Rock 'n' Roll has been around so long it often takes ideas from itself. Where so many bands the first couple times around named themselves after books or movies or out of thin air, there are now quite a few groups who have named themselves after another band's songs. The Mooney Suzuki went so far as to steal their name from the last names of the German band Can's two lead singers, Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki.
In some ways it's a shame bands didn't once name themselves after the songs of Burl Ives or Eddy Arnold. Imagine, if you will, Eric Clapton forming a power trio with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker and calling it Foggy Foggy Dew, Blue Tail Fly or Lavender Blue. In that case, there might now be a great old rock magazine fetching collectors' prices called Blew Tale Fly!
After all this research, I'm more convinced than ever that my band The Happiest Girls In the Whole U.S.A will bring much needed attention back to North Carolina's finest Donna Fargo. Besides, has there ever been a better name for a Death Metal band?
Aqualung - Jethro Tull: You'd think a band named after the Jethro Tull song would be slightly decrepit just for consistency's sake, but no. Apparently, Aqualung was a British singer-songwriter named Matt Hales who received airplay in the US for a song called "Brighter Than Sunshine." Did he even bother to listen to the lyrics of the Tull tune?
24) Gigolo Aunts - Syd Barrett: Formed in Potsdam, NY and originally named Sniper, the band realized they'd be far more interesting to rock critics if they named themselves after a Syd Barrett song, an idea that was often repeated, as you shall see.
Baby Lemonade - Syd Barrett: OK, the members of Baby Lemonade, named after, yes, a Syd Barret song, went on to perform as "The Love Band" with original Love guitarist Johnny Echols. Arthur Lee, the guy who everyone except some of the guys in the band think of as the most important member of Love, used them as his backing band until he refused to leave the US for a European tour. It is extremely difficult to tour England if you won't leave Los Angeles.
22) Eric's Trip - Sonic Youth: As someone who liked Sonic Youth quite a bit in the 1980s, I can honestly say that I've heard the song "Eric's Trip" many times and yet I have no idea what it sounds like. The same can be said for this band that did give rise to Julie Doiron, whose records I have been known to like.
Godsmack - Alice in Chains: It's not really all that surprising when hard rock bands take their band names from another hard rock band's song. It makes more sense than a hard rock band naming themselves after a Mariah Carey tune. It's just that I have a hard time reconciling that the first band is now old enough to be quoted in this way. It means we are all becoming horribly old and are unable to stop this persistent march to our deaths. Time for some ice cream!
20) Ladytron - Roxy Music: I love when I'm fact-checking this column and I come across something like "The band's name was allegedly taken from the song of the same name by Roxy Music." Like the band name is going to sue you for information that might not be entirely true. Except if this UK electropop band didn't take their name from the great Roxy Music then it sure is quite the coincidence, wouldn't you say?
Pretty Girls Make Graves - The Smiths: Much like I said about Godsmack, PGMGs is a pretty cool shorthand for getting all the Smiths fans to like you, or at least check you out and see if you're mildly interesting. Allegedly, the phrase itself is taken from a quote in Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. If you think I'm reading three hundred pages of a novel to fact-check this, you clearly don't know my limits. I've never even listened to the band! Should I?
18) Starsailor - Tim Buckley: The only problem I see with naming yourself after a landmark Tim Buckley album is that the likelihood of you ever coming close to that level of greatness is virtually impossible. Had you named your band Sefronia I might think you had a chance.
The Sisters of Mercy - Leonard Cohen: Here's another group that dare to tempt fate. Granted, around the turn of the 1980s, Leonard Cohen wasn't the demigod he is today. His record label in the United States in fact, dropped him. The band that took his song title started off in the intriguing category and quickly rose to very good before spending eternity in the "This is getting to be a bit much" category.
16) Uh Huh Her - PJ Harvey: I just wonder how annoyed PJ Harvey is that a band named themselves after her album so shortly after it was released and then traded on that hip quotient, despite being industry insiders. I liked them for a blog.
Seether - Veruca Salt: I liked the Veruca Salt single. As did many other people. I've never listened to the band. Again, should I? Please realize that there are only 24 hours in a day. I spend 12-15 of them sleeping. Four of them eating. And five of them typing this blog. In my spare time I watch cable.
14) Jet - Wings: You'd think considering the band's sound that they would've named themselves after an AC/DC song. Surely, "Hell's Bells" would've been more appropriate than freakin' "Jet" from Wings' fine Band On the Run album. Maybe they only allegedly named themselves after the Wings song. In any case, they're from Australia. Maybe things have gotten lost in translation down in the penal colony.
Big Country - Talking Heads: Here's another case of too close for comfort. Talking Heads had their song on their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, released in 1978. The Scottish group came alive in 1981. Dudes, you've got to let an idea breathe!
12) Radiohead - Talking Heads: Talk about expanding a franchise! How lucky is it for Talking Heads to have another art-rock band carry on their legend. Figure, for every ten young Radiohead fans just getting into music, it's likely that six of them will illegally download Talking Heads music and realize they kind of like it. (Full disclosure: I had a wicked crush on Tina Weymouth when I was in high school and college. I hope you liked the flowers.)
10) Firehouse - Kiss: No, not a Kiss cover band, but a hard rock band that had its fans back in the early 1990s. I developed a relationship with this band solely by flipping past their CDs in the used bin. Right up there with Wolfsbane and Joe Strummer's Earthquake Weather, which was considered noticeably worse before Strummer died.
Spoon - Can: The US band Spoon became ten times cooler the second they decided to name themselves after a track by German rockers Can! Just as I became twice as cool once I renamed myself Rudiger Vogler.
Dali's Car - Captain Beefheart: Naming yourself after a track off Trout Mask Replica is like telling the music industry, WE HAVE NO INTENTION OF SELLING RECORDS. OK by me, but I'm not paying your bills.
6) Death Cab For Cutie - Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band: It's a tad odd to think that a band of such sincere sports as Death Cab For Cutie would name themselves after a band known for their irreverence and humor. Or maybe these youngsters thought Magical Mystery Tour was deep. Man.
Funeral For A Friend - Elton John: Of all the Elton John songs to name yourself after! I don't think Elton ever saw this one coming. I woulda thunk it'd be "Ladies and Gentlemen! Please welcome, from Southern California, TUMBLEWEED CONNECTION. (Update: just did a websearch and found some band called Las Vegas Tumbleweed Connection performing a Willie Nelson song, allegedly, at Ken Janssen's bachelor party reunion party. Way to go, guys! "Number One With a BULLET," for sure!")
Stars of Track and Field - Belle & Sebastian: A trio from Portland Oregon name themselves after a Scottish sextet (or however many people are in the band these days). They named an album Centuries Before Love and War. Note to aspiring bands: having long band names, album and song titles are very good for writers who are paid by the word. The rest of us suffer trying to keep it straight. My favorite band? X! Favorite song: Nausea! (Named after the Jean-Paul Sartre novel. Remember, kids, the self-made man? He can go to hell!)
2) Rolling Stones - Muddy Waters: Imagine if Muddy Waters had never written a song called "Rollin' Stone." The Rolling Stones might be known instead as Tiger In Your Tank or The Hootchie Coochie Men and there would be a magazine on the racks today called Hootchie Coochie. Sometimes, an alternate reality can be totally better than the one that exists. Sign me up!
Negativland - Neu!: Yes, this column likes when bands take their names from German groups few people paid attention to the first time through. Even this group's record label, Seeland, was named after a Neu! tune. Any group that gets into a lawsuit with U2 is worth checking out. Words to live by.