List of band name etymologies

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This is a list of band names, with their name origins explained and referenced with reliable sources.

#[edit]

  • 311 — 311 is an Omaha police code for indecent exposure. One rainy day, 311 bassist P-Nut and some friends went skinny dipping in a public pool. They were apprehended by police. One of P-Nut’s friends (Jim Watson) was arrested, cuffed (naked) and taken home to his parents. He was issued a citation for a code 311 (indecent exposure). We thought this was funny, so we took it as our band name.[1]

A[edit]

  • a-ha — The origin of the name "a-ha" comes from a title that member Pål Waaktaar contemplated giving to a song. Morten Harket was looking through Waaktaar's notebook and came across the name "a-ha". He liked it and said, "That's a great name. That's what we should call ourselves". After checking dictionaries in several languages, they found out that a-ha was an international way of expressing recognition, with positive connotations. It was short, easy to say, and unusual.[2]
  • A-Teens — The 'A' stands for ABBA since they started as a cover band for the group; their name was originally ABBA-Teens but was changed upon the request from Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson to avoid confusion. The group later did other songs, such as Upside Down.[3]
  • ABBA — a palindromic acronym from the initials of the first names of the band members: Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.[4]
  • AC/DC — Malcolm and Angus Young developed the idea for the band's name after seeing "AC/DC" on an electric sewing machine.[5]
  • Ace of Base — the band's first studio was in the basement of a car repair shop, and they considered themselves to be the "masters" of the studio. "Ace of Base" was derived from "masters of the basement".[2]
  • A Day To Remember — A phrase that an ex-member of the band used."
  • Adiemus — Creator Karl Jenkins invented the word, unaware at the time that it means "We will draw near" in Latin.[6]
  • Aiden — after a character from the 2002 film The Ring.[7]
  • Air Supply — Five years before the band's signing, Graham Russell saw the name in a dream.[2]
  • AKB48 — After Tokyo's area Akihabara (colloquially shortened to Akiba), a mecca for electronics shopping and geeks. The group was formed as theater-based, to perform at its own theater at Akihabara on a daily basis, so that fans could always go and see them live. It still performs there every day, although, after the group's popularity went up, tickets started being distributed only via an online lottery.[8]
  • Alexisonfire — from contortionist stripper, Alexis Fire, which nearly resulted in a lawsuit from the stripper's representatives.[9]
  • The All-American Rejects — The "All-Americans" and "the Rejects", both suggested to the band as names, were merged.[10]
  • Alice Cooper — Alice Cooper was a band before one of its members started a solo career under the same name. Allegedly, Alice Cooper was the name of a spirit members of the band came in contact with through a ouija.,[2] though the frontman has also claimed that he wanted their name to contrast with their sound, and Alice Cooper sounds like somebody's grandmother.
  • Alice in Chains — The band's name was originally spelt Alice N' Chainz. Layne sheds some light on the subject in a Rolling Stone article (11-26-92): "The name came from a side project of my old group. We were going to have this band that dressed up in drag and played heavy metal as a joke."[11]
  • Anamanaguchi — The name came about from a member in one of Peter Berkman's former bands pronouncing gibberish in the style of Jabba the Hutt;[12] The band has also explained it as coming from the members' internships at Armani (Berkman and DeVito), Prada (Warnaar), and Gucci (Silas) while studying fashion at Parsons School of Design.[13]
  • Anberlin — Band member Stephen Christian has offered the explanations that he planned naming his first daughter Anberlin[14] and that the name was a modification of the phrase "and Berlin" from a list of cities Christian wanted to visit.[15] The one story that Christian asserts is true, however, is that he heard the word in the background noise of the Radiohead song "Everything in Its Right Place".[16]
  • …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead — Initially claimed to be a line in a Mayan ritual chant,[17] though lead singer Conrad Keely has since admitted the story was a joke.[18]
  • Arcade Fire — Based on a story that singer Win Butler heard as a kid. He was told that an arcade in Exeter had burnt down, killing many youths.[19]
  • Arctic Monkeys — The name was made up by the guitarist, Jamie Cook, while at school.[20]
  • Art of Noise — After the 1913 manifesto called The Art of Noises by Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo.[21]
  • As I Lay Dying — After the 1930 novel As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.[22]
  • Asking Alexandria - According to band member Danny Worsnop, the name was taken from Alexander the Great.
  • Atreyu — After a character in 1979 novel The NeverEnding Story and the 1984 movie of the same name.[23]
  • Audioslave — According to lead guitarist Tom Morello the name supposedly came to singer Chris Cornell in a vision.[24]
  • Automatic Pilot — From psychiatric testimony characterizing Dan White's state of mind while killing George Moscone and Harvey Milk.[25]
  • Avenged Sevenfold — taken from the Book of Genesis - from the passage "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold."
  • A Wilhelm Scream — The Wilhelm scream is a frequently-used film and television stock sound effect first used in 1951 for the film Distant Drums.[26] The band were previously named 'Koen' and then 'Smackin Isaiah' before finally settling on the current appellation.

