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Old Sep 23, 2010, 03:40 AM   #1
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Default From AC/DC to ZZ Top... how legendary bands picked their bizarre names

From AC/DC to ZZ Top... how legendary bands picked their bizarre names

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Leonard Skinner, a former PE teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida, died this week, aged 77. His passing would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the fact that Skinner gave his name to a band comprised of former pupils at his school: Lynyrd Skynyrd. Angered by their teacher’s disdain for boys with long hair, the future creators of rock anthems like Freebird and Sweet Home Alabama distorted his name and took it around the world. As anyone who has ever toyed with the dream of rock stardom knows, choosing a band name is a key part of the process. So how did other music legends come up with their star names?
A is for AC/DC: Angus Young, the Australian rockers’ pint-sized guitarist, has always dressed as a schoolboy on stage.
Originally, Young’s uniforms were made for him by his sister.
On her sewing machine was a sign that said AC/DC, meaning that it could work on alternate and direct electrical current.
Young thought that was the perfect name for a macho power-rock band, blissfully unaware that AC/DC is also a slang term for bisexuality.

B is for The Beatles: John Lennon suggested the name to his bandmates in April 1960, while walking along Gambier Terrace, near Liverpool Cathedral.
He later claimed to have thought of it as a variation on The Crickets, Buddy Holly’s band, changing the spelling from ‘Beetles’ to ‘Beatles’ so as to create a double meaning with a play on the word ‘beat’.
But both Paul and George remember the name deriving from the Marlon Brando film The Wild ones, in which Lee Marvin says to Brando: ‘Johnny, we’ve been looking for you. The beetles have missed you.’
As Paul McCartney later discovered, ‘Beetles’ is slang for motorcycle girls. So work that out!

C is for Creedence Clearwater Revival: originally called The Golliwogs. John Fogerty’s legendary Sixties rock band wisely changed their name to one based on a friend of Fogerty’s called Credence Newball; a TV ad for Olympia beer which boasted of the ‘clear water’ used in its brewing; and ‘revival’ because that was what the band hoped would happen to their fortunes.

D is for Duran Duran: originally formed at the Birmingham club the Rum Runner as a rival to London-based new romantic groups like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran took their name from the villain in the camp Sixties sci-fi film Barbarella, whose name was Dr Durand Durand.
It was no coincidence that Barbarella’s was a rival nearby nightclub.

E is for Electric Light Orchestra: founder Roy Wood and subsequent group leader Jeff Lynne wanted to take the fusion of rock and classical music first pioneered by The Beatles a stage further, integrating traditional instruments like violin and cello into an electric rock band: the name reflects their ambitions.

F is for the Faces: a ‘face’ was the term used by Sixties Mods to describe a respected member of their scene.
Rod Stewart and the Faces were formed from the remains of the original Small Faces, so called because they were all Mod ‘faces’ of diminutive stature.

G is for Green Day: the Californian punk trio whose albums such as American Idiot have sold more than 65million copies around the world are one of many bands whose name is a drug reference.
In this case, to days spent smoking ‘green’ or marijuana.

H is for the Human League: founder member Martyn Ware used to play a science fiction war game set in 2415 called Starforce: Alpha Centauri.
It featured an empire called The Human League, which Ware suggested as a new name for his group, originally called The Future.

I is for Iron Maiden: an ‘iron maiden’ was an instrument of medieval torture, a metal cabinet into which the victim could be locked, while knives or spikes were driven into his body.
It was thus perfect for a heavy metal band, all the more so since the band leader, Steve Harris, is a passionate supporter of West Ham United, known to their fans as the Irons.

J is for The Jam: Paul Weller founded his punk/mod band while still a pupil at Sheerwater Secondary School in Woking, Surrey.
The name was given to him by his sister, one day at breakfast. She remarked that there was a band called Bread, but not one called Jam. Weller promptly changed that.

K is for The Killers: the Las Vegas-based American rock band took their name from a video by New Order, which features an imaginary band whose name, The Killers, is written on their drum kit.

