There are some strange band names out there. But they don’t come close to the odd ones some bands started with. Take Elastica, for example. The band originally called themselves Onk (fortunately they changed it, as it sounds like a pig snorting) and Vaseline (but they had to change it when The Vaselines threatened them legally). So in 1993, they became Elastica.
Radiohead: The founding members met while attending an all-boys school in Abingdon. In 1985, they formed On A Friday (as they usually reheased in the school’s music room on a Friday). But when they signed a six-album deal with EMI in 1991, they were asked by the label to change their name. Radiohead came from the title of a song on the Talking Heads’ album ‘True Stories’.
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The Beatles: Much like their initial struggle to find a permanent drummer, the moptops couldn’t decide on a name. From The Beetles to The Beatals to Johnny And The Moondogs to Long John And The Beetles to The Quarrymen to The Silver Beatles, they finally settled on The Beatles in August 1960.
Red Hot Chili Peppers:
Red Hot Chili Peppers: And you thought this name was a mouthful. They were originally called Tony Flow And The Miraculously Majestic Masters Of Mayhem. Surely RHCP is better than TFATMMMOM? The name swap occurred in ’83 when they started getting record label attention and signed to EMI.
Black Sabbath: When they first formed, they called themselves The Polka Tulk Blues Band (after a brand of talcum powder Ozzy spotted in his mum’s bathroom). This eventually got shortened to Polka Tulk, then switched to Earth (which Ozzy apparently hated). When they realised there was another band called Earth, they went for Black Sabbath (inspired by the 1963 horror film of the same name).
Muse: Talk about being indecisive. They went from Gothic Plague to Fixed Penalty to Rocket Baby Dolls (the latter being used to compete in a battle of the bands, which they won). Once the band started taking themselves more seriously, they renamed themselves Muse (inspired by Bellamy’s art teacher). The guys also apparently thought it would look good on a poster.
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The Who: The Detour became The Who in February 1964. However, during summer 1964, the name was changed to The High Numbers, while the band were being managed by Peter Meaden. When their single ‘Zoot Suit/I’m The Face’ didn’t make it onto the charts, they changed their name back to The Who, got a new management team, and became successful mod legends.
Friendly Fires: It all started at such a young age. When the members were 14 and attending St. Albans School, they formed their very first band – a post-hardcore act called First Day Back. When they parted ways for uni, frontman Ed Macfarlane went solo, but upon graduation, they reformed as Friendly Fires. Musical soul mates, if you will.
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Bloc Party: After being called Union, Superheroes Of BMX, The Angel Range and Diet, they eventually settled on Bloc Party in 2003. The name is inspired by the block parties of the US, with the ‘k’ removed to add an Eastern European connotation. They just thought the name looked and sounded cool.
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Queen: When you think about it, could you imagine Freddie Mercury fronting a band called Smile? That’s what they were called originally. But with his flamboyant showmanship, the regal elegance of Queen is quite fitting. Mercury also designed the band’s logo, which combines all four members’ zodiac signs.
Slipknot: They performed their first live show in December ’95 under the pseudonym Meld. Then one night, that same year, a few of the members were visiting Joey Jordinson at the petrol station he worked at. Jordinson suggested the name swap to Slipknot, after their song of the same name.
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Klaxons: This trio first called themselves Klaxons (Not Centaurs), which was lifted from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s ‘The Futurist Manifesto’. Around 2007, they decided to shorten their moniker to Klaxons. But let there be no confusion, we’re pretty sure they still aren’t centaurs.
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Pink Floyd: They’ve been called Sigma 6, The Meggadeaths, The (Screaming) Abdabs (or Architectural Abdabs), Leonard’s Lodgers, The Spectrum Five and The Tea Set. Syd Barrett came up with “The Pink Floyd Sound”, when he found out another band called The Tea Set were performing at the same show as they were. The name is a combination of blues acts Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
Pixies: Less of a full on name change and more of a convenient trim, The Pixies were once called Pixies In Panoply. Apparently, Black Francis and Joey Santiago got the original name after looking up “pixie” in the dictionary (and found the medieval meaning, which is an unbaptised dead infant stuck in Limbo).
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Elbow: There’s The Flaming Lips, Beady Eye, Finger Eleven, so why not have a band named after one of your most useful joints? Elbow were once called Mr. Soft, then lost the title and called themselves Soft. Then in ’97, they were inspired by BBC TV drama The Singing Detective , in which character Philip Marlowe says the word “elbow” is the most sensuous word in the English language.