B[edit]

  • The B-52's — From the name of a beehive hairstyle, itself named for the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
  • Babymetal — According to Kobametal (the band's producer), the name came to him by revelation (as a "divine message"). It is a play on the words "heavy metal".[27]
  • Bachman–Turner Overdrive — A combination of band members' last names and the magazine Overdrive. The band's name had previously been "Bachman-Turner". All band members agreed that Bachman-Turner Overdrive sounded cooler.[citation needed]
  • Backstreet Boys — After a flea market in Orlando, Florida.[28]
  • Bad Religion — Bad Religion's Greg Graffin on their name:"You have to remember that we were fifteen-year-old punks - we wanted to piss peple off. Anything that might make parents, teachers, and people with authority bristle was up for discussion. We also wanted a name that would suggest a great logo for stickers and T-shirts. Many of the names were compelling but too repulsive. Smegma, Vaginal Discharge, and Head Cheese might make for great logos but were quickly rejected as not representative of our songs. We played around with a lot of names involving the word "bad" - Bad Family Planning, Bad Politics. When we hot on Bad Religion, it seemed perfect. That year, 1980, was a time of rising prominence for televangelists like Jimmy Swaggert, Pat Robertson, and Jim Bakker. The year before, Jerry Falwell had founded the Moral Majority, which was having a powerful influence on the presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Religion was a hot topic, and those TV preachers seemed like a good target to us, though we didn't think they could possibly last for more than a few years. We knew that most people were so defensive about their religious ideas thst they would be highly offended by our name - a major plus! And then Brett came up with a logo that represented our philosophical stance. We felt complete."[29]
  • Badfinger — Originally called "The Iveys" after a street in Swansea, Wales. Once the band was signed to Apple Records by The Beatles the band took the opportunity to change their name. The name "Badfinger" was derived from "Bad Finger Boogie," the working title of The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends".[30]
  • The Band — They were originally known as The Hawks, after their original lead singer Ronnie Hawkins. While working with Bob Dylan in the 1960s, they decided to change their name, but were unable to agree on a new name. They finally decided to simply call themselves "The Band" after being derisively referred to as "the band" by critics of Dylan's new electric direction on the 1966 tour.[31]
  • Bauhaus — Originally named "Bauhaus 1919" after the German Bauhaus art movement, and shortened to "Bauhaus" in 1979.[32]
  • The BeatlesThe Crickets were cited as an inspiration for the name. Additionally, the misspelling of "beetles" was a play on words, describing the "beat" of the band.[33]
  • The Beautiful South — The Beautiful South were an English alternative rock group formed at the end of the 1980s by two former members of Hull group The Housemartins, Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway. Heaton explained at the time that the name was partly a sarcastic reflection of his own dislike of southern England, and partly an attempt to force macho men to utter the word 'beautiful'.[34]
  • Belle & Sebastian — From Belle et Sébastien, a children's book by French writer Cécile Aubry.[35]
  • Between the Buried and Me — The band name was derived from a phrase in Counting Crows' song "Ghost Train"[36]
  • Biffy Clyro — There are many rumours of the origin of Biffy Clyro's name. These are that one time lead singer, Simon Neil bought a Cliff Richard pen therefore it was a Cliffy Biro. They then changed this to Biffy Clyro. Another theory is that 'Biffy Clyro' were a Welsh tribe. The third rumour is that Biffy Clyro was a former player of the band's football team, Ayr United. They have never confirmed any of these.
  • Big Drill Car — The band members have claimed in interviews that their name was inspired by the movie Journey to the Center of the Earth.[37]
  • Billy Talent — After a character in the film Hard Core Logo (although the name in the film and the book by Michael Turner it was adapted from is spelled "Billy Tallent").[38]
  • The Black Crowes — The group originally called themselves Mr. Crowe's Garden, after a favorite children's book. They performed under that name until they signed with Def American Records in 1989. They renamed themselves in response to the suggestion of a producer.[39][40]
  • Black Flag — Suggested by guitarist Greg Ginn's brother, Raymond Pettibone, because "if a white flag means surrender, a black flag means anarchy."[41]
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — The film The Wild One featured two motorcycle gangs: The Beetles, led by Lee Marvin's character, and Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, led by Marlon Brando's character. In a reference to the story that The Beatles took their name from one motorcycle gang, Peter Hayes, guitarist, and bassist Robert Levon Been, originally named their band "The Other Gang", but switched to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when The Other Gang didn't catch on.[42][43]
  • Black Sabbath — Originally called "Earth" Ozzy Osbourne describes the name as being created by bassist Geezer Butler. "We used to be called 'Earth' which we realized one day wasn't a very good name for a band. So, being gloomy and doomy as Geezer Butler is, one day he said 'hey man, how about Black Sabbath? And so we were called Black Sabbath."'
  • Blind Melon — Bass player Brad Smith's father used this term to refer to some hippies who lived in a commune near his house.[44]
  • Blue October — The front man of Blue October, Justin Furstenfeld, spent a brief stint in a mental hospital in October 1997. Furstenfeld stated that afterwards he wrote songs to keep depression away which led to the forming of the band.[45]
  • Blur — The band had been known as "Seymour" until they were signed to Food Records in 1990. The label disliked the band name and suggested the group select a new one from a provided list, from which "Blur" was eventually selected.[46]
  • The Boomtown Rats — As revealed in his autobiography, 'Bound for Glory', this was the name of Woody Guthrie's boyhood gang, named after his home town, Oklahoma City, known as 'Boomtown' during the oil boom.
  • Brainerd — Original guitarist, Knife, named the band after his hometown, (Brainerd, Minnesota).[47]
  • Bring Me the Horizon — From a line said by Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, "Now...bring me that horizon".[48]

C[edit]

