The name of a band is vital. If you’re in the process of starting a new band then don’t let anybody tell you that a name doesn’t really matter. After all, it is usually the first impression any audience will have of you. It can be easy to get lost in the act of trying to pick a name. Some band names are clever, others more personal or, as The Simpsons, once said: “A band name should be funny at first and get less funny every time you hear it.” However, if that’s still too much for you to think about, you can’t go far wrong when looking to the music industry itself for inspiration.
It’s a sure-fire way for a cool name for your group and also shows the initiated musos among your possible audience that you too know your stuff. Below, we’re revisiting ten instances in which bands have taken their names directly from the songs of their heroes, including The Rolling Stones, Radiohead and many more, all of these groups chose music to help them pick a name.
It’s worth remembering that a badly crafted name can often leave you in the mire. One group who didn’t think about their name is Jimmy Eat World, who took to social media in 2018 to offer words of wisdom to upcoming bands not to do what they did. “Advice for new bands: When coming up with a band name, make sure it’s acronym displayed really large on your artwork or t-shirts won’t be complicating matters. You’re welcome,” the group posted. The names of bands are, sometimes, just as interesting as their songs.
Finding out the intricacies of how your favourite band came to the fore is a worthwhile exploration. More often than not, embarking on such a journey of discovery will leave you feeling pretty contented. That’s because when you do begin such a journey, you will often find that many of your favourite bands are connected, in one form or another, to a different group, perhaps even another hero. That can certainly be said for the bands below.
That’s because we’re bringing you ten times that your favourite bands were inspired by other artists when naming their band.
10 bands who got their name from someone else’s song:
The Rolling Stones – ‘Rollin’ Stone’ by Muddy Waters
It’s hard to think of the ubiquitous name of The Rolling Stones actually being inspired by anyone. Their time on the rock scene has been so vast that it’s hard to imagine a time before their swashbuckling rock ‘n’ roll. Yet, the group were heavily inspired by the bluesmen of America and quickly adopted their style and panache, invigorating it with the pop sensibilities of a new decade. Their name was also inspired by the blues.
The story goes that when being interviewed for one of the first times, Brian Jones was asked what the name of the band was. Without a name to hand, he glanced down at his record collection and saw Muddy Waters’ single ‘Rollin’ Stone’ on the floor and was struck by inspiration.
With it, one of Britain’s greatest exports was formally named.
Radiohead – ‘Radio Head’ by Talking Heads
I think we can all agree that Radiohead’s first incarnation as ‘On a Friday’ is one of the worst band names we’ve ever heard. They adopted the moniker because they rehearsed, yes, you guessed it, on a Friday. Luckily, when they finally did achieve a record deal, it came with the proviso that they needed a new name.
The Oxford group may feel like a different kettle of fish to Talking Heads and, musically, they certainly are, but the group were wildly inspired by them and in their early days. They even employed a horn section for a period of time to replicate Byrne and co. It meant when faced with the decision of a new name the band once again turned to the New York art punks and this time reflected on their 1986 song ‘Radio Head’. Realising it was a solid gold name, they signed their record deal in 1991 as Radiohead.
To complete the cycle of inspiration, it was David Byrne who, three decades later, inducted the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Kooks – ‘Kooks’ by David Bowie
The Kooks may not be everyone’s favourite indie-pop band but, back in the noughties, you’d have been forgiven for thinking they would be. The band were a giant act and employed a saccharine pop sensibility to their fragrant indie-pop jaunts. Songs like ‘Naive’ and ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ became chart smashes but the inspiration for their name was a little more leftfield.
They took their name from the 1971 David Bowie song ‘Kooks’, a track written in celebration of the birth of Duncan Jones. “I think he always saw himself as more of a performance artist, a living piece of art,” singer Luke Pritchard opined in 2014. “That’s what I find inspiring about David Bowie.”
The Killers – ‘Crystal’ by New Order
While the other songs on this list are all inspired by the lyrics or title of a classic song, The Killers took their name from a music video for electro pioneers New Order. The song in question is ‘Crystal’ and the music video arrived just as Brandon Flowers and his cohort of crooners began assembling to take over the globe.
The video for ‘Crystal’ sees a fictitious teenage rock group playing along to the track in question. As with every fake band, the group had their name plastered across the bass drum reading: The Killers. The name leapt out from the screen and was confirmed by the group quickly thereafter.
