Banned Band Names


Written by Betty Wood
29 Wednesday 29th June 2011

Starting with arguably the biggest name in music ever, The Beatles went through a number of name changes before eventually settling on the title they're known by worldwide. As teenagers, John, Paul, George and Pete Shotten formed a skittle group called The Quarry Men (named after the high school the boys attended) but with the dawning of the sixties they became more interested in the sound of bands like Buddy Holly & The Crickets. Sutton suggested they adopt something similar and came up with 'The Beetles' which was then punned into 'The Beatles' by John to suggest the sound of their music. So there was no legal dispute behind the name change, just a change in taste.

Green Day is probably the only band whose name has taken on more of a cultural significance than the thing they named themselves after. The band started out innocently calling themselves Sweet Children, but when they signed to Lookout Records ahead of the release of their debut E.P, they dropped the name for fear it sounded too similar to another local California group called Sweet Baby. The name 'Green Day' - a day invested in smoking pot – supposedly originates from their um, alleged love of marijuana.

In the days before Dungeons & Dragons and World of Warcraft, you might be forgiven that the name Warlock might have some semblance of cool to it - The Grateful Dead and Velvet Underground certainly did. Both bands started out under this name, TGD on the West Coast and VU in New York. But we reckon a little bit of magic helped both these acts to avoid careers under the definitely unhip alias because another band was already signed to a major recording label under the same name. Both bands decided to opt for alterative (and subsequently more famous) sobriquets. It's just a shame Richard E. Grant didn't take their lead before making the terrible 1989 film of the same title. Grateful Dead - 1, Warlock - 0.

Van Halen is a band that has undergone more than a couple of rebrands. They originally started out under the woolly moniker 'Mammoth' before (very briefly) changing it to Genesis. Upon discovering that the name was already taken by the chocolate-loving Phil Collins and his crew, the band then changed their name to Van Halen in 1974. The inspiration for this name was slightly less biblical - the band consists of Alex and Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Wolfgang Van Halen. We're guessing 'Roth' was was voted down...

Canadian dance-punk band DFA1979 were originally known simply as DFA - named after James Murphy's record label Death From Above Records. After publically denouncing Murphy - founder of the New York label and Mr LCD Soundsystem himself - for threatening them with a lawsuit by the classy medium of the internet, Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler adopted '1979' to differentiate themselves from Murphy et al, taking inspiration from somewhere a little closer to home... Grainger has the number 1979 (his year of birth) tattooed onto his arm.

Manchester's electronic dance duo Ed Simons and Tom started life out as the 'Dust Brothers', a homage to the legendary hip-hop producers of the same name who'd worked with the Beastie Boys during the 1990s. After three years of playing the UK circuit, they made the journey across the pond to the USA in 1995 where they were promptly threatened with a lawsuit by the actual Dust Brothers. It didn't do them any harm though - soon after changing their name the Chemical Brothers, the duo released their debut album, Exit Planet Dust, which went on to sell more than a million copies.

As luck would have it, when Blink 182 started out they shared a billing with an Irish band also called... Blink. Irish Blink threatened American Blink not with a blinking contest as you might have hoped, but rather with a  very expensive lawsuit, so the band decided to alter their name. After much deliberation Hoppus and De Long decided to shove a number on the end of their existing name. The end. Of course, there’s the urban legend that accompanies the name – supposedly it’s a reference to how many times Al Pacino says “fuck” in the 1983 Mafia crime thriller, Scarface.

Wigan Britpop pin-ups The Verve originally started out as just Verve until US jazz record label Verve Music (who've released music by Jamie Cullum, Diana Krall and Ella Fitzgerald) threatened them with a lawsuit. Needless to say, the name change wasn’t a big one, with Richard Ashcroft et al adopting 'The' in order to stave off confusion.

Red Hot Chili Peppers might have been infusing their music with their own brand of spicy funk and punk-pop since they began, but their original band name left a lot to be desired. In their early days - when the band consisted of original members Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovak, Flea and Jack Irons - the band went under the slightly less fiery tag of Tony Flow and the Majestic Masters of Mayhem. By the time they'd finished introducing themselves (that's a whopping 17 syllables) their set was probably over. Needless to say, they changed their name pretty quickly and nearly 30 years later they're still going strong, somehow.

Pink Floyd might win a title for the number of times they’ve changed their names, but they certainly wouldn’t win for their choices! In their earliest incantation the band went through names including Sigma 6, The Meggadeaths, The (Screaming) Abdabs, Leonard's Lodgers and The Spectrum Five before finally settling on The Tea Set. After so many changes, the band were quite happy to stick with the name they’d come up with only to discover that another band had chosen the exact same name and were due to play on the same bill.

Luckily by that point they were pretty well versed in the art of making up band names, and Syd Barrett quickly concocted The Pink Floyd Sound by mixing the names of blues artists Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. But they weren't quite finished there. They dropped the ‘Sound’ bit sometime before they released their first single. So that makes 8 name changes in total. Winner?

Missed anyone off the list? Leave us your comments.

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  • bettywood
    Wed 06 - Jul - 2011, 14:23
    Very true! Although I think perhaps they called themselves that in the first place to garner legal (and therefore public) attention...
  • Guest: crumblelondon
    Tue 05 - Jul - 2011, 16:01
    Should probably mention Stay+, formerly Christian AIDS, recent legal problems with the charity of the same name.