  • Cake Rather than referring to the foodstuff, the name is meant to be "like when something insidiously becomes a part of your life...[we] mean it more as something that cakes onto your shoe and is just sort of there until you get rid of it".[49]
  • Cansei de Ser SexyPortuguese for "tired of being sexy", an alleged quote of Beyoncé Knowles, one of the largest musical influences upon this Brazilian band.[50]
  • Childish GambinoDonald Glover used a Wu-Tang Clan name generator in his sophomore year of college at NYU; inputting his real name and coming up with Childish Gambino.[51]
  • Coldplay — The band were called "Starfish" originally and a friend's group was called "Coldplay". When they did not want the name anymore, "Starfish" asked if they could use it instead. The original Coldplay took the name from a book of collected poems called Child's Reflections: Cold Play.[52]
  • Crass — A reference to the David Bowie song "Ziggy Stardust" (specifically the line "The kids was just crass"[53]).
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival — The band took the three elements from, firstly, Tom Fogerty's friend Credence Newball (to whose first name Credence they added an extra 'e', making it resemble a faith or creed); secondly, "clear water" from a TV commercial for Olympia beer; and finally "revival", which spoke to the four members' renewed commitment to their band.[54]
  • Crime — The band was originally The Space Invaders who looked glam, but played primitive original material in the garage. They turned to a JV look and shortened the name to The Invaders. Tony Greene, who published a short lived SF punk zine No Exit convinced them to change their name to Crime.
  • Crush 40 — Lead singer Johnny Gioeli explained to Gareth Spriggs (aka Fastest Thing Alive) at Summer of Sonic '10 that he never wanted to turn 40 years old, hence the name Crush 40, because he wanted to "Crush 40". The name is also a reference to Crush soda, guitarist Jun Senoue's favorite brand of soft drink.
  • The Cure — The band's original name was Easy Cure, which was taken from the name of one of the group's early songs. The name was later shortened to The Cure because frontman Robert Smith felt the name was too American and "too hippyish".[55]
  • °C-ute (Cute) — The Japanese girl group was named by its producer Tsunku. According to him and the band's official website, the English word cute means "(little and) lovely, pretty". Wanting to somehow express the girls' overflowing fervor (enthusiasm), he substituted "°C" for "C".[56][57]

D[edit]

  • Daft Punk — In 1992, being heavily influenced by The Beach Boys, they recorded songs under the name Darlin', which was a Beach Boys single off their 1967 album Wild Honey. A negative review in the UK's Melody Maker described their effort as "a daft punky thrash", which depressed the pair but unwittingly gave them a name for their next project.
  • Dashboard Confessional — Derived from the line in the band's song "The Sharp Hint of New Tears" which is "on the way home, this car hears my confessions/I think tonight I'll take the long way home...".[58]
  • Dead Kennedys — The name was not meant to insult the assassinated Kennedy brothers, but to quote vocalist Jello Biafra, "to bring attention to the end of the American Dream".[59]
  • The Decemberists — The name refers to the Decembrist revolt, an 1825 revolt in Imperial Russia that Colin Meloy views as an attempted communist revolution.[60]
  • Death Cab for Cutie — named for the song Death Cab for Cutie composed by Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes and performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band on their 1967 album Gorilla.
  • Deftones — Created by lead guitarist Stephen Carpenter, who wanted to pick "something that would just stand out but you know, not be all cheese-ball at the same time." Carpenter combined the hip hop slang term "def," which was used by artists such as LL Cool J and Public Enemy, with the suffix "-tones," which was a popular suffix among 1950s bands (e.g., Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, The Quin-Tones, The Monotones, The Cleftones, and The Harptones). Carpenter said the name is intentionally vague to reflect the band's tendency to not focus on just one style of music.
  • Depeche Mode — Inspired by a French fashion magazine of the same name.[61]
  • Der Plan — Inspired by a quote from a book by British author Gordon Rattray Taylor called "The Biological Timebomb", in which he describes the ability to make a plan as what distinguishes human beings from animals.
  • The Devil Wears Prada — After the novel and comedy/drama movie of the same name.
  • Dexys Midnight Runners — From the stimulant Dexedrine.[62]
  • Dire Straits — comes from the band's financial situation at the time of forming.
  • The Dirty Heads — The band’s name comes from an occasion where Jared “Dirty J” Watson and vocalist/guitarist Dustin “Duddy B” Bushnell were stealing a 12-pack of beer, and someone shouted at them “Come here you little dirty heads!”
  • The Doors — The band took its name from Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception, the title of which was a reference to a William Blake quotation: "When the doors of perception are cleansed, things will appear to man as they truly are...infinite."[63]
  • Double Dagger — Founded by two graphic designers, the band took their name from a typographic symbol (the double dagger), which is commonly used for footnotes and citations.
  • Dream Theater — After a movie house in Monterey, California. The name was suggested by drummer Mike Portnoy's father, who lived in Monterey.[64]
  • Dropkick Murphys — After wrestler and alcoholic rehabilitation facility operator John "Dropkick" Murphy.[65]
  • Drummer — All of the band members were drummers for other bands.
  • Duran Duran — The band played at Birmingham's Barberella's nightclub[66] so took their name from the villain of the cult science fiction film Barbarella, Dr. Durand-Durand.[67]

E[edit]

  • E Street BandBruce Springsteen's band was named after E Street (E, not East) in Belmar, New Jersey, because the band used to practice at the E Street home of pianist David Sancious' mother.[68]
  • ELOElectric Light Orchestra is an intended pun based not only on electric light (as in a light bulb as seen on early album covers) but also using "electric" rock instruments combined with a "light orchestra" (orchestras with only a few cellos and violins that were popular in Britain during the 1960s).
  • EminemEminem is the phonetic spelling of the former stage name M&M of the Detroit rapper Marshall Mathers. M&M representing his initials.
  • Evanescence — When asked where they got their name, they responded, "The dictionary." The word "evanescence" means "a disappearance or dissipation, like vapor." They apparently disliked their previous name and wanted something better. They also wanted to do some artwork (with whatever name they chose) and decided to look under E. They liked the word and definition, likening it to the temporal nature of life.[citation needed]
  • Evergreen Terrace — Named after 742 Evergreen Terrace, the address of the Simpsons.
  • Exit Ten — After the motorway junction of the M4 to Reading, which constitutes the band's 'home'.

