Behind the Name
Band names are almost impossibly hard to choose — they should be easy to say but not forgettable, original but not obscure, catchy but not too commercial.
So just how does one go about picking that perfect moniker? Sometimes there’s a sentimental backstory or inspiration strikes when least expected. Other times, it can be as random as pulling names out of a hat. Here are how 5 of rock’s biggest bands got their names.
Death Cab for Cutie
Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard named the band after a song of the same title. Written by Monty Python associate Neil Innes and musician/satirist Vivian Stanshall, it was performed by their group Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band — another doozy of a name — and appeared on their 1967 album Gorilla. But it most famously popped up in the Beatles TV film, Magical Mystery Tour. 30 years later, it became the name of one of alt-rock’s most famous bands. But as Gibbard stated in a 2011 interview, “The name was never supposed to be something that someone was going to reference 15 years on. So yeah, I would absolutely go back and give it a more obvious name.”
Bonzo Doo-Dah Dog Band
Speaking of Bonzo Doo-Dah Dog Band, the Brit group were quite artsy in their name-choosing approach. Using a Dadaist cut-up technique (the same Radiohead used during their Kid A period), it involves writing words or phrases on paper, tearing the paper into strips and then randomly picking to form new phrases. Thus, the tongue-twister name was born, with “Bonzo” coming from the British cartoon Bonzo the Dog, and “Doo-Dah” being a play on “Dada.”
There really is no better name for a metal band than Black Sabbath. But let’s go back to the beginning. They formed in 1968 as a blues/rock group called Polka Tulk Blues Band, switched out some members and changed their name to Earth, broke up and then reformed. It wasn’t until 1969, when the band watched Italian horror film Black Sabbath, that they realized it would make the perfect name to match the creepy occult themes they so famously pioneered.
The Rolling Stones
Blues is what brought The Rolling Stones together and blues is how they got their name. The story goes that in 1962, Brian Jones was on a phone call with Jazz News, who asked him the name of his new group. Jones spotted a Muddy Waters record and noticed the track “Rollin’ Stone” — the rest is history.
Eagles of Death Metal
Although it’s right in the name, the band is in fact, not a death metal group. According to legend (or a few interviews), founders Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme were in a bar watching a guy rock out to the song “Wind of Change” by the Scorpions. When asked what he was doing, the man yelled, “This is death metal, dude!” Homme replied, “No it’s not. This is like the Eagles of death metal.” Cue that “aha” moment and a band name was born. Not only is it memorable, the ridiculousness of it holds true to the rock duo’s cheeky spirit.