10 Cool Stories Behind Band Names

Picking a name for your band isn't easy.

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10 Cool Stories Behind Band Names

Led Zeppelin

The phrase "lead balloon" has commonly been used to describe an ill-conceived idea, or one whose failure is both predictable and inevitable. The name then allegedly arose when Keith Moon, after being invited to drum for the band, thought the idea would go over like a "lead zeppelin"--Moon evidently modifying the common phrase after observing that zeppelin's were quite large. Reportedly Jimmy Page liked the phrase so much, he took it for the band's name. The decision to misspell it was made because they thought Americans would be stupid enough to mispronounce the word "lead."

Duran Duran

Duran Duran said that they're named after a character in the Jane Fonda movie, Barbarella. For those of you that aren't huge perverts, Barbarella is an erotic science fiction adventure from the 1960s, assuming you'll allow us to use pretty loose definitions of "erotic" and "adventure." However, if the band had dug a little deeper into the movie, they would have found a character eight billion times better to name themselves after: Dildano.

Green Day

A ‘green day’, according to Bay Area slang, is a day lounging about doing nothing but puffing marijuana. Billie Joe Armstrong wrote a song about it and liked it so much that he kicked the band’s original name – Sweet Children – into touch.

ZZ Top

This one is a little bit complicated. The band originally were going to call themselves “Z.Z. King” in B.B. King’s honor, but then decided it was too similar to B.B. King. Aaand because B.B. King was at the “top” of the blues world, they changed it to ZZ Top.

Steely Dan

The phrase is taken from a passage in the William Burrough's book Naked Lunch. Steely Dan is the nickname given to a giant steam-powered dildo. It gets crazier: as explained in the book, there's actually been an entire series of Steely Dans.

Foster The People

A classic example of how mishearing makes a great name. Lead singer and bandleader Mark Foster intended his bandto be called Foster & The People, but people just got it wrong. It worked though. As Foster told USA Today, “The first few shows that we played were for charities. It kind of clicked: Foster the People, that’s us.”

Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy was the name of a short-lived character in The Simpsons, and emerged as the favourite tag for Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump’s newborn band. They tried to rechristen themselves with a smarter name for their second gig, but as it tripped off Wentz’s tongue, a wag in the crowd shouted, “Fuck that, no, you’re Fall Out Boy!” There was no escape.


The US indie godheads found inspiration in one of those sensitive, charming nicknames that little children bandy around so carelessly. Frontman Rivers Cuomo had asthma, so his ‘friends’ called him ‘Weezer’. It’s the unshakable logic of youth. And, you know, makes a decent band name in the end, so all good.

Daft Punk

In the early '90s, heavily influenced by The Beach Boys, Daft Punk recorded songs under the name Darlin', a nod to a Beach Boys single off their 1967 album Wild Honey. One negative review in the UK's Melody Maker described their effort as "a daft punky thrash," which first depressed the pair and then sparked the inspiration for their next project.

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 favorite blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, to create what he originally called The Pink Floyd Sound.

29 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Anybody know the story behind Emerson, Lake and Palmer's name?
    I remember the first time I listened to Steely Dan. My dad was in the living room listening to Aja so seven year old me took a seat and joined him. In between songs he looked at me and went "These guys are named after a dildo, son." Not only did I discover some great music that day, but I also learned what a dildo was. 
    Ole' Nessie
    I was expecting to see Korn on this list. Found this on 'Korn Band Bio" There are many false things that go around about how Korn got their name, but this is the real story! When the band was together, but known as Creep, they went out to a bar drinking. While they were at this bar, they heard a gay guy telling a story about a time with his partner. He was eating out his partners asshole when he had diarrhea. When he looked up, there was a corn kernel on his tongue. This grossed out the band, and everybody else around. So after that night, Jon would go around to people that were there, and he would say corn. It would make them sick. Finally, they decided that it would be a great band name! He wrote it like a child would. It stuck, and now they are huge!! 
    Tool is actually an interesting band name story. Depending on which one you find.
    I think UG should do an article on a rumor I heard from a friend who read it somewhere on the internet that Tool is making a new record!  (and explain their name too)
    I once heard that Dave Mustaine chose the name Megadeth with the missing "a" because he somehow figured that a good band name should consist of 8 letters. Thus "Megadeath" became "Megadeth". To help you out; Metallica is 9 letters.
    Plus, for the ultra-geeks around here, an 8-character (or less) name would conform to the early computer 8.3 naming convention. Who wants to see Megade~1.wav? Not me, man.
    Would love to hear story behind ISIS.
    It's an Egyptian God.
    Well… yeah, I know. I´ve been thinking more about that other known ISIS, but.. I´m not good at being fun, so… I know where the doors are.
    There's also the story about Frankie Goes to Hollywood - they couldn't decide on a name, so they just turned to a random page in The New York times, and found an article about Frank Sinatra with the headline 'Frankie Goes To Hollywood'