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10 Popular Rock Bands that Changed Their Original Band Names

by Ashley Andersen
March 22, 2020
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The band Blondie in the early days of their career in 1979. From left to right: Frank Infante – guitarist, Chris Stein – guitarist, Nigel Harrison – bassist, Deborah Harry – songwriter, lead vocalist, Jimmy Destri – keyboardist, Clem Burke – drummer. Copyright New York Times.

The process of coming up with a band name is unique to every individual band just like the music they create…. Sometimes, there is no in depth thought process required at all. The name is predetermined before the band actually forms.This is because the name symbolizes the band’s roots, place of origin and who or what they attempting to represent. Linkin Park would be a good example of this. In this way, bands are sometimes not unlike street gangs. Another example of this style of name choice would be, Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band.

For other bands, it can take a while to find that name that clicks… Even if the chemistry, music wise between band members, is immediate. There are many different ways names can be chosen. A lot of times, there are band meetings, where members spend the whole time trying to come up with a name they can all agree upon.

Sometimes, a band finally picks the right the right name, only to find out, it must be changed. There’s another band already with the same name and they have got a copyright on it. Or, it’s a name that’s too similar to yours. Here are ten different legendary rock and roll bands and the stories behind how they came up with their individual names.

Blondie

Former Playboy Bunny, Deborah Harry and ex partner – guitarist, Chris Stein combined forces creatively, when he joined her band 1974. The band was originally called, The Stillettoes. The group decided that the name was not quite edgy enough and opted to call themselves Angel and the Snake. 

After seeing this name appear on flyers and other advertisements, Harry became worried that the name was too long and that the pubic would not remember it. 

One day, while contemplating new band names, Deborah Harry crossed Houston street in New York city. As she did this, a random guy made a cat call and yelled, “Hey Blondie!” She thought to herself, “that’s perfect.” This band would go on to have a profound influence on the early punk and new wave genres of rock and roll. 

Depeche Mode

Early promotional picture of Depeche Mode. From left to right: Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan, Alan Wilder and Martin Gore. Copyright: Spin Magazine from the interview written in 1988. 

In 1980, electronic music would receive one of the most beloved, enduring and influential bands to encompass this music genre. But when they began their career, the group’s name was A Composition of Sound. However, this name was not to last. 

It is argued that Depeche Mode means “Fast Fashion,” due to the verb Se Despecher. But actually, Depeche Mode took their name from a French fashion magazine, which when translated means “Fast News.”

Green Day

Green Day, circa early ’90’s. Left to right: Tre Cool – Drummer, Billie Joe Armstrong – lead vocalist, guitarist, Mike Dirnt – bassist. Copyright: Billboard Magazine.

Sweet Children was the original name of this San Francisco Bay Area based band, Green Day. It was soon discovered that there was another band in the area they lived in, called Sweet Child. In order to differentiate themselves from this act, the band decided that Green Day would be the name for them.

Def Leopard

Def Leopard early promotional picture. From left to right: Rick Allen – drummer, Joe Elliot – lead singer, Rick Savage – bassist, Phil Collen – guitarist. Photo credit: Rolling Stone Magazine, issue date: 1992.

When lead singer Joe Elliot tried out for this band, it was not for the job as lead singer. He was trying out to be the guitarist. At the time, the project was called Atomic Mass. 

,During a break at a rehearsal, Elliot told his bandmates about a writing assignment he had once done for a creative writing class. For this particular assignment, he chose to write reviews for imaginary bands. One of the reviews was for a band that Elliot had named, Def Leopard. The band immediately changed its name the following day.

Jimi Hendrix

A picture of Jimi Hendrix live at TTG Recording studios in October, 1968. Photo Credit: Chuck Boyd.

Initially, Jimi Hendrix did not choose to have his band to be called his birth name. Instead, he preferred to go by Jimmy James. He named his back up band The Blue Flames. He liked the way that it rhymed with his chosen stage name. 