L is for Led Zeppelin: Keith Moon, the drummer with The Who, was briefly interested in forming a band with then-Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page.
Moon joked it should be called ‘Lead Zeppelin, because it’ll go over like a lead balloon’. When Page formed his own band, he remembered Moon’s quip and changed the spelling to make the pronunciation more obvious and the meaning more obscure.

M is for Manic Street Preachers. The Welsh rockers either take their name from a minor character in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, credited as ‘Manic Street Preacher’, or from a man spotted by singer-guitarist James Dean Bradfield preaching, manically, in the street.

N is for Nirvana: the grunge band were named after the Buddhist state of freedom from suffering by band leader kurt Cobain, precisely because of the contrast with his angry, anguished, pain-racked sound.
‘I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk rock name like the angry Samoans,’ he later explained.

O is for Oasis: Noel Gallagher was a roadie for a band called The Inspiral Carpets.
One of their tour posters listing a series of venues, including the Oasis Leisure Centre, Swindon, was stuck on the wall of his brother Liam’s room.
When he joined a band originally called Rain, Liam suggested they should change their name to Oasis.
Noel then joined the band as its leader and songwriter and the hits, and fraternal squabbles, followed.

P is for Pink Floyd: known originally as the Tea Set, the band discovered they had been booked to play a show with another band of the same name.
Founder member Syd Barrett instantly combined the names of two of his favourite blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, to create what he originally called The Pink Floyd Sound.

Q is for Queen: the name was dreamt up by Freddie Mercury, despite the initial objections of bandmates Roger Taylor and Brian May, who were nervous of its gay connotations because, in his words: ‘It’s very regal, obviously, and it sounds splendid. It’s a strong name, very universal and immediate.’

R is for Rolling Stones: according to Dave Godin, a boyhood friend of Mick Jagger who claims to have been present when the name was chosen, it came from an EP by blues legend Muddy Waters, which Godin owned.
It featured the track Mannish Boy, on which Waters declares: ‘I’m a rollin’ stone!’ Waters also recorded a song called rolling Stone Blues, which is frequently cited as the source of the name.

S is for The Sex Pistols: taking over a group then known as the Swankers, manager Malcolm McLaren wrote down a list of new names including Kid Gladlove, The Strand, the Damned and QT Jones and the Sex Pistols (inspired by the novelty dance act Disco Tex and His Sex-o-Lettes). The ‘QT Jones’ was dropped. The band’s name also promoted McLaren’s King’s Road fashion boutique SEX.

T is for Take That: one of a list of names, including Kick It, provided by the band’s manager Nigel Martin-Smith.
Said to have been inspired by a magazine headline that read ‘Madonna: Take That and Party’ which also provided the band’s debut album title: Take That And Party.

U is for U2: the group of friends from Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin performed under a number of names including Feedback and The Hype before settling on U2, which is both the name of a Cold War-era U.S. spy-plane and a pun on the words ‘you too’.

V is for Velvet Underground: as befits a band managed by artist Andy Warhol, whose legendary New York studio The Factory was a refuge for misfits of every kind, the Velvet Underground took their name from a book about the hidden sexual sub-culture of early Sixties America.

W is for Westlife: originally named Westside because three of the five band members came from the west side of Ireland, they had to change their name due to the existence of a hip-hop group, the Westside Connection.

X is for XTC: the Swindon-based new wave group, whose biggest hits were Making Plans For Nigel and Senses Working Overtime, were named when founder Andy Partridge saw a Jimmy Durante film in which the comic exclaimed ‘I’m in ecstasy!’ and converted the word into letters: XTC.

Y is for Yardbirds: in the fine tradition of nice, suburban English boys who want to sound tougher than they are, the group who at various times featured guitar legends Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck took their name from a U.S. jailhouse slang term for prisoners in an exercise yard.

Z is for ZZ Top: according to Billy Gibbons, the band’s singer-guitarist, the trio were all fans of the blues guitarist BB King and planned to call themselves ZZ King as a play on his name.
But since this might confuse people, the name was changed again to ZZ Top, because king was ‘top’ in their eyes.
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