mercredi, mars 21, 2007

Crazy Band Names

And you will know them by ... their crazy names bands have adopted -some bizarre, funny, horrible monikers.


What's really in a band's name?

Recognition. Laughs. Scorn. Repulsion. A reaction.

A band just wants notice. And its name can make for a powerful first impression -- good or bad.

"It's tough enough to get signed these days, and some bands do it on one awesome hit song and a mediocre-to-lousy name," says former Live 105 and current KOIT-FM morning DJ Lisa Carr-Daley. "See EMF now selling Kraft 'Crumbelievable' cheese."

EMF, a British dance-pop band best known for the single "Unbelievable," claimed its moniker officially stood for Epsom Mad Funkers, but most assumed it stood for something dirtier.

"I think a good band name is essential for longevity," says Carr-Daley. "A name like Vomit Launch or Sandy Duncan's Eye may get you some attention and a little ink at first, but I guarantee you won't be around in five years, much less 10 or 20."

Yes, it's a big decision for some. To others, it's as simple as picking up a dictionary.

"I don't think it matters too much, unless it's horribly offensive," says Ryan Smith, who does publicity for Slim's. "But then again, I do get a good laugh whenever I see Cattle Decapitation is back on our schedule."

Researching the origins of band names -- and the chronicling of rock music lore can be notoriously unreliable -- yields stories that range from the mysterious (Mars Volta, based in part on a term used by Federico Fellini in a book he wrote on film) to the simple (Kansas, because, you know, they live there). Some pay tribute to songs (the Rolling Stones, after Muddy Waters' "Rollin' Stone") or musicians (Pink Floyd, after blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council).

Some names just fall together. Guns N' Roses was named after the previous bands of founders Traci Guns (L.A. Guns), and Axl Rose (Hollywood Rose). Motley Crue was set to name itself "Christmas" when they heard a passerby describe them as a ... you guessed it. The Replacements were originally the Impediments, but changed when their drunken, rowdy behavior on stage got them banned from local clubs.

Opening the dictionary was like striking gold for Incubus. Turns out incubus is the name of a mythological demon that seduces women while they sleep to spawn more incubi.

How rock is that?

Some great bands become famous in spite of uninspired names (the Beatles and Beach Boys come to mind). One of the great names, Led Zeppelin, came about, ironically, when Who drummer Keith Moon joked that the group would go over "like a lead zeppelin."

Others border on the macabre. Well-dressed and highly groomed English '80s band Spandau Ballet reportedly used a reference to the spasms of executed Nazi war criminals at Spandau Prison. Then there's provocative choices, like the new disco faves Scissor Sisters, who named themselves after a lesbian sex position. And could any name have offended Middle America more than East Bay punk favorites the Dead Kennedys?

Adam Dolgins' 1998 book "Rock Names From ABBA to ZZ Top," will tell you that Chaka Kahn's old band Rufus simply named itself after the "Ask Rufus" column in the very unfunky magazine Popular Mechanics. The Foo Fighters were named after supposed aliens spied by military pilots during World War II. The Talking Heads were inspired by both television newscasters and circus and carnival acts that had "talking heads." Whatever that means.

Some lucky musicians have even been in more than one of these bands. Bad Religion guitarist Brian Baker may hold the record, for membership in bands with great names, including Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, and the Meatmen. Contrastly, various members of Jefferson Airplane have gone on to be in some of the worst named bands of all time (Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship, Starship).

Enough history and perspective. Let's skip the hors d'oeuvres and get right to the Meat (Puppets) of it all.

The fitting

• Metallica: As if this needs an explanation.

• The Supremes: And they were.

• Manic Street Preachers: Manic socialists who did plenty of preaching.

• Black Sabbath: The kings of doom. No name has better fit a band.

• The Clash: When they ran out of topics with which to clash, they clashed with each other.

• Bad Religion: And you thought that cross with the red line through was just a cute logo.

• Was (Not Was): Don Was couldn't make up his mind.

• Black Flag: You know, we're punks. We're flag-waving anarchists. Then we do movies with Charlie Sheen.

• Queen: Safe to say, not Tim Hardaway's favorite band.

The amusing

• Mr. T Experience: Even when listening to their fine music, I can't get the Mr. T line from "Rocky III" out of my head. "My prediction? Pain ..."

• Eagles of Death Metal: Unlike the other Eagles, they promise no lame comeback tours at $135 a pop.

• Alien Sex Fiend: The name that horrified so many alien parents.

• Limbomaniacs: Obviously they were musically flexible.

• Pop Will Eat Itself: And it has.

• The Flying Burrito Brothers: A name that could've only been born at
midnight on a Saturday in the parking lot of some greasy restaurant.

• Queens of the Stone Age: Named after an insult about them.

• Space Monkey: Peter Tork, astronaut.

• Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash: There are more of us than you know.

• She Wants Revenge: Don't they all?

• The Flaming Lips: Why even speculate?

• The Jesus Lizard: In case there is a hell, let's reserve comment.

Somebody, somewhere, is offended

• The Dead Kennedys: One of the few names that got your attention like a good slap in the face.

• Brian Jonestown Massacre: This would be another one.

• John Cougar Concentration Camp: One more.