F[edit]

  • Fall Out Boy — Nameless for their first two shows as a band, at the end of their second show they asked the audience to yell out their ideas for a name. One audience member suggested "Fallout Boy", a reference to the sidekick of the Radioactive Man from The Simpsons.
  • Fastball — Originally called "Magneto" until learning of a Mexican boy band of the same name, they first attempted to use the name "Magneto USA," but were ultimately advised against it.[69] The band eventually settled on "Fastball" in reference to a "baseball-themed porn movie."[70]
  • Five Iron Frenzy — According to bassist Keith Hoerig: "We got the name Five Iron Frenzy from a roommate of most of ours. He was kind of paranoid, and afraid that if he went outside on this particular night he was going to get jumped by some people. He had a golf club to defend himself and he said something to the effect of it being like "putter mayhem". Scott looked at the golf club he was holding, and noting that it was a five iron said, "No, more like a Five Iron Frenzy." The name stuck."[71]
  • Five Finger Death Punch — from the movie Kill Bill, the move that after you get hit by this move and take three step your heart will explode.
  • Florence + The Machine — The name of Florence and the Machine is attributed to front-woman Florence Welch's teenage collaboration with keyboardist and co-writer Isabella "Machine" Summers. Welch and Summers performed together for a time under the name Florence Robot/Isa Machine, due to their nicknames being "Florence Robot" and "Isa Machine". Later, this was shortened to Florence and the Machine as it was felt to be too cumbersome."[72]
  • Flying Lotus — The name, Flying Lotus, comes from his ideal superpower. “When I was a kid I would always bother people about super heroes and I was like, ‘Ok if you could have any superpower in the creation of comic books what would you have, x-ray vision, you could be like invisible, what would you do?’ I wanted to fly. That’s it. That’s all.”[73]
  • Foo Fighters — Adopted from a term used by Allied aircraft pilots in World War II to describe various UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena.[74]
  • Foster the People — Originally called "Foster & the People" by frontman Mark Foster, but changed when many of his friends misunderstood the name as "Foster the People". In a 2011 interview, Foster also recalled, "'Foster the People' — that's like 'Take Care of the People,' 'Do Something for the People' . . . The first few shows that we played were for charities. It kind of clicked: Foster the People, that's us."[75]
  • Framing Hanley — Originally known as "Embers Fade", they changed their name to Framing Hanley in 2007, shortly after one of the member's fiancée, Ashley Hanley (who was a photographer - hence the "Framing"), died.
  • The Fugs — "Fugs" is a euphemism for “fuck” in Normal Mailer's novel, The Naked and the Dead. Bandmember Tuli Kupferberg is credited with choosing the name.[76]

G[edit]

  • Garbage — Either lead singer Shirley Manson's father yelled down to the band at one of their basement practice sessions, "Play more quietly - you sound like garbage." or from a friend of drummer Butch Vig, who said "This stuff sounds like garbage!"[77]
  • Genesis — Charterhouse School alumnus Jonathan King attended a concert at Charterhouse in 1968 while the band were still in school. King was a songwriter and record producer who had a hit single at the time, "Everyone's Gone to the Moon". King named the band Genesis (after previously suggesting the name Gabriel's Angels after lead singer Peter Gabriel), recalling that he had "thought it was a good name... it suggested the beginning of a new sound and a new feeling."
  • Georgia Wonder — Georgia Wonder was the stage name of Lulu Hurst, a 'magnetic phenomenon' whose vaudeville act toured America in the late 19th Century. Stephanie Grant and Julian Moore from the band chose the name after trying to duplicate these powers from an exposé they discovered in a book about the period.[78]
  • Grateful Dead — The name Grateful Dead was chosen from a dictionary. According to Phil Lesh, in his biography (pp. 62), "...Jer[ry Garcia] picked up an old Britannica World Language Dictionary...[and]...In that silvery elf-voice he said to me, 'Hey, man, how about the Grateful Dead?'" The definition there was "the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial." According to Alan Trist, director of the Grateful Dead's music publisher company Ice Nine, Garcia found the name in the Funk & Wagnalls Folklore Dictionary, when his finger landed on that phrase while playing a game of "dictionary".[79] In the Garcia biography, Captain Trips, author Sandy Troy states that the band was smoking the psychedelic DMT at the time. The term "grateful dead" appears in folktales of a variety of cultures.
  • Green Day — "Green day" is a slang term for spending a day smoking marijuana. Billie Joe Armstrong wrote a song called "Green Day" about his first experience with the drug, and it soon replaced "Sweet Children" as the band's name.[80]
  • Guns N' Roses — An early incarnation of the band included Tracii Guns whose band was called L.A. Guns. Axl Rose, who had formed Hollywood Rose, combined his band with Tracii's to form Guns N' Roses.[81]

H[edit]

  • Hard-Fi — "Hard-Fi" is the name given to the sound produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry, a Grammy award-winning reggae and dub artist, at his Black Ark recording studio. Being admirers of Perry's work, the band decided to name themselves after his distinctive sound.[82]
  • Heaven 17 — From a line in Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, a fictional band mentioned by a young woman in the record store.[83]
  • The Hollies — After Buddy Holly.
  • Hootie and the Blowfish — Lead singer Darius Rucker derived the name from two friends from college. One had an owlish face and was nicknamed "Hootie", while the other had puffy cheeks and was called "the Blowfish".[84]
  • Hüsker Dü — The name of a Scandinavian memory-based board game that means "Do you remember?"[85] The band chose this after it was shouted out by an audience member at one of their early shows.

