly placed above a letter or two. That’s an “umlaut,” a type of accent mark that was originally used in languages like German to signify how certain vowels should sound.

In the case of rock band names, the use of umlauts (or “rock dots,” as some people call them) is pretty much entirely gratuitous. It just looks cool, evil, and heavy. There’s Mötorhead, Mötley Crue, Spinal Tap (over the “n” which can’t be found in Word), The Accüsed, Green Jellÿ, and a bunch of others.

But who was the first band to use the rock dots? It appears to have been Blue Öyster Cult back in about 1970 when they were on a mission to become America’s version of Black Sabbath. The umlaut looked cool and mysterious, promising some kind of hidden power. It worked and it stuck.

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