Greetings, everyone! Happy weekend – I hope you guys are doing well and having a wonderful “no-work-for-two-days” time!
For this Saturday’s publication I really wanted to prepare something informative and interesting for my readers. Then, I came up with an idea which hopefully will clear things up for some of you or reaffirm the knowledge of others. Nevertheless, it always feels quite amusing to go back to the beginning of the story of our favorite rock bands and understand how they came up with their music, lyrics, style and unique approach that was able to differentiate them among the numerous other artists in the industry. One of those special and extremely essential aspects of any rock band is of course… their name! Needless to say, in any given situation, whether it’s a company, a product, a person, a street, a city, a rock band…we define, refer, recognize and remember through names.
Some bands have indeed rather peculiar and extraordinary names which clearly identify their music, genre, characteristics and expression. With the following publication, I am going to reveal the origin of their names and try to explain why they chose to call themselves like that. I am sure that many devoted rock fans are quite familiar with the stories behind the names; however there might be people out there who are not so sure and would like to know.
We love and listen to the music of bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Guns N’ Roses, The Ramones and we can’t stop repeating their names. Now, it’s time to find out how they came with them… I chose ten classic, old-school rock bands which I believe have some of the most interesting and memorable names in the history of rock music. Forgive me for the rather peculiar mixture, however those bands do have a lot in common…and it starts with having very cool names!
Let’s start with the fab five! The story begun in 1957, when young John Lennon assembled his skiffle group, first calling it the Black Jacks and eventually changing it into the Quarry Men. Throughout the years, they had a few name changes, such as Johnny and the Moondogs, the Beatals, the Silver Beetles, the Silver Beats, and the Silver Beatles, before they finally settled on the Beatles.
John Lennon actually wrote a humorous story about how the name came from. It appeared in an article in a Liverpool magazine. He said, “It came in a vision–a man appeared in a flaming pie and said unto them “From this day on you are Beatles with an A.” “Thank you, Mister Man,” they said, thanking him.” (Paul McCartney even put an album called “Flaming Pie.”)
As far as the serious version is concerned, it’s quite simple – The Crickets (Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly, and Joe B. Mauldin) were cited as a major inspiration for the name. Furthermore, the misspelling of “beetles” is a play on words, basically describing the unique “beat” of the band. In an interview, Lennon stated, “Well, I remembered the other day when somebody mentioned the Crickets at a press conference. I’d forgotten all about that. I was looking for a name like the Crickets that meant two things, and from Crickets I got to Beatles. I changed the B-e-a because it didn’t mean two things on its own — B, double-e-t-l-e-s didn’t mean two things. So, I changed the ‘a,’ added the ‘e’ to the ‘a’, and it meant two things, then….. It was beat and beetles, and when you said it people thought of crawly things, and when you read it, it was beat music.”
The Rolling Stones
Now I can’t talk about the Beatles and not talk about The Rolling Stones now can I? The story of how they decided to call themselves like that is pretty short and simple as well. The band was heavily influences by Chess Records artists, such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Howlin’ Wolf and many other blues musicians. In June 1962, the band’s line up consisted of Jagger, Jones, Richards, Stewart, Taylor, and drummer Tony Chapman. According to Keith Richards, Brian Jones saw a Muddy Waters LP lying on the floor, while he was talking to Jazz News on the phone. When they asked him what his band was called, he thought of Muddy Waters’ track “Rollin’ Stone”…the rest is history.
Why did choose to call themselves the Doors? It’s very philosophical and poetical but what else did we expect from the most intense and progressive rock bands of the 60s? Jim Morrison came up with the name which was derived from a passage in William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” – “When the doors of perception are cleansed, things will appear to man as they truly are… infinite.” The same passage also inspired the title of Aldous Huxley’s 1954 essay on his first psychedelic experience – “The Doors of Perception” which Jim Morrison had read.
The details behind the origin of their band name vary, however the story goes like this: At first, the band was playing under multiple names, including “Tea Set”. However, imagine their surprise when they turned up at a gig and found up that another band on the lineup was also called “Tea Set”. Syd Barret, under pressure, had to quickly come up with a new name. The alternative he settled on was The Pink Floyd Sound, after two blues musicians – Pink Anderson and Floyd Council – two of his favorite artists. Barret took the names from his record collection – perhaps he saw the sleeves side by side and had a sudden inspiration – we don’t know for sure. There’s no evidence that those two bluesmen have ever worked or recorder together, despite the fact that some people wishfully believe that Anderson and Council actually made a recording together.
