I know it’s really crossed the line into the mundane but I started thinking about band names this morning.
I would think that for as challenging as it must be to PUT a band together, and keep it together for any length of time, it must be equally as challenging to come with a cool name for your band.
The name has to be short and memorable and ideally it’s gotta give listeners a notion of what your music sounds like.
It should be a fun name, but not too fun otherwise no one will take you seriously.
And it’s okay if it’s an edgy name, but it can’t be too edgy. Otherwise you’ll just end up with like 6 nerdy goth kids listening to your band and no one wants that.
And, of course, it’s got to sound contemporary but not too contemporary because it’s gotta be timeless just in case you and your buddies end up being as big as the Beatles, or whatever.
See what I mean? It’s challenging.
Just in terms of the names themselves, here are some bands who I think did a great job coming up with a name: The Pretenders, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, The Heartbreakers, The Kinks, U2, Jefferson Airplane, and Dire Straits.
None of them are overly adventurous or anything but they work well within the short/memorable/fun/edgy matrix and they sorta give you an idea of what the band sounds like musically.
By contrast, here’s a group of band names that always makes me think, ‘How about using a bit of imagination here, fellas..”: Yes, Free, Heart, Chicago, The Cars, the Who and The Band.
I know “less is more” but c’mon, at least make it look like you TRIED to come up with an interesting name.
Here are some bands who’ve made some great music but only get a solid B in the band name department as far as I’m concerned: Doobie Brothers, Electric Light Orchestra, The Police, Eagles, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Yeah, I know Skynyrd named themselves after their high school gym teacher. Clever. Do you remember your high school gym teacher?
I do. And I think we can all agree that’s no way to name a band.
I can admire a band who goes out on a limb and tries to come up with a quirky band name and here are a few that manage to work pretty well: Talking Heads, Creedence Clearwater Revival, REM, Psychedelic Furs, Pink Floyd and Buffalo Springfield which was so named after a piece of road equipment the band saw in their travels.
See, now that’s clever. And it doesn’t conjure up images of high school P.E. class.
At least for me, here are some quirky band names that work less well:
10. Goo Goo Dolls– it’s either a baby with mushed up carrots all over its face or one of those ugly prizes you win at the state fair.
9. Blue Oyster Cult– sounds like a compound in Waco.
8. Jethro Tull– Wasn’t he Ellie Mae’s cousin on the Beverly Hillbilles?
7. Travelling Wilburys– Sounds dirty.
6. Steely Dan– IS Dirty.
5. Sniff N’ The Tears– Sounds like a bad ventriloquist act.
4. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band– Too much time spent watching the old TV Show Lost In Space.
3. Fleetwood Mac– Does it come with a sesame seed bun?
2. Supertramp– Is it a Disney movie or a lady who’s been walking the streets for way too long?
And granted, if you asked me 10 times what I considered the worst band name of all time you’d probably get a different answer at least 8 of those times but at least for today my award goes to the awkwardly named: Mott The Hoople
Both parts together “Mott The Hoople” remind me of a character name from that old TV show HR Puffenstuff. Bad acid trip 70s TV, second only to Land of the Lost.
And if you separate the names the Mott part reminds me of applesauce and Hoople makes me think of Mr. Whipple, the “Don’t squeeze the charmin” guy from those old TV commercials.
Applesauce, toilet paper, and HR Puffenstuff aren’t exactly the hallmarks of rock n roll.
But fortunately, history judges a band by the music it makes and not by its name.
Of course, in the case of Mott the Hoople you could make the argument that most of their non-David Bowie written songs weren’t all that applesauce-awesome either.
But to be fair, when you think about it, The Beatles isn’t really that great of a band name either but it didn’t seem to hurt them any.