Wonk Rock

"I’m a great Dave Barry fan," said FOREIGN POLICY board member and incoming Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott, "and one of his classic lines is, ‘and that would be a great name for a rock band.’" Talbott has a new appreciation for Barry’s quip. This spring, Strobe Talbot released an album with an independent label ...

"I'm a great Dave Barry fan," said FOREIGN POLICY board member and incoming Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott, "and one of his classic lines is, 'and that would be a great name for a rock band.'" Talbott has a new appreciation for Barry's quip. This spring, Strobe Talbot released an album with an independent label that has represented punk acts, such as the Butthole Surfers and the Dead Kennedys. A band called Strobe Talbot, that is, not the former deputy secretary of state. "It's not exactly clear it's my name," Talbott said. "Though I have never heard of anyone else on the planet earth that shares my first name."

Talbott's full name is Nelson Strowbridge Talbott III. "My grandfather was called Bud, my father was nicknamed Bud. They weren't going to call me Bud III," he explained, "so they called me Strobe."

Singer Jad Fair, guitarist Mick Hobbs, drummer Ben Gallaher, and bassist Andy Fisher faced a similar conundrum. The trio released an album in Portugal as "Strobe," then discovered a band with the same name. "We were trying to figure out another band name with the word Strobe in it," Fair recalled.

"I’m a great Dave Barry fan," said FOREIGN POLICY board member and incoming Brookings Institution president Strobe Talbott, "and one of his classic lines is, ‘and that would be a great name for a rock band.’" Talbott has a new appreciation for Barry’s quip. This spring, Strobe Talbot released an album with an independent label that has represented punk acts, such as the Butthole Surfers and the Dead Kennedys. A band called Strobe Talbot, that is, not the former deputy secretary of state. "It’s not exactly clear it’s my name," Talbott said. "Though I have never heard of anyone else on the planet earth that shares my first name."

Talbott’s full name is Nelson Strowbridge Talbott III. "My grandfather was called Bud, my father was nicknamed Bud. They weren’t going to call me Bud III," he explained, "so they called me Strobe."

Singer Jad Fair, guitarist Mick Hobbs, drummer Ben Gallaher, and bassist Andy Fisher faced a similar conundrum. The trio released an album in Portugal as "Strobe," then discovered a band with the same name. "We were trying to figure out another band name with the word Strobe in it," Fair recalled.

"Our guitar player, Mick, he lives in London, and was looking through a paper there, and saw the name." Strobe Talbott! "It was more a phonetic thing than a political decision," Fair said. Strobe guitarist Hobbs drove a Talbot, a French car, hence the appeal — and the missing "t." "Although," said Fair, "had we not thought that he was a good person, we would not have gone with that name."

"I’m strictly a classical music guy," Talbott said, when asked about his own musical influences. Yet he is not the first wonk to inspire a rock band. Seventeenth-century agriculturalist Jethro Tull, presumably also a classical music guy, lent his name to a famous 1970s rock band.

Perhaps a fruitful partnership could emerge between policy intellectuals and rock musicians who admire each other’s names? After a bit of prompting, Talbott offered up his own inside-the-beltway band name possibility: "Operation Anaconda?"

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