In 1531, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a manual called ‘The Prince’
What’s in a band name? A lot. For unknown acts, a captivating name can generate interest and pull spectators into club gigs. Let the former Composition of Sound stand as an example of why everything sounds cooler in French.
1. Nirvana: First named Skid Row, the grunge trio ran into problems with a certain hair metal band. Kurt Cobain chose the new moniker because “I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk name.”
2. Linkin Park: Previously called Hybrid Theory, they changed their name to Lincoln Park, which didn’t work either (thanks to the expensive price of the lincolnpark.com domain).
3. Queen: Went under the name Smile until Freddie Mercury entered the scene and suggested the name as a more theatrical presentation.
4. Depeche Mode: Dave Gahan and his buddies struck out as The Composition of Sound before realizing everything sounds more stylish in French. They chose Depeche Mode, the term meaning “quick style.”
5. U2: The band first chose Feedback as a moniker but settled on U2 for its ambiguous and open-ended connotations.
6. Radiohead: Named themselves On A Friday after their usual weekly slot in a rehearsal space. Changed names as a reference to Talking Heads’ “Radio Head.”
7. Joy Division: The future New Order was originally called Warsaw after the David Bowie song “Warszawa.” Joy Division (Nazi slang for hookers) won out.
8. Sublime: Also known as The Long Beach Dub Allstars banner. After the Bradley Norwell’s death via heroin overdose in 1996, the band joined up with Rome Ramirez. Now known as Sublime with Rome.
9. The Raconteurs: Jack White named his side project The Saboteurs until the band was unable to tour in the Australian market, which was dominated by a Queensland jazz band with the same name.
10. The Who: Went under the names of The Detours and High Numbers until Pete Townsend’s roommate suggested their infamous incarnation.
11. The Temptations: This band first named themselves The Elgins, which wasn’t nearly appealing enough for their Motown sound.
12. Lynyrd Skynyrd: The band previously known as The Noble Five quickly realized their band name sounded too British, rather than Southern hard rock.
13. Poison: Bret Michaels and the boys first called themselves Paris, which was perhaps a little too obvious for a band who wore more makeup than an entire fashion week of runway movels
14. Huey Lewis & the News: Originally called The American Express, Huey Lewis ran into legal troubles with the credit card company of the same name.
15. Chicago: Previously known as Chicago Transit Authority until the City of Chicago didn’t take kindly to the tribute.
16. Prince: While trying to ditch a contract with Warner Bros., the Purple One shipped himself as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, The Artist, and a weird, unpronounceable symbol. (P.S. He resigned with Warner Bros. last year.)
17. Blink 182: Originally called Blink, they bumped up against an Irish rock band of the same name.
18. Green Day: Billie Jo and Co. adopted the name Sweet Children until they ran into confusion with local band Sweet Baby. Green Day refers to their love of marijuana.
19. Red Hot Chili Peppers: The band’s first name, Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem, referred to Anthony Kiedis’ propensity for rapping his own poetry.
20. The Beach Boys: This band named themselves after the popular Pendleton shirt but swapped names to suit their surfer-themed set of tunes.
21. Black Sabbath: Ozzy Osbourne’s first incarnation of the band was called The Polka Tulk Blues Band, which drew the wrong crowd to live performances. More facts about Ozzy.
22. Def Leppard: Originally called Atomic Mass as a grouping of high school buddies, Joe Elliot took over as frontman and adopted the name Deaf Leopard. This name sounded “too punk,” hence the modified spelling.
23. Oasis: Formerly called Rain until Liam Gallagher joined up as vocalist and suggested the new name because he “liked the word.”
24. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Originally named The Golliwogs after the children’s literary character, the band desired a more adult-sounding title.
25. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: First known as Jimmy James & The Blue Flames, the new name suited the band’s psychedelic influences.
26. The Doors: In contrast to Jimi Hendrix, The Doors’ original name — The Psychadelic Rangers — was almost too blatant. The new name lent a little more mystery.
27. Pearl Jam: Eddie Vedder and his buddies formed a band named Mookie Blaylock, but the All-Star basketball player of the same name didn’t appreciate brand interference.
28. The Beatles: This band went through a series of awful names, including Japage 3, Johnny & the Moondogs, The Quarrymen, Long John and the Silver Beatles
29. The Black Crowes: Chris and Rich Robinson named their band Mr. Crowe’s Garden after the children’s book, Johnny Crow’s Garden. As they evolved into a 1970’s-era blues rock revivalist band, the name morphed as well
30. Phish: The band’s first name, Blackwood Convention, referred to a card game bidding convention. They eventually changed monikers as a play upon drummer Jon Fishman’s name.
31. The Bee Gees: Andy and Robin Gibb quickly realized that their founding name, The Rattlesnakes, didn’t quite suit the band’s disco vibe.
32. The Grateful Dead: This musical act called themselves The Warlocks and Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions before they made it big at the Summer of Love.
33. Snoop Dogg: Also known as Snoop Lion and Snoopzilla, this guy can’t stop changing his name.
34. Coldplay: Chris Martin’s baby coined themselves as Pectoralz until gaining a new member and transforming into Starfish. Elevator music prevailed with their eventual sterile name.
35. Led Zeppelin: Jimmy Page’s old band, The Yardbirds, sent a cease-and-desist letter when he named his new band The New Yardbirds. The group settled upon Led Zeppelin after The Who declared the new band would go over like a lead balloon.
36. The Chemical Brothers: The brotherly duo fashioned themselves as The Dust Brothers until an international tour met with interference from US producers with the same name.
37. The Verve: This name saw a subtle change from Verve after a US jazz label (Verve) filed a lawsuit.
38. Billy Joel: Before Billy Joel became the Piano Man, his musical act was a heavy-metal duo named Attila. The band split when Billy hooked up with his bandmate’s wife. Of course.
39. INXS: The band first called themselves the Farriss Brothers Band after members Jon, Andrew, and Tim. Michael Hutchence’s dominant frontman style quickly demanded a new name.
40. KISS: Ace, Gene, Paul, and Peter began their decades-long run as Wicked Lester.
41. Psychedelic Furs: This band once called themselves The Europeans before switching to a more mysterious moniker.
42. Earth, Wind & Fire: Maurice and Verdine White took stages as the Salty Peppers before reinventing themselves in astrological terms.
43. Van Halen: Before naming themselves after the ultra-cool surname of Eddie and Alex, this band first called themselves Mammoth and Rat Salade. The new name carried more personality and, perhaps unknowingly, set the stage for future lead singer swapouts.