Worst original names of popular bands

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Worst original names of popular bands

Words by Garry Seven

Perhaps as much as their music, the name of a band is a key part of their brand.

A bad band name might be a fast track to oblivion whereas a good band name can convey style, origin, genre, and intention.

It may be the most crucial decision a band makes as a good name will likely help to propel them along the road to stardom and success.

Here are some of the early stinkers.

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The Blackjacks – The Beatles

It may be fair to argue that ‘The Blackjacks’ is a better name than the one this band eventually ended up with but in the overall scheme of things, we’re guessing they aren’t too worried. Only called The Blackjacks for a short time after discovering another band with the same name, they soon became the Quarrymen, named inexplicably after mining workers.

As they added members, so their name changed again. Inspired by Buddy Holly and The Crickets, they then became The Beetles, The Beatals, The Silver Beetles, and then eventually just The Beatles.

We can only wonder if they had stayed as The Blackjacks would they have done as well, but after becoming the best-selling band in history, The Beatles seems to have served them well enough.

Gothic Plague – Muse

Originally called Carnage Mayhem, this trio from Devon, England band re-named themselves with the uplifting title of Gothic Plague. Not content with that misery-inducing moniker they then chose Rocket Baby Dolls, which sounds more like a faux ’50s style fashion label than a cool name for a band.

After one more change to the much cleverer name of Muse, they went on to have seven consecutive number one albums in the UK and spread their alternative rock sounds and overtly loud breathing to a global audience.

The Polka Tulk Blues Band – Black Sabbath

Tony & Bill from Birmingham in the UK needed a vocalist and after seeing and ad in a music shop put there by a singer who owned a PA, they recruited John and his mate Terry, who played bass, and so The Polka Tulk Blues Band was born. Realising this wasn’t a great band name, they swapped to the much simpler one word of Earth, but soon found out another local band had already used that name.

Across from their rehearsal space was a cinema displaying the name of a horror film on the marquee. Adopting the name of the film, Tony, Bill, Terry/Geezer and John/Ozzy became Black Sabbath and went on to be of the most influential bands of all time with one of the all-time coolest names to boot.

On A Friday – Radiohead

It’s fair to assume that folks in bands would be highly creative right? Well, not always it seems. This band from Oxfordshire in the UK rehearsed on Friday nights, so they became ‘On A Friday’, an inarguably bland and perhaps difficult name to put on a gig poster if your live shows fell on any other day of the week than a Friday night.

Thanks to their love of New York post-punk pop giants Talking Heads, they were inspired to use a track name from their 1986 album True Stories and adopted the much better-sounding name of Radiohead instead.

Five names bad, one name good – Van Halen

Brothers born in Amsterdam and moving to California as children had one sure thing in common, they both loved music. Younger brother Edward was a child virtuoso on piano, despite not being able to read music, while Alex preferred guitar. Edward switched to drums so they could form a band but Alex liked drums more so Edward eventually settled on guitar.

They hired a PA system from a guy called David who ended up joining them on vocals and who also brought along his bass playing college friend Michael. The group had already had several names including The Broken Combs, Trojan Rubber Co, Mammoth, Rat Salad (after the Black Sabbath song), and even Genesis, which was of course already taken by the famous prog/pop outfit from Surrey in the UK.

Their new singer suggested they just use the existing surname of the brothers, Van Halen, and a wise choice it was.

The Village Idiots – Nickelback

Originally formed by two brothers and their two cousins as a cover band, The Village Idiots changed their name to Nickelback and went on to be one of Canada’s most successful and most polarising bands.  Their early lyrics often focused on frat boy type themes of drinking, drugs, and prostitution, and their FM radio pop sensibilities led them to being much maligned by music writers, radio listeners, and creators of online memes.

Despite selling over 50 million albums, audiences in the US, UK, Australia, and Europe have all attempted to gather enough signatures stop them touring at one stage or another. Perhaps if they ever decided to change their name again, ‘The Petitions’ might be a relevant choice.

Naked Toddler – Creed

Formed in Tallahassee, Florida in 1994 by high school friend Scott on vocals and Mark on guitar, they started off as a band doing mostly covers and soon expanded to a five-piece outfit. Seeing an article in the local newspaper about a child abduction, singer Scott decided that ‘Naked Toddler’ would be a good band name.  Righty so, their audiences hated it.

Settling on the name Creed, they went on to sell over 50 million albums before disbanding in 2004. Voted as ‘The worst band of the ’90s’ in a Rolling Stone magazine reader’s poll might be hard to take for Creed fans, but they certainly have been guilty of one of the worst band names of all time during their Naked Toddler days.

Faecal Matter – Nirvana

Despite being friends in high school in Washington State, it took a long time for a young singer and guitarist to convince his friend to play bass for his noisy trio with the less than catchy name of Faecal Matter.

After a string of names including The Sell Outs, Pen Cap Chew, Skid Row, and Ted Ed Fred, and a revolving series of drummers, the trio finally settled in 1990 on a name their front man said ‘was kinda nice and pretty’.

Selling in excess of 75 million albums so far, the much more palatable name of Nirvana seems to have worked a non-scatological treat.

Honourable mentions

Feedback / The Hype (U2), Salty Peppers (Earth, Wind & Fire), Angry Young Teddy Bears (The Stone Roses), Screaming Abdabs (Pink Floyd).