I[edit]

J[edit]

  • Jefferson Airplane — Shortened from Blind Lemon Jefferson Airplane, which, according to Jorma Kaukonen, was coined by a friend as a satire of blues pseudonyms such as "Blind Lemon" Jefferson.[87]
  • Jethro Tull — Having trouble getting repeat bookings, the band took to changing their name frequently to continue playing the London club circuit. Band names were often supplied by their booking agents' staff, one of whom, a history enthusiast, eventually christened them "Jethro Tull" after the 18th-century agriculturist. The name stuck because they were using it the first time a club manager liked their show enough to invite them to return.[88]
  • Jimmy Eat World — "Jimmy" is guitarist Tom Linton's younger brother, who had a weight problem. Lead vocalist Jim Adkins' younger brother drew a picture on Jimmy's door of him putting a globe in his mouth, and wrote on it "Jimmy Eat World." It eventually became inspiration for their band name.
  • Joy Division — In order to avoid confusion with the London punk band Warsaw Pakt, the band renamed themselves from Warsaw to Joy Division in late 1977, borrowing their new name from the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp mentioned in the 1955 novel The House of Dolls.[89]

K[edit]

  • Kaiser Chiefs — After the South African Kaizer Chiefs Football Club, the former team of long-serving former Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe.[90]
  • Kasabian — After Linda Kasabian, a member of the Charles Manson cult (aka the Manson "family") famous for serving as his getaway driver.[91]
  • Kassidy — Inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.[92]
  • The Killers — From the bass drum of a fictional band in the music video for the New Order song "Crystal".[93]
  • King Crimson — The band name was coined by lyricist Peter Sinfield as a synonym for Beelzebub, prince of demons. According to Robert Fripp, Beelzebub would be an anglicised form of the Arabic phrase "B'il Sabab", meaning "the man with an aim".[94] Historically and etymologically, a "crimson king" was any monarch during whose reign there was civil unrest and copious bloodshed.
  • KISS — Peter Criss, the original drummer of KISS and the 3rd member to join KISS, was in a car riding around with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley in New York. All three members knew that Peter used to be in a band named LIPS. They were trying to think of a band name at that time. Paul blurted out, "How about KISS?" Ace Frehley designed the KISS logo in 1973 which is still used today.
  • Klaxons — Originally known as "Klaxons (Not Centaurs)", a quote from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's futurism text The Futurist Manifesto.[citation needed] Also in an interview a band member stated Klaxons "is to toot to be a loud intrusive noise to disrupt".[95]
  • KJ-52 — Hybrid name of this artist's first rap name "KJ" coupled with the New Testament Miracle of the Feeding of the Multitude, Mark 8:1-9 & Matthew 15:32-39.[96]

L[edit]

  • Ladytron — From the song "Ladytron" by Roxy Music.[97]
  • Lasgo — From the Scottish city Glasgow with the first and last letters removed.[98]
  • Led Zeppelin — The band name "Led Zeppelin" refers to the Hindenburg disaster[citation needed]; and a joke made by Keith Moon and John Entwistle. The two were discussing the idea of forming a band with some prominent young guitarists at the time. Moon and Entwistle suggested that a supergroup containing themselves, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck would go down like a "lead balloon", a British idiom for disastrous results.[99]
  • Linkin Park — Their name came from the lead singer, Chester Bennington, because they had to change their name due to copyright issues, and he drove past Lincoln Park on the way home from band practice. However, the domain "lincolnpark.com" was more than they could afford, so they changed the spelling to 'Linkin Park'.[100]
  • Living Colour — From the NBC TV slogan "Broadcasting in Living Color."[101]
  • Lord of the Flies — Band member Alex d'Aquino looked at different band names and saw "Of Mice of Men", so he thought of a great British classic "Lord of the Flies" about a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabitable island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results.
  • Lothar and the Hand People — Band member Richard Willis had a dream in which an enslaved race called the Hand People was saved by a hero named Lothar. Later, well after the name had been chosen, they decided that Lothar was the name of the theremin used by member John Emelin.[102]
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd — After Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida who was notorious for strictly enforcing the school's policy against boys having long hair.[103]

M[edit]

  • Marillion — The band was originally called Silmarillion, taken from the title of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. The name was eventually shortened to avoid possible legal problems.[104]
  • Matchbox Twenty — Originally titled "Matchbox 20," the band took its name from a softball jersey with a "20" on it and a patch that had "Matchbox" written on it. The band altered its name to "Matchbox Twenty" after the release of its debut album Yourself or Someone Like You.[105]
  • McFly — guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Tom Fletcher took the name from the film "Back to the Future"'s main character "Marty McFly"
  • Megadeth — While Dave Mustaine was traveling back to his home in the Bay Area on a bus after getting kicked out of his former band, Metallica, he would write lyrics on the back of a handbill to pass the time. The handbill itself quoted "The arsenal of megadeath can't be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to," which inspired him to use Megadeath as his band name. He later found out "The Megadeaths" was the former band name for Pink Floyd and dropped the 'A' in 'Death' to keep the name.[106]
  • MGMT — The band was originally called The Management, MGMT is an abbreviation of that.
  • Modest Mouse — Derives from a passage from the Virginia Woolf story "The Mark on the Wall," which reads, "...and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-coloured people..."
  • Molly Hatchet — A 17th-century southern prostitute who allegedly beheaded and/or chopped up her clients.[107]
  • The Moody Blues — The band were originally named The M&B 5 after the Birmingham brewery Mitchells & Butlers. This was changed and the new name was inspired by a Duke Ellington song named 'Mood Indigo'.[108]
  • Mötley Crüe — When Mick Mars was playing with his old cover band White Horse he heard someone describing them as "motley looking crew", he instantly took to the phrase and knew that someday he wanted to play in a band by that name. The spelling was eventually changed and umlauts were added.'.[108]
  • The Mountain Goats — Taken from the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Yellow Coat", which contains the line "50 million bulldogs, 20 mountain goats, all gathered 'round at sundown to see my yellow coat."[109]
  • Mumford & Sons — Originates from the fact that Marcus Mumford was always the most visible member, organizing the band and their performances from their beginnings in West London. Vocalist Ben Lovett indicated that the name was meant to invoke the sense of an "antiquated family business name".
  • Muse — The members of Muse, namely the front-man Matthew Bellamy, have stated that their name was mainly chosen because it looked professional on posters and the like. However, Bellamy has also stated that the name could possibly have stemmed from being raised in a family interested in Ouija and spirits. The bandmates first heard the word when someone in their hometown of Teignmouth, England suggested that the reason for a lot of the town's populace becoming members of bands was due to a muse hovering over the town.
  • My Chemical Romance — Bassist Mikey Way, before joining the band, had a job at Barnes & Noble. The name came from Irvine Welsh's Five Tales of Chemical Romance. Vocalist Gerard Way added the "My" to make the name more personal. It is also said to have been inspired from shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine.

