Shitty Band Names: A History

Categories: WTF

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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: The Year's Ten Most Ridiculous Metal Album Covers

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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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22 comments
chainsawhandz
chainsawhandz

I'm a bit surprised Outkast is listed as a great name. If you saw them on a bill with other bands that don't know their C from their K like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Linkin Park, it would be a different story. 

surgeonsgirl
surgeonsgirl

Uh yeah; pretty sure most of that Sigur Ros stuff is more or less actual Icelandic, NOT gibberish. Quit tryin' to be a comedian, Sonny Jim...

Scott Tyler
Scott Tyler

You'd be hard pressed to top The Butthole Surfers

Brian Bradley
Brian Bradley

I'm sorry, but Vagina Panther is pretty fucking awesome name for a band. Everything else is spot on, for the most part.

Laura Bass
Laura Bass

That's Joan Jett & Lita Ford from the " Runways"

Johnny Niswonger
