Shitty Band Names: A History

Categories: History

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Timothy Norris
Portugal. The Man
It's widely known that band names, which once were mainly nouns and sometimes even gave you a sense of what the artist's music sounded like, have devolved into an apocalypse of in-jokes, cleverness, punctuation, and strange capitalization. It's almost impossible these days not to look at a festival lineup without feeling dumber for the experience.

But how exactly did the exercise of musical moniker application devolve into a no-man's land of pretentious cacophony? How did we get from The Byrds to 3OH!3? From the Rolling Stones to Fartbarf? Below, we trace the descent decade by decade.

See also; These Are the Worst Band Names in Indie Rock

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Jenny Lens
The Runaways
'60s and '70s: Nouns
The 1960s and 1970s were a time when it was ok for music groups to have names that made sense. For every confusing handle (Buffalo Springfield, Thee Midniters) there were many that were simple: The Kinks, the Doors, the Who, Genesis, and the Runaways.

You had fauna-themed monikers (with and without altered spellings) like the Byrds, the Beatles, the Animals, the Monkees, and the Eagles. Groups used the members' own names (Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills, and Nash) and even when they got crazy (Velvet Underground, Grateful Dead, Electric Light Orchestra) you could still wrap your head around them.

There were acts named for places (Boston, Chicago, Asia) and even acts that threw an adjective in there (Black Sabbath, The Pretty Things, The Small Faces). It was a sweet, almost-naive era in band names, and no one had a problem with it.

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Timothy Norris
Slayer
'80s: Golden Era
The '80s produced, without a doubt, the best band names in music history. Though some were still named for people, places, or things, many others ventured into the realm of ideas, using more interesting imagery and metaphors. Our four favorites might be R.E.M., the Replacements, the Stone Roses, and the Misfits -- does it get any better? Then there were Jane's Addiction, Public Enemy, the Stray Cats, Beastie Boys, My Bloody Valentine, N.W.A., the Go-Go's, Culture Club, Bananarama, U2, and the Smiths.

Some bands with great names came to life in the '70s -- The Cure, Los Lobos, Talking Heads, Dire Straits, Black Flag, The Police -- and prospered in the '80s. That decade also gave birth to killer metal monikers: Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth, whose names you don't read and wonder what they sound like. Ditto punk bands like Minor Threat, Bad Religion, Dead Kennedys, and Bad Brains, the latter two best known for their '80s work. Even the much-derided hair metal acts knew how to name themselves: Poison, Cinderella, Skid Row, Quiet Riot, Vixen, Warrant. Oh, and of course, Guns n' Roses. All hail.



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16 comments
Pixiepants
Pixiepants

Greeeeaaaat, now it's Gen-X's turn to be a bunch of awful grumps privileging their own youth as the last of the good times? THANK GOD WE'RE NOT THE BABY BOOMERS THOUGH, RIGHT? HAHAHAHA! Awesome how everyone's "Golden Age of [whatever]" always dovetails neatly with what they liked in high school and college.

xr3737
xr3737

This subject deserves more than a 2,000 word article.

Jon Stern
Jon Stern

you guys'll publish anything these days, huh

LostInTime
LostInTime

"Time Hitler and the Assholes from Space"

Steve Kalan
Steve Kalan

Check out the Zack Brown band with David Groul New EP

Steven Yearwood
Steven Yearwood

Back in the late 60's early 70's I was in a garage band called, wait for it.....The Painted Van Band! I didn't like it but the founder of the band had a Dodge van & that's what they called it when they asked me to join, who was I to try & change it. With that said you would think the van would of looked like the one in Scooby Doo but no, it was gray & white & ugly! But it got us & our equipment around & we were a hit at a few teen clubs around Texas!

Franco Franus
Franco Franus

: i, personally, think we have the best band name possible. : ]

ovvnt
ovvnt

I was convinced this whole article was going to be about a band called 'A History' and how shitty their name was.  

sam.raker
sam.raker

There's apparently an 8-piece emo group called The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die. 


#yikes

LostInTime
LostInTime

new album...recorded on 2" tape...due Jan/Feb 2014 ;)

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