N[edit]

  • Ned's Atomic Dustbin — Title of an episode of The Goon Show that the mother of vocalist Jonn Penney would read to him.[110]
  • Night Ranger - Originally formed as Stereo by Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Brad Gillis, the band changed the name to simply Ranger after adding keyboardist Alan Fitzgerald and guitarist Jeff Watson. Due to a copyright infringement claim by a country band calling itself The Rangers, the band changed the name to Night Ranger.[111]
  • Nine Inch Nails — Sole constant member Trent Reznor chose the name because it "could be abbreviated easily" and denied the name had any "literal meaning".[112]
  • No Doubt — Back-flipping original singer John Spence formed an Orange County-based 2 Tone ska group named after his favorite expression, with keyboardist Eric Stefani. After Spence's death, the name stuck.[113]
  • NOFX — guitarist Eric Melvin says that he came up with the name, inspired by the broken up punk band "Negative FX". The name is also meant to symbolize the band's rejection of gimmickry that the band was seeing in music at the time.[114]

O[edit]

  • Oasis — Evolved from an earlier band called The Rain, composed of Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan (bass guitar), Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs (guitar), Tony McCarroll (drums) and Chris Hutton (vocals). Unsatisfied with Hutton, Arthurs auditioned acquaintance Liam Gallagher as a replacement. After Gallagher joined the group, the band's name was changed to Oasis, which was inspired by a place where The Inspiral Carpets played. One of the venues on it was the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon.[115]
  • The Offspring — Band members Dexter Holland and Greg K decided to form a band after attending a Social Distortion concert. The band was called Manic Subsidal, who suddenly changed their name to The Offspring in 1986.[116][117]
  • Of Mice & Men — After the novel by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck himself took the name from a line in the poem "To A Mouse" by Robert Burns, which reads "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley"
  • One Night Only — Came about when the band were asked to play a gig; they did not have a name at the time and so came up with One Night Only, intending for the title to, literally, last for only one night. However, the name stuck and they continued to use it.[118]
  • Opeth — Derived from the word "Opet", taken from the Wilbur Smith novel Sunbird. In this novel, Opet is the name of a (fictional) Phoenician city in South Africa whose name is translated as "City of the Moon" in the book.[119]

P[edit]

Q[edit]

  • Queen — Were originally called Smile. Singer Freddie Mercury came up with the new name for the band, later saying: "Years ago I thought up the name 'Queen' … It's just a name, but it's very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid … It's a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one face of it."[139]
  • Queens of the Stone Age — A name given by Criss Goss, who said the name implied they were "heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls", while 'Kings of the Stone Age' was described to be "too macho" and lopsided.
  • Queensrÿche — Were originally called "The Mob". The name is derived from a song on their EP "Queen of the Reich", and is the only known use of the letter Y with an umlaut in English. It was used to soften "Queensreich" and not confuse the band with Nazism.[140]
  • Qntal — In a dream, vocalist Sigrid Hausen saw the letters in flames.[141]

R[edit]

  • Radiohead — Originally known as "On a Friday", the band was given two weeks after signing to Parlophone to change their name. The band renamed themselves after the 1986 Talking Heads song "Radio Head" on the album True Stories, claiming it as the "least annoying song" from the album.[142]
  • Rage Against the Machine — When the band formed in 1991, they chose the name of a song Zack de la Rocha had written for his old band, Inside Out.[143]
  • Rammstein — The band was named after the 1988 Ramstein air show disaster.[144] At first, the band had denied this and said that their name was inspired by the giant doorstop type devices found on old gates, called Rammsteine.[145] The extra "m" in the band's name makes it translate literally as "ramming stone".
  • The RamonesPaul McCartney used the alias Paul Ramon when booking hotel rooms. So the band decided to use the last name Ramone even though it's not their given name.[146]
  • R.E.M. — Vocalist Michael Stipe drew the acronym randomly out of the dictionary. The term refers to the rapid eye movement phase of sleep. Stipe says that is not the reason why the band is named R.E.M.[147]
  • Reel Big Fish — The band chose this name in favor of "The Fisher King," a reference to the film of the same name, as well as "Dull Boy Jack," a reference to The Shining. The final name was chosen almost arbitrarily, under the notion that it could be changed later. Bassist Matt Wong suggested "Real Big Fish", and Aaron Barrett suggested changing the 'A' to a second 'E'. However, the name stuck, much to the chagrin of the band.
  • The Residents — In 1971 the group sent a reel-to-reel tape to Hal Halverstadt at Warner Brothers. Because the band had not included any name in the return address, the rejection slip was simply addressed to "The Residents". The members of the group then decided that this would be the name they would use, first becoming Residents Unincorporated, then shortening it to the current name.[148]
  • REO Speedwagon — After Ransom E. Olds's REO Speed Wagon, which band founder Neal Doughty studied his transportation history class at the University of Illinois.[149]
  • The Rolling Stones — From the Muddy Waters song, "Rollin' Stone".[150]
  • Russian Circles — Originally the title of their first piece, which was later called "Carpe". Russian Circles is a drill in hockey.[151]

