25 Famous Bands' Less Famous Previous Names
1. Chicago: At about 25 or 6 to 4, the Windy City jazz-rockers realized The Big Thing sucked hog carcasses. The actual Chicago Transit Authority wasn't crazy about their next choice, but the shorter version has served them well.
2. U2: After a brief stint as Feedback, Larry Mullen Jr.'s band changed its name to The Hype. Bono certainly took the equally short-lived name to heart, but the other three U2s have largely been content to let their music do the talking.
3. Radiohead: Kids. Thom Yorke and his classmates at Oxfordshire's Abingdon School kept the name On a Friday (the day they rehearsed) until they were signed by EMI, which promptly asked them to change it. They chose a slight variation on a song title from Talking Heads' True Stories LP.
4. Oasis: We have no idea why Liam Gallagher and his Manc pals called themselves The Rain before older brother Noel joined and knocked some sense into them (literally, no doubt). It rains a lot in Northern England?
5. Billy Joel: In the late '60s, Billy Joel and Jon Small broke off from their Long Island rock band The Hassles to form early heavy-metal duo Attila, which ended when Joel ran off with Small's wife, Clapton-style. The Piano Man is a Motherfucking Pimp.
6. The Kinks: The brawling brothers Davies' band went through a succession of names, including the excellent The Ravens, before settling on the Kinks. Rocks Off thinks it's an accurate estimation of their choppy, brusque garage rock, but in punk journalist Jon Savage's opinion, they just needed a "gimmick" in the easily shockable early '60s. "I've never really liked that name," Ray Davies has said.
7. Grateful Dead: Another band whose original name might have been cooler than the one that stuck. But then, it wasn't entirely by choice: When they found out another group was also using The Warlocks, Jerry Garcia let his fingers do the walking through a folklore dictionary and landed on Grateful Dead.
8. Paul Revere & the Raiders: Before going all revolutionary, the Pacific Northwest rockers began their lives as The Downbeats, after the musical term for the first and third beats of a 4/4-time measure.
9. Van Halen: Netherlands transplants Alex and Eddie Van Halen thought they might better fit into the Southern California hard-rock scene with a shaggy name like Mammoth. After an aborted stint as Genesis (taken), new singer David Lee Roth just told them to use their last name and leave the rest to him. According to David Lee Roth, of course.
10. The Beach Boys: As The Pendletones, the Wilson Brothers and their pals Mike Love and Al Jardine originally gave themselves a musical spin on the woolen shirts made by the Oregon-based Pendelton company. Then they looked out the window of their Southern California home, realized all their songs were about surfing and cars anyway (and girls), and decided to go with the Beach Boys.
11. INXS: Sort of like Van Halen in reverse, the Farriss Brothers Band (that would be Andrew, Jon and Tim) mashed up the names of British New Wave gods XTC and Aussie canned-fruit specialists IXL to emerge with INXS. Shabooh Shoobah.
12. KISS: God only knows who Wicked Lester is, or why he was so wicked. But not only did he give Ace, Gene, Paul, and Peter their pre-acronym name, Lester no doubt inspired Mr. Show creation and seminal Tenacious D influence Wyckyd Sceptre as well.
13. Drive-By Truckers: Athens, Ga. Buddies Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley scratched and clawed as Adam's House Cat for a while before motoring on to become the premier Southern rock band of their day as Drive-By Truckers. Rocks Off still kind of wishes they stuck with "Horsepussy," though.
14. Coldplay: After Chris Martin and his University College, London fellows decided they weren't going anywhere as Starfish, another student came to their rescue and graciously donated his band's name. It could have been much worse: Imagine all the "You know how I know you're gay?" jokes if they had stuck with Martin's original idea - Pectoralz.
15. Earth, Wind & Fire: Brothers Maurice and Verdine White cast their Chicago group the Salty Peppers in more elemental terms after relocating to L.A. Maurice chose earth, wind and fire for their associations with his astrological sign, Sagittarius, a choice Rocks Off applauds because we are also a Sag.
16. The Temptations: Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffins, Melvin Franklin and the myriad other Temps probably got a little farther with this devilishly suave name than they would have as The Elgins, which sounds less Motown than barbershop quartet.
17. Psychedelic Furs: Richard Butler's crew had a bit of a hard time settling on a name, but early choice The Europeans lives on in one of the Furs' best-loved songs, "Sister Europe."
18. Depeche Mode: Vince Clarke, Dave Gahan and Andrew Fletcher learned an important lesson shortly after forming their synthpop group in Basildon, England, in the late '70s: Most things sound better in French, and anything is better than the mind-numbingly boring Composition of Sound.
19. Pearl Jam: Eddie Vedder and the Mother Love Bone leftovers realized they weren't going to get very far with a journeyman NBA guard's name, so they christened themselves after - depending on who you believe - a slang term for semen or a specialty of Vedder's aunt Pearl that tasted good on toast. Either way, they threw in one last shout-out to Mookie Blaylock (who eventually became a fan) by naming debut album Ten after his jersey number.
20. Joy Division: The future New Order chose their original name, Warsaw, to echo the bleakness of David Bowie's Low track "Warszawa." They landed on Joy Division, Nazi slang for hookers, over the suggestion of Manchester running buddy Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks: Stiff Kittens.
21. Lynyrd Skynyrd: Although a fine name, The Noble Five might have been a little too British Invasion for these good ole Jacksonville boys. Once they met their high school gym coach, it was all over but the guitar solos.
22. Poison: Perhaps Bret Michaels et. al. thought Paris was simply too effeminate for a bunch of Pennsylvania boys strutting around in skin-tight stage outfits and monstrously teased Motley Crue hair. Who knows?
23. Huey Lewis & the News: The Bay Area sports nuts, cobbled together from the dreadfully named rival groups Clover and Soundhole (seriously), trafficked as The American Express until a certain credit-card company made it known that they would rather not share the name. Amazingly, none of the names, not even Soundhole, have anything to do with Huey Lewis' penis.
24. Cameo: Larry Blackmon's codpieced monster-funk crew thought The New York City Players was a little too close to Ohio Players for comfort, so they took the name of the method of carving relief into jewelry that most people mistakenly believe refers to the jewelry itself. Word up.
25. Black Sabbath: Honestly, Ozzy and friends' original choice of Earth better suited their early sound of grungy, plodding blues, but it's hard to imagine "War Pigs," "Paranoid" and "Rat Salad" coming from a group by any other name but Black Sabbath.
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