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.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
Okay, so we will admit that RHCP succeeded despite their name, not because of it, weaving a three-decade career out of writing songs about sex, California, and having sex in California while listening to slap bass. They have a bassist named Flea. It’s safe to say that names weren’t their strong suit. Still, although it took them until they had released five albums plus a greatest hits collection to achieve any success, it wouldn’t have happened at all had they stuck to their original name: Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.
Question: How do you make Scott Stapp and the lads from Creed even more creepy?
Answer: By knowing they were originally named Naked Toddler. Holy Ewwww!
GOO GOO DOLLS
Goo Goo Dolls had two massive hits in the ’90s, one of which soundtracked a Nic Cage/Meg Ryan film, and basically stole the entirety of ‘Piano Man’ and changed the lyrics (sing either song over the other and tell me this isn’t true); the other which was an FM-friendly pop tune about abortion, named ‘Slide’. Neither of these would have gotten a chance to be back-announced on WS-FM should the DJ have had to say, “Yeeees, and that was a lovely tune by The Sex Maggots. Up next, find out how to win a station pack, including a sticker, a tote bag, and an icy cold can of Coke.”
The Princes of darkness might not have been quite so feared, Ozzy would not have gotten away with years of heavy living and bat-biting, and the band would not have been cited as the progenitors of heavy metal, had they stuck to their original name: The Polka Tulk Blues Band. Then again, it does sound a little like Jethro Tull, who are legit. named after an 18th century agriculturist who invented the horse-drawn seed drill – so who knows?
These British rockers were originally named Atomic Mass, and… actually, scratch that, this name rules. Bags!!