S[edit]

  • Saving Abel — From the ancient biblical story of Cain and Abel, about a brother who killed his own brother. Band member Jason Null thought up the band title saying “I Googled the story of Cain and Abel and found a line about ‘there was no saving Abel,’ which just jumped out at me."
  • School of Seven Bells — A mythical South American pickpocket training academy.[152]
  • Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her — After a song by XTC on their album The Big Express.[153]
  • Seether — Originally Saron Gas. The band was asked to change their name due to Saron Gas being a homophone of sarin gas, a deadly nerve agent. The band changed its name to Seether in honor of Veruca Salt's song titled, "Seether".[154]
  • Sepultura — Means "Grave" in Portuguese. The name was chosen after co-founder Max Cavalera translated the lyrics to the Motörhead song "Dancing on Your Grave".[155]
  • Sevendust — After discovering their name Crawlspace was already taken, band bassist Vinnie Hornsby renamed the band after a brand of plant pesticide he found in his grandmother's garage named Sevin dust.[156]
  • Shai Hulud — After the gigantic Sandworms of Arrakis from the 1984 science fiction film Dune, based on the Frank Herbert science fiction novel of the same name.[157]
  • Sigur Rós — After the little sister of the band's vocalist, Jón Þór Birgisson (Jónsi), whose name is Sigurrós (without a space). It translates to "victory rose."[158]
  • Simple Minds — From a line in the David Bowie song Jean Genie
  • Simply Red — The name "Simply Red" came about when the manager of a local venue was confused about the band's name and Mick Hucknall replied that it was "Red, simply Red". The resulting misnomer was printed on publicity posters as "Simply Red", and the name stuck.
  • Skrillex — Sonny Moore's old AIM nickname[159]
  • Slipknot — Drummer Joey Jordison suggested renaming the band from "Meld" to "Slipknot" after their song that eventually appeared on the band's demo Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat.[160]
  • Sloan — According to band member Jay Ferguson, the band's name refers to a friend's nickname. Their friend Jason Larsen was called "slow one" by his French-speaking boss, which with the French accent sounded more like "Sloan." The original agreement was that they could name the band after their friend's nickname as long as he was on the cover of their first album. As a result, it is Larsen who appears on the cover of Sloan's Peppermint EP.[161]
  • Soilwork — Chosen by the band to symbolize "working from the ground up".[162]
  • The Soup Dragons — The early 70s animation "Clangers" had a character named the Soup Dragon, who would harvest Green Soup from a volcano.[163]
  • Spandau Ballet — The name was coined after a close friend of the band, the DJ Robert Elms, saw the words Spandau Ballet written on the wall of a lavatory in a Berlin nightclub; it is a reference to Spandau Prison and the "ballet" refers to the jerky movements that prisoners made when they were hanged.
  • Squirrel Nut Zippers — A peanut and caramel candy from the 1920s.[164]
  • Steeleye Span — John "Steeleye" Span is a character in the song "Horkstow Grange"
  • Steely Dan — A dildo in the novel Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.[165]
  • Stone Sour — A cocktail made up of one part whiskey and a splash of orange juice. The group describe their music as one part pure rock adrenaline with a splash of melody.
  • Stryper — Originally derived from the King James Version of Isaiah 53:5, drummer Robert Sweet created the acronym: Salvation Through Redemption, Yielding Peace, Encouragement, and Righteousness.[166]
  • Sum 41 — The band started 41 days into the summer.[167] The band was originally a NOFX cover band named Kaspir; they changed their name to Sum 41 for a Supernova show on September 28, 1996.[167][168]
  • System of a Down — Derived from a poem written by the guitarist Daron Malakian, named 'Victims of a Down', which was changed to System of a Down to place them closer alphabetically to their idols Slayer.[169]

T[edit]