The Sound part was dropped quite quickly, but The was kept for a while, until 1970. David Gilmour is also known to have referred to the group as The Pink Floyd as late as 1984.
Queen were originally called “Smile” – quite nice and lovely, right? Singer Freddie Mercury was the one who came up with the new name and this is what he said about it, “Years ago I thought up the name ‘Queen’ … It’s just a name, but it’s very regal obviously, and it sounds splendid … It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of gay connotations, but that was just one face of it.” Many people associate the band name with Freddie’s sexual orientation; however that’s not the case – Queen is a very powerful word and it did open quite a few doors for the band!
When you heard the name “KISS” for the first time you thought about lovely kisses and smooches, right? Well, you may be so close and yet so far… There have been a few speculations about the name of the band. According to a rumor, going around in the 1980s, their name as an acronym for (K)ids (I)n (S)atan’s (S)ervice. Well, KISS did piss a lot of people off with their image and music, so naturally you have no idea how many of them thought of KISS as a “devil band”. Some people even believed that their records included Satanic messages when played backwards.
The not so evil version of the story goes like this: Peter Criss, the original drummer of the band was in a car with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley in New York. The members knew that Peter used to be in a band named LIPS. They were brainstorming some ideas about a band name when Paul suddenly said, “How about KISS?”… the rest is history. Ace Frehley was the one who designed the KISS logo in 1973, which is still used today.
It’s time for YES to make their official debut on my blog! I have to say, the band can’t really brag about their name since honestly it’s not so clever or that original. However, that’s the magic of it! The details behind the origin story of the name once again vary. What we know so far is that the band members were having a hard time coming up with a good name but their first gig was coming so they had to think of something quite fast. For their debut gig, they chose the name YES, suggested by Banks as being “short, positive, direct, and memorable”. It was supposed to be a temporary solution but obviously, the name stuck.
Jon Anderson told Yesspeak that while they were brainstorming for band names, Jon Anderson thought of Life, Chris Squire thought of World, and Peter Banks, kept saying yes. They asked him, whether he means “The Yes?” but he said “No, Yes”…
There’s also the “Yellow Submarine” theory, according to which they got the name from the long scene during “It’s Only a Northern Song” where the word “Yes” multiples on the screen in big bold block letters with exclamation points.
Say hello to The Ramones – the Punk Rock Gods I love so much! I’m sure that at one point we were all asking ourselves what does “Ramones” stand for and how did they chose this particular family name? Well, according to sources, they chose the name as a tribute to Paul McCartney who used the alias “Paul Ramone” when he would book or check into hotels, incognito. All band members adopted pseudonyms ending with the surname “Ramone”, even though that was not their given name and were not related in any way – original members named themselves Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone and Tommy Ramone; other members include Marky Ramone, Richie Ramone, Elvis Ramone and C. J. Ramone.
Guns N’ Roses
I decided to include Guns N’ Roses because to my surprise, a lot of people are not so familiar with the origin story of the band name, which by the way is so short and simple.
When I heard the name for the first time, I thought it was a clever symbolic representation of their music: “guns” – something deadly and dangerous, and “roses” – something gentle and romantic. However, the reason why they chose the name is because of the members’ previous bands. Axl Rose and and rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin of Hollywood Rose, joined forces with lead guitarist Tracii Guns, bassist Ole Beich, and drummer Rob Gardner of L.A. Guns. They simply combined the names of both previous group and settled upon Guns N’ Roses.
Coming from Birmingham, England, Judas Priest is probably the heavy metal band that matters the most, judging by the nickname they got – The Metal Gods.
The expression “Judas Priest” was once used to cloak the words “Jesus Christ” when these were intended as a curse – something like “Gee” or “Gosh!” However, that’s not the case with Judas Priest. The inspiration for the band name was the song “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”, carved into vinyl by Bob Dylan in 1967. Bruno Stapenhill was the one who came up with the name. The band was also regularly rehearsing at his house in Stone Cross.
P.S . I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the credits and rights go to the owners and/or publishers.