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Van Halen: In 1972, they formed as Mammoth, but found out a band with that name already existed. Apparently David Lee Roth suggested new name Rat Salad, which they passed on, and went with Genesis instead. But that one was already in use, too, so they settled on Van Halen. Shame they didn’t go with that tasty suggestion of Rat Salad.
Oasis: Liam and the boys were originally called The Rain, after a Beatles song called ‘Rain’. Liam got the name Oasis from an Inspiral Carpets tour poster, (listing Swindon venue Oasis Leisure Centre) hanging in his bedroom? He liked that the name had a “resonance of imagery”.
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Snow Patrol: Snow Patrol began their career as Shrug, releasing an EP called ‘Yoghurt vs Yoghurt Debate’. In 1995, they beame Polar Bear to avoid confusion with any other bands called Shrug. But they faced that problem again when Jane’s Addiction’s ex-bassist Eric Avery formed a band with the same name. Apparently a friend of the band came up with Snow Patrol.
Creedence Clearwater Revival:
Creedence Clearwater Revival: CCR began The Blue Velvets, but when they were signed to Fantasy Records, label owner Max Weiss renamed them The Golliwogs (after the children’s literary character Golliwogg). When Saul Zaentz bought the label, he told them to change their name. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the band’s very first suggestion.
Blur: Originally an offshoot from the band Circus, the members then called themselves Seymour (after J.D. Salinger’s ‘Seymour: An Introduction’). In November ’89, A&R guy Andy Ross of Food Records discovered the band, but didn’t like their name. After offering up a list of names to choose from, they decided on Blur.
Pearl Jam: Give or take a few members, the days leading up to Pearl Jam included Green River, Mother Love Bone and Mookie Blaylock (after the basketball player). Due to trademark issues, they renamed themselves Pearl Jam. One story is that Vedder’s great-grandmother Pearl had a recipe for peyote-laced jam. But he’s apparently dismissed that one.
Green Day: When Billie Joe and Mike formed a band in 1987, they called themselves Sweet Children. How sweet, they were only 15. But in 1989, they dropped the name, as there was another local band called Sweet Baby. The name Green Day stems from their love for marijuana.
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U2: When Larry Mullen, Jr. first advertised the band on a school notice board, he referred to it as The Larry Mullen Band. But once Bono joined, they became Feedback. In 1977 they became The Hype, but when Dik Evans left the band, they went through another name change, settling on U2 – which they liked for its ambiguity.
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Coldplay: Pectoralz was their first name (as a sort of side project band). Then when Guy Berryman joined the group, they changed their name to Starfish. Then in 1988, the final name change occurred, and they became Coldplay (a name suggested by a fellow student who once used the name for his band, but was no longer using it).
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Sonic Youth: These guys took a while to settle on a name, calling themselves Male Bonding, Red Milk and The Arcadians. Then by June ’81, they dubbed themselves Sonic Youth. Looks like some people are still holding onto the past though, as there’s a London-based trio now calling themselves Male Bonding.
Joy Division: They were billed as Stiff Kittens for their very first gig, but ended up changing their name to Warsaw (after Bowie’s song ‘Warszawa’) at the last minute. Thinking people might confuse them with punk band Warsaw Pakt, they took on Joy Division (after the prostitution wing in a Nazi concentration camp, from the novel ‘The House Of Dolls’).
Fleet Foxes: This Seattle band was first called Pineapple, but they had to change the name since there was another local band going by Pineapple. Frontman Robin Pecknold told The Independent that Fleet Foxes was “evocative of some weird English activity like fox hunting” – and it definitely fits their sound more than a tropical fruit.
The Beach Boys:
The Beach Boys: The initially called themselves The Pendletones, after the popular woolen shirts they used to wear on stage. The story goes that when their single ‘Surfin” was printed, someone changed the name to The Beach Boys to fit more to the band’s image. Because the small budget kept them from reprinting the singles, the name stuck.
The Doors: There was a band called The Psychedelic Rangers, which sort of attracted all the members. Once in their final lineup, they took on the new name of The Doors (inspired by William Blake’s Poem, ‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell’. The Psychedelic Rangers still sounds cool, though. Someone should nab it.