As Juliet once said in Romeo and Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a Jet, by any other word would rock as sweetly.”
It’s true that if a band is good enough, their band name doesn’t matter a great deal. Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Depeche Mode, and Kajagoogoo proved this without a doubt during the ’80s. But some bands’ first attempt at a name were so terrible that I am convinced they wouldn’t have achieved a modicum of success had they not changed their monikers to those with with we now know them. Such as…
Radiohead named themselves after a Talking Heads song, which isn’t surprising given both bands’ penchant for experimental art rock that manages to fly so close to wankery without ever jizzing, so to speak.* The band formed in high school and gave themselves the very high school name ‘On A Friday’. Another reason this band perhaps might not have succeeded without making some substantial changes was that they use to have a saxophone player called ‘Raz’ in place of guitar wizard Jonny Greenwood. Karmic Police, get in here!
At this stage, it’s safe to suggest that Pearl Jam are one of the most successful rock bands of all time, despite completely destroying the genre by way of copycat acts such as Live, Three Doors Down, Nickelback, Lifehouse and countless others who believe a cartoonish growl should be the main linchpin of a band’s sound. Pearl Jam are purportedly named after Eddie’s grandmother Pearl who was famed in her community for her jam. The band’s first name was decidedly less cool though: Mookie Blaylock – named after a man who played 13 years in the NBA, and who later killed someone in a car accident after suffering a alcohol-related seizure while driving. He once blocked Michael Jordan, though.