I was shooting the breeze with a colleague the other day and the conversation turned to band names. I think it was prompted by a comment that ‘My Morning Jacket’ is probably the worst band name in history.
This got us cogitating about the power of a name. A name is pretty important right? Something you will potentially have to live with forever.
Now, most bands, even the greats, have rubbish names. Many of them may have weaved some incredible folklore around the origin of their name (see below), but the names themselves, well, what about ‘Limp Bizkit’ or ‘Prefab Sprout’ for example.
Coming up with a cool name isn’t easy. In fact, even if you come up with the best band name ever, but your music sucks, then the name is sadly irrelevant. Paradoxically, a great band can call itself pretty much anything it wants. Having said that, when you’re starting out, the name seems massively important. This is your chance to make headlines, to sum up the mood of a generation, to imprint your band’s name on the collective minds of millions of record-buying fans. So where do you start?
I’ve been in bands with names that have ticked every box from ‘so cool it almost hurts’: Deeptank; to ‘so bad it really does hurt’: Psycophagus.
Many bands have some great stories behind their names, often more than one version. How many of these stories have any foundation in reality, is anyone’s guess, but here are a few I particularly like.
An acronym for ‘Boys Entering Anarchistic States Toward Internal Excellence’. Alternatively, in a booklet that came with their album, The Sounds of Science, the band said that they simply wanted a stupid sounding name that was a bit like American punk band, Angry Samoans.
Apparently, one of the band members had a dream, wherein a public toilet had ‘Chumba’ and ‘Wamba’ on the doors instead of ‘Men’ and ‘Women’. Another story says that the band is named after a slang term for the roll of fat on the back of a bald man’s head. Both stories are so much better than the official line: ‘Chumbawamba doesn’t mean anything… We just wanted a name that wouldn’t date.’ Guess what, it dated!
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL
One story goes that the name is taken from an ad for a clothing store that would sell you ‘Everything but the Girl’. However, I much prefer the version I was told; a record company exec heard the band’s demo tape and wanted to sign them. Unfortunately he liked ‘Everything but the girl’.
Now here’s my favourite:
The simple story is that the band was named after a Talking Heads song called, strangely enough, ‘Radio Head’. But the alternative theory is so much better. One of the band members’ mothers had brain surgery as a child and the surgeon had to put a metal plate in her head. In later life, the plate interfered with radio signals, so she earned the nickname ‘Radiohead’. And the rest is history. Probably.
A trawl of a few geeky blog sites unearths a variety of ‘The best band names ever’. Of course, everyone will have a totally different list, but here is my personal top 5:
1) The The
2) Pop will eat itself
4) Public Enemy
5) The Skints
I‘d love to hear yours. Maybe between us we can compile
‘The Ultimate, Not to be Argued With, Definitive Bestest Ever Band Names in the World Ever List’.