As a mark of respect, The Killers and New Order have often shared performances of ‘Crystal’.
Bad Brains – ‘Bad Brain’ by Ramones
It’s easy to see the line of inspiration between the Ramones and Bad Brains. One band was the archetypal punk outfit, the pioneers of the genre and arguably one of the most influential bands of all time because of it. The other band was starting out life as a funk group before hearing the Ramones and their pounding track ‘Bad Brain’.
The funk and reggae roots of Bad Brains was quickly forgotten once they heard the fervent energy of the Ramones. But it was the 1978 song ‘Bad Brain’ that really captured their attention and ensured that the Washington D.C. group would become pioneers in their own right.
Ladytron – ‘Ladytron’ by Roxy Music
One of Britain’s most underrated exports, Bryan Ferry and his band Roxy Music helped to inspire a group that arguably wouldn’t have existed without them. The electro group Ladytron, who took their name from the band’s 1972 song, would have been nowhere near able to complete their sounds if the foundational figure of Brian Eno hadn’t existed within Roxy Music.
Eno was famed for his use of a “little box” within which contained a multitude of weird and wonderful digital sounds. Eno provided all electronic acts with the chance of a new sound and, it would seem, he was a fan of what came of it too: “Ladytron are, for me, the best of English pop music,” Brian Eno said in a 2009 interview. “They’re the kind of band that really only appears in England, with this funny mixture of eccentric art-school dicking around and dressing up, with a full awareness of what’s happening everywhere musically, which is kind of knitted together and woven into something quite new.”
Jet – ‘Jet’ by Paul McCartney & Wings
There’s a certain feeling of dad-rock cringing that goes with Paul McCartney & Wings’ classic song ‘Jet’, largely thanks to Alan Partridge. Nevertheless, the song would go on to inspire one of Australia’s successful rock acts and also provide one of the anthems of the noughties.
The Aussies had toyed with other band names before settling on Jet. They had thought about being called Dusonic, Mojo Filter and High Fidelity, but settled on Macca’s name because it was their collective favourite song. Of course, Jet would find worldwide fame for their 2003 song ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ which helped them to sell more than 3.5 million copies of the record.
Powderfinger – ‘Powderfinger’ by Neil Young
It’s not often that rock and roll can create songs about such unattainable things as Neil Young consistently does. On 1979’s ‘Powderfinger’, somehow, Young takes us all on a vivid and imagined trip to the bootlegging backwaters of old America and the frightening feeling of isolation.
The premise of the song is that the family of bootleggers, living out near the river, can see a police boat making its way to their house. A Young man is expected to lead the family because “Daddy’s gone” and “brother’s out hunting in the mountains” while “Big John’s been drinking since the river took Emmy-Lou.” The young man stands on the deck when the boat begins firing at him as he raises his own rifle to shoot the gun backfires and kills him instantly. It inspired Australia’s own Powderfinger to start as a pick-up band.
Initially starting out as a covers band, Powderfinger have gone on to become one of Australia’s most highly-prized bands.
Hellogoodbye – ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by The Beatles
“‘Hello Goodbye’ was one of my songs,” recalled McCartney in 1994 of the 1967 release. “There are Geminian influences here I think– the twins. It’s such a deep theme of the universe, duality — man woman, black white, high low, right wrong, up down, hello goodbye — that it was a very easy song to write. It’s just a song of duality, with me advocating the more positive. You say goodbye, I say hello. You say stop, I say go. I was advocating the more positive side of the duality, and I still do to this day.”
It was interesting enough to inspire Southern Californian pop-rock Hellogoodbye, who broke out in the early noughties. The duality of the song certainly inspired the group and helped to form their outlook.
Judas Priest – ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest’ by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan has certainly inspired countless artists during his days but not often can a band name be linked back to him. Judas Priest, the heavy metal thrashing anti-heroes of eighties parents, took their name from his 1967 song ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.’
Bruno Stapenhill, the band’s original bassist, heard the song when they were coming up with names and put it forward as his own pitch for the band’s original singer Al Atkins: “I remember telling Al, ‘What do you think of that for a name?’ I mean, he was never really into Bob Dylan and he says, ‘Oh, that’s a great name.’ And that’s how it came about.”