• Circle Jerks: Wordplay can be challenging.

• Cannibal Corpse: Wouldn't that mean they'd just been eaten?

• Suicidal Tendencies: Underrated name, underrated band.

• W.A.S.P (We Are Sexual Perverts): Let's assume it's accurate.

• Scissor Sisters: No, it's your job to explain this to your kids.

• Dead Milkmen: Surprisingly, the Milkmen's union never said a word.

• N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude): And they did.

• Butthole Surfers. Don't even think about it. No, really.

• The Sex Pistols: And they never earned an audience with the Queen.

• Jesus and Mary Chain: Almost as rowdy -- and offensive -- as the Sex Pistols.

• Steely Dan: Look it up.

• 10CC: Same here.

• The Slits: No chance.

Just plain bad

• Hot Tuna: Band names should not make one gag.

• Fountains of Wayne: Shut up.

• Jefferson Airplane: It just went downhill from here.

• Jefferson Starship: See?

• Starship: Yes, you sense a pattern.

• Lovin' Spoonful: Even with what the urban legend suggests, it's still bad.

• Limp Bizkit: Please go away.

• Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark: By the time you said it, they were gone.

• Procol Harum: Naming the band after a cat was dumb.

• The Strawberry Alarm Clock: Evidence that drugs aren't always so inspiring.

• Bananarama: Sounds like something cooked up on Sesame Street.

• Stryper: Then they went and dressed like it.

• Spanky and Our Gang: Please.

• Moby Grape: Again, drugs not always so great.

• Chumbawamba: Stupid Wupid.

• Jesus Jones: Played tight end for Notre Dame.

• Jethro Tull: Jethro Bodine would've been better.

• The The: Just too deep for some of us. Or not.

• The Soup Dragons: Drugs in the '80s weren't any better.

• Three Dog Night: One dumb name.

• Timbuk 3: Not so cute.

• The Troggs: Sounds like something you cough up.

• Wang Chung: Wang Dumb.

• Flock of Seagulls: Now if you're talking about bands with great hair ...

• Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: Bands should never call themselves "Nitty."

• Styx: You're not allowed to invoke mythology if you're not metal. Or Tori Amos.

• Pablo Cruise: Wasn't this Freddie Mercury's alias when he traveled abroad?

Just plain great

• Smashing Pumpkins: So great on so many levels.

• Led Zeppelin: A mighty band. A mighty name.

• Minor Threat: A sneaky good name.

• Guided by Voices: So many could relate to this band before hearing a note.

• Twisted Sister: One of the few '80s metal bands with a great name.

• ... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead: Extremely weird and scary.

• The Who: One of the first truly great band names.

• Social Distortion: Sounds like a band whose name you want on a T-shirt.

• The Jam: Pretty self-explanatory.

• Dag Nasty: Not very self-explanatory. But it sounds cool.

• Alice in Chains: So much packed into four syllables.

• Mott the Hoople: I don't get it and it's still funny.

• Jimmy Eat World: As children, a band member's brother made fun of his fat brother with a drawing of him eating the entire planet.

• Jane's Addiction: This was so dark and edgy as to be impossible to ignore.

• I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness: I'm going to try this line someday.

• Bikini Kill: Russ Meyer should've been the singer.

• Megadeth: It doesn't get heavier than a military term meaning one million deaths. Made for some great T-shirts.

• Devo: This is what happens when smart college guys name a band.

• Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy: Didn't you call your dad this once, just to confuse him?

• Iron Maiden: The template for all threatening heavy metal merchandise.

• 10,000 Maniacs: Ever been near the end zone of a Raiders game?

• George Thorogood and the Destroyers: You better live up to it onstage.

• The Stooges: Your standard, great self-deprecating rock band name.

• Joy Division: Originally inspired by a name for a Nazi brothel during World War II.

• Cheap Trick: Sneers at you from the album cover.

• Spinal Tap: If this needs explanation, there's a film you need to go rent. Quick.

• UFO: A great basis for album covers and merchandise.

• The Killers: Threatening names just work, whether the band lives up to them or not.

• Soundgarden: Such a big, open-ended name fitting the band perfectly.

• They Might Be Giants: There's a bad baseball joke in here. Yet I refrain.

• Veruca Salt: If you've seen "Willy Wonka," there's no way you don't react.

• The Replacements: A ragged, underdog-ish name for a band with the same glorious qualities.

• The Presidents of the United States of America: It doesn't get much more important than that.

• Barenaked Ladies: Another attention-grabber.

• Mookie Blaylock: Later Pearl Jam, which still had nothing to do with the band, other than they loved NBA basketball players.

• Meat Puppets: Meat is the single greatest word in the English language ... that you can print in a family newspaper.

• Sonic Youth: So evocative, and so accurate -- at least two decades ago.

• De La Soul: Just a cool way of saying it.

• Soul Asylum: Kind of warm and fuzzy, but a good name for this band.

• The Ramones: Legend says they stole Paul McCartney's traveling pseudonym. Using it for the whole band name was genius.

• Death Cab for Cutie: Always a bright idea to work the words "Death" and "Cutie" into the same name.

Tony Hicks is the Times pop culture and music critic.