Hendrix was also giving a nod to one of his musical idols, Junior Parker. However, Jimi Hendrix manager, Frank Michael Jeffrey, was not enamored with any of the names that Jimi had selected. He wound up changing the name himself in 1966. By that time Jimi Hendrix was already extremely popular and he could not do much about it. However, It did not stop him creating one of a kind, astounding and electrifying music.

Lady Gaga

Another superstar, that chose to go by her birth name at the beginning of her career is Stephani Germanotta. Many people have speculated as to how Lady Gaga came up with her stage name. 

The most consistent theory is that the songwriter / performer’s name was inspired by the Freddie Mercury song in Queen “Radio Gaga.” In an interview with the Scottish Daily Record, Gaga told reporters her feelings about the legendary Mercury. “He was not only a singer, but a fantastic songwriter.”

The Cure

Early promotional picture of The Cure in 1985. Left to right: Simon Gallup – bassist, Poryl Thompson – guitarist, Robert Smith – lead singer, songwriter, guitarist, Boris Williams – drummer.

This band is known as one of the innovators of the “goth” rock genre. They underwent several different name changes during the formative years of their career. The founding members all met while attending jr. high school together in the U.K. 

They first called themselves The Obelisk. When Robert Smith joined the group and became the group’s frontman, they changed their name to Malice. Then, the band’s name changed once again, to Easy Cure. After one final modification, they finally found a name that resonated with them and stuck…

Joy Division

A picture of Joy Division early on in their career. Left to right: Stephen Morris – drummer, Ian Curtis – lead singer, Peter Hook – bassist, and Bernard Sumner – guitarist. The photo was taken at Strawberry Studios / Stockport U.K.. Photo credit: Paul Slattery (Retna.)

All of the members of this innovative, English underground rock band were highly inspired by David Bowie. In fact, their first name was Warsaw, which was a tribute to Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy.” 

After playing around London for a while, the lads soon discovered that there was a band called The Warsaw Pact. For a short period of time, they thought that Stiff Kittens would make a great name. But ultimately, the boys from Manchester went with Joy Division.

Black Sabbath

Early Black Sabbath promotional picture. Left to right: Geezer Butler – guitar, Toni Iommi – lead guitar, Bill Ward – drummer, Ozzy Osbourne – lead singer.

As you might expect, Black Sabbath and how they acquired their name is a pretty interesting tale. The band that would help to define and create the music genre, heavy metal, started out as a blues band. They first called themselves The Polka Tulk Blues Band. Soon, they would change their name to Earth. 

In a 2016, with Rolling Stone Magazine Geezer Butler revealed more about how the band’s name came about. “As a child, I always had a lot of psychic experiences.” Butler went on to share a frightening experience he had one night…

 “I woke up from in a dream and there was this black thing staring at me. It only lasted for a second but, it freaked me out.” After hearing this story, Ozzy Osbourne wrote the lyrics, “what is this thing that stands before me?” This signature song quickly became the band’s name. 

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The founding members of RHCP. From left to right: Flea – bassist, Anthony Kiedis – lead vocals, Jack Irons – drummer, Hillel Slovak – guitarist.

At the beginning of their career, Red Hot Chili Peppers tried to come up with outrageous names. This was an attempt to compete against other bands, with their boisterous, bombastic, funk – punk sound. Tony Flow & The Miraculous Masters of Mayhem was the first name the boys came up with. In his autobiography “Scar Tissue,” frontman Anthony Kiedis elaborates about how RHCP came up with their name.

“We started going through these huge laundry lists of idiotic, meaningless, boring names. Red Hot Chili Peppers was a derivation of a classic old school American Blues or Jazz name. There was Louis Armstrong with his Red Hot 5,  Red Hot or chili that. 

There was even an English band called Chili Willi and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who later thought that we had stolen their name. But no one had ever been Red Hot Chili Peppers, a name that would forever be a blessing and a curse…”

Article by Ash Andersen