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What’s in a name? Origins of British band names (19 Photos)
Britain has produced some of the greatest bands the world has ever seen. So how do the bands come up with their iconic names? In often bizarre and interesting ways it turns out.
Check out some of the biggest (and weirdest) below.
Originally the New Yardbirds, West Bromwich based legends Led Zeppelin got there name from a conversation between The Who drummer Keith Moon, original bassist John Entwhistle and the then New Yardbirds tour manager Richard Cole in which they discussed forming a band made up of parts of The Who and the New Yardbirds. Supposedly, Keith Moon said the new band ‘would go down like a lead ballon’.
The misspelling of Led was so that ‘thick Americans’ wouldn’t mispronounce it ‘leed’.
Jimmy Page’s words, not mine…
Born David Robert Jones, he changed his name to Bowie after the hunting knife frequently referred to in American films and thus to avoid confusion with The Monkees’ Davy Jones
The Robert Smith led group performed as Obelisk, Goat Band and Malice, before becoming Easy Cure in 1977, after one of their songs. After original guitarist Porl Thompson left, it was changed to The Cure as they felt ‘The Easy Cure’ sounded too “American and hippyish”.
Formed at the prestigious Charterhouse School, Genesis was originally two bands called the Garden Wall and the Anon. Charterhouse Alumnus and record producer signed them to Decca records in 1967 and as it was one of the first bands he signed, he called them Genesis. Great imagination.
The Manchester based band started off as the Stiff Kittens then to Warsaw after a David Bowie song. The final name Joy Division came from a book called House of Dolls, in which the ‘joy division’ was a group of prostitutes and prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp who were kept alive to service the guards.
The Birmingham lads were unemployed at the time so named themselves after the British unemployment-benefit card. Simples.
The name “Muse” was supposedly inspired by lead singer Matthew Bellamy’s art teacher. As in ‘creative muse. The band also liked that it was short and thought that it looked good on a poster.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Liverpool’s camp rockers took their name from a newspaper headline about a young Frank Sinatra’s film plans.
The Bay City Rollers
The Scottish band wanted an American sounding name. So manager Tam Paton (Tam?! Now that’s Scottish!) simply stuck a pin in a map of the United States and landed on Bay city, Michigan.
In retrospect this name seems fairly on the nose but, while aware of the gay connotations, Freddie Mercury chose it for its strong sound and universal appeal.
The Greatest Band of All Time went through quite a few names changes before settling on their famous (and, quite frankly, terribly punny) name. The Quarry Men, Johnny and Moondogs and then the Silver Beatles were all used before 1959.
They were big fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and the the idea of Crickets had a nice double meaning but would be beyond American audiences.
They settled on the somewhat similar Beatles but often made up more amusing stories about its origins such a man on a flying carpet coming to their window and telling them the name. Nice.
The band’s bassist Paul Simnonon was looking through the Evening Standard and noticed the word ‘clash’ came up a lot. So they picked it.
Other names considered were the Outsiders, the Mirrors and Psycho Negatives.
Originally called Earth and playing far more serene music, they changed their name to Black Sabbath after a song by
drummer bassist (im so sorry guys- the Gods of Metal will punish me) Terry ‘Geezer’ Butler inspired by an occult thriller by novelist Denis Wheatley.
Vocalist David Gahan was studying fashion at Southend Technical College (now South Essex College) and saw a French fashion magazine called Depeche Mode (meaning ‘fast fashion’). He recommended the name to the band and it stuck.
Formed in London in 1965, then vocalist and guitarist Syd Barrett named them the Pink Floyd Sound after two legendary bluesman, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. They later shortened it to Pink Floyd.
Singer Joe Elliott, while at art school, used to make posters for fictional bands including one called Deaf Leopard. When the band was in Elliott’s room, bassist Rick Savage saw the poster and recommended it. The changed it to Def Leppard to make it seem less punky.
Ageless heavy metal rockers were named after a fictional torture device referred to in Alexandre Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask.
Not as big as some of the other bands on this list,”The Whiter Shade of Pale’ penners were named after a friend’s cat. And by friend I mean their drug dealer. Brilliant.