Any group will tell you the most difficult part of being in a band – other than making no money, being humiliated on stage when your trumpet player goes out of tune or carrying your amp home on the bus – is finding a name. It’s a torturous process, though it needn’t be. The savvy bands and artists below rifled through musical history and took the tried-and-tested method – pilfering a great-sounding song title or lyric from another band and passing it off as their own identity. From Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, inspired by Jefferson Airplane, to Radiohead, named after Talking Heads, here’s some 23 canny acts who borrowed their band name from other artists…
Radiohead named themselves after the Talking Heads song ‘Radio Head’, from the 1986 album 'True Stories'. It’s not necessarily the greatest of names befitting of a band of their considerable might, but it could have been worse; they could have remained called On A Friday.
When asked what his surname was on Celebrity Big Brother a few years ago, Preston said, “no surname, it’s just Preston. Like Madonna”. He could have said “like Morrissey” and sounded slightly less silly. The Pope of Mope is after all his main inspiration, right down to the name of his band - The Ordinary Boys - taken from a Moz track on 'Viva Hate'.
Noel Gallagher named his backing band the High Flying Birds after the track ‘High Flying Bird’ of Jefferson Airplane fame. Gallagher you thieving musical magpie!
Where did Australian rockers Jet get their name from? That’s right, it was Paul McCartney who gave them Wings, with the Aussies looking no further than one of Macca's biggest post-Beatles tracks for their band name upon forming in 2001.
‘Kooks’ is a well-loved David Bowie oddity from his imperious 'Hunky Dory' album, and Luke Pritchard simply added a The prefix that was popular at the time when his band The Kooks formed in East Sussex in 2004.
The only problem with taking your name from a great song is that if you don’t live up to its majesty you look a bit silly. Nobody exemplifies that assertion more than Proud Mary, named after the awesome Ike and Tina Turner classic. Noel Gallagher’s first signing to his label Sour Mash didn’t turn out to be his best.
The Fall are perhaps one of the most influential bands still in existence, having been going somehow since 1976. Mark E Smith’s 1980 track ‘New Puritan’ inspired the name - that’s right, you’re getting the hang of this now - These New Puritans.
Birmingham heavy metal legends Judas Priest took their name from the unlikeliest source, the Bob Dylan song ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest’. Bob was never into heavy vibes, and we suspect he probably isn’t a fan of heavy metal either. Gotta love the Priest though.
It’s almost forgotten now that Starsailor worked with genius production masgtermind-cum-madmen Phil Spector, or that they named themselves after the Tim Buckley song of the same name. It could well be because Starsailor are all but forgotten themselves these days.
Gritty Sheffield glamourpusses ABC were big fans of Motown, as evidenced by their track ‘When Smokey Sings’ about Smokey Robinson and his band the Miracles. It was actually the Jackson 5’s ‘ABC’ that they named themselves after.
The Rolling Stones were so obsessed with Muddy Waters that they stole their name from his tune ‘Rollin’ Stone’. It wasn't all they stole from Muddy, although the media spotlight thrown onto the bluesman and his contemporaries was probably a fair exchange.
Cult 1960s Brit rockers The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s penchant for preposterously long nomenclature didn’t put off Death Cab For Cutie, who - you’ve guessed it - named themselves after the song of the same name.
Ethereal 4AD wonders Blonde Redhead picked their moniker from a fairly obscure source, naming themselves after the 1981 no wave cult favourite ‘Blonde Red Head’ by spiky post-punk rockers DNA. True story.
Motörhead appropriated their name from the Hawkwind song ‘Motorhead’, though to be fair Lemmy did come up with the name when he was the former bass player in Hawkwind. The band had actually booted Lemmy out of the group when he’d got caught with speed by customs officials at the Canadian border in 1975, so it was fair game really.
Awesome Japanese experimentalists Boris thankfully didn’t name themselves after the London Mayor and odds on favourite to replace David Cameron, PM Boris 'BoJo' Johnson. No, their source was much cooler: Seattle noiseniks the Melvins, who had a song of the same name.
It’s remarkable to think Liverpool’s Ladytron formed as long ago as 1999, though the song they named themselves after was an ambient glam classic by Roxy Music from the early seventies. When Bryan and Brian performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1972, they famously upset host “Whispering” Bob Harris by sounding too much like the future.
Funeral For A Friend apparently got their name from a song by emo pioneers Planes Mistaken For Stars, though Elton John also wrote a song with the same name back in 1973. Perhaps Planes Mistaken For Stars took their song name from Elton John’s song name?
You’ll probably not be surprised to learn that underrated 2000s janglers Pretty Girls Make Graves from Seattle named themselves after a song by The Smiths with the very same name.
Also borrowing from the Smiths were Shakespears Sister, who stole the name of Morrissey’s song but dispensed with the “e” and the apostrophe. Morrissey himself borrowed the idea from Virginia Woolf’s magnificent feminist manifesto A Room Of One’s Own.
Goth rockers the Sisters of Mercy couldn’t have sounded much different to brilliant old misery guts Leonard Cohen, but that didn’t stop them borrowing their name from the title of one of his classic songs. A certain darkness pervades the back catalogue of both to be fair.
Osaka’s premier noise band The Boredoms chose their name from an unlikely source, a chipper three minute punk pop number from who else but Pete Shelley and his three minute punk pop legends The Buzzcocks.
Lady Gaga named herself after the Queen song ‘Radio Gaga’, though she didn’t call herself Radio Gaga because she’s not a radio. Although to be fair, nobody in Radiohead has a radio for a head.
New York punks the Dum Dum Girls chose their name from Iggy Pop’s ‘Dum Dum Boys’, though as they were an all girl band it made sense to change the gender. There also is a Dum Dum Boys, though they’re not quite as well known.