  • Taking Back Sunday — A song by Long Island band The Waiting Process who were inspired by their grandmother, Tina, that they should take back Sunday from the Christian people in Long Island.[170]
  • Talking Heads — Bassist Tina Weymouth explained that "A friend had found the name in the TV Guide, which explained the term used by TV studios to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking as 'all content, no action.' It fit."[171]
  • Tangerine Dream — Edgar Froese in an interview in Let It Rock magazine claimed they named them selves 'after the Beatles line in the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'. Clearly, with English not being his first language, he misheard 'Tangerine Trees' as 'Tangerine Dreams', making them the only band to have named themselves after a misheard Beatles lyric.
  • Tears for Fears — comes from a line in the book Prisoners of Pain by American psychologist Arthur Janov. It is worth noting that a lot of the band's early material is influenced by Janov's writings.
  • Thee Michelle Gun Elephant — A friend of the band mispronounced the name of The Damned's album Machine Gun Etiquette.[172]
  • Therapy? — The band chose the name because it was a simple word that everyone knows. The reason for the question mark at the end of the name was because when lead singer and guitarist, Andy Cairns was writing out the spines for the cassettes to send off to the record companies, he began writing too far to the left, so to centre the writing and make it look more professional, he added a question mark to the end and it stuck with the band.[173]
  • They Might Be Giants — The name of a 1971 film, in which George C. Scott plays a man who believes he is Sherlock Holmes. The film's title is in turn a reference to the literary character Don Quixote, who mistook windmills for giants. The name had previously been used by a ventriloquist friend of the band.[174]
  • Thirty Seconds To Mars — The name of the band came after a thesis of an ex-professor of Harvard. One of the sub-sections was titled as "Thirty Seconds To Mars" and talks about the technological advance that connects with humans and it said that we were literally 30 seconds from Mars. The band on their origins said that that phrase describe their music in a nutshell.[175]
  • Three Dog Night — From The Three Dog Night Story, 1964–1975 states that vocalist Danny Hutton's then-girlfriend June Fairchild suggested the name after reading a magazine article about indigenous Australians, in which it was explained that on cold nights they would customarily sleep in a hole in the ground whilst embracing a dingo, a native species of wild dog. On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs and if the night were freezing, it was a "three dog night".
  • Thompson Twins — From Thomson and Thompson, the bumbling detectives in Hergé's comic strip series The Adventures of Tintin.[176]
  • Toad the Wet Sprocket — From a fictional band mentioned in a Monty Python sketch called "Rock Notes." A journalist reports that "Rex Stardust, lead electric triangle with Toad the Wet Sprocket, has had to have a elbow removed following their recent successful worldwide tour of Finland."[177]
  • Tokio Hotel — After "Tokio", the German spelling of the Japanese city Tokyo, due to the band's love of the city, and "Hotel" due to their constant touring and living in hotels.[178]
  • Toto — In the early 1980s, band members told the press that the band was named after the dog in The Wizard of Oz.[179]
  • Two Door Cinema Club — Came about after band member Sam Halliday mispronounced the name of the local cinema, Tudor Cinema, and this stuck.[180]

U[edit]

  • UB40 — The UK government's form number for the Unemployment Benefit Attendance Card, as shown on the band's debut album Signing Off.
  • Undercover Slut — After the X-rated Wendy Whitebread, Undercover Slut comic book from 1990.
  • Uriah Heep — Creepy character from the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.
  • U2Bono once said that the band name came from its interactivity with the audience...as in "you too."[108] U2 also is the name of the famous spy plane. It is also the name of the subway line that connected East and West Berlin - the line on which Zoo Station (also the name of a song on the album "Achtung Baby") is found.

V[edit]

W[edit]

  • Weezer — Lead vocalist Rivers Cuomo needed to come up with a name when the band received a big break to open for Keanu Reeves' band Dogstar in 1992. Cuomo quickly nominated Weezer, a nickname given to him when he was a kid by other children who were teasing him about his asthma. Afterwards, the band had a long meeting and kicked around many more names, but nobody could come up with anything better.
  • The Who — Were originally called The Detours, then changed their name to The Who after a suggestion by Townshend's friend Richard Barnes. Their first manager, Pete Meaden, renamed them The High Numbers, and they released one unsuccessful single, Zoot Suit, under that name. When EMI dropped them, the band sacked Pete Meaden and went back to being called The Who. Another possible reason was because of Pete Townshend's grandmother, who would always refer to popular bands as "The Who?", due to her impaired hearing.[184]
  • Widespread Panic — Due to anxiety problems, lead guitarist Mike Houser used to have the nickname "Panic". One day he came home and announced that he didn't want to be just "Panic", he wanted to be "Widespread Panic".[185]
  • Wilco — After the CB radio voice procedure for "Will Comply",[186] a choice which Tweedy has called "fairly ironic for a rock band to name themselves."[187]
  • Wild Beasts — The band took their name the early 20th century art movement Fauvism (meaning 'wild beasts' in English), pioneered in France by Henri Matisse and André Derain. The band had originally formed under the name 'Fauve' before changing it to the English translation.
  • Wu-Tang ClanRZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard adopted the name for the rap group after seeing the Kung fu film Shaolin and Wu Tang, which features a school of warriors trained in Wu-Tang style.[188]

X[edit]

Y[edit]

  • The Yardbirds — Grew out of Keith Relf's The Metropolitan Blues Quartet. When the band changed members in 1963 Relf changed the name to Yardbirds partly from the nickname of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, "Bird", and partly from the American slang for prisoner.[190]
  • Yo La Tengo — The name is a reference to a story about the 1962 US Major League Baseball expansion team, the New York Mets. Normally when two players chase the same batted fly ball, one yells "I've Got It" and the other then retreats to avoid a collision. But infielder Elio Chacon didn't understand the English term, he and outfielder Richie Ashburn collided a few times while chasing fly balls. Another teammate suggested that Ashburn yell the words in Spanish instead so Chacon would understand. The Spanish for "I've Got It" is "Yo La Tengo." After that Ashburn and Chacon no longer ran into each other. But another teammate, Frank Thomas, didn't understand the Spanish term. So one day while chasing a fly ball, despite hearing Ashburn call out "Yo La Tengo", Howard ran into Ashburn.[191]
  • Yes (band)

Z[edit]

  • Zox — From the last name of drummer John Zox.[192]
  • Zao — Original vocalist Eric Reeder came up with this name meaning "alive" in Greek.[193]
  • ZZ Top — Billy Gibbons wrote in his autobiography "Billy F Gibbons: Rock + Roll Gearhead" that he used to live in an apartment decorated with several concert posters and flyers, including Z.Z. Hill and B.B. King. After playing around with names like Z.Z. King and B.B. Hill he ended up with ZZ Top.

See also[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Dolgins, Adam (1998). Rock Names: From Abba to ZZ Top: How Rock Bands Got Their Names. Cidermill Books. ISBN 978-0-8065-2046-9.
  • Wilson, Dave (2005). Rock Formations: Categorical Answers to How Band Names Were Formed. Carol Pub. Group. ISBN 978-0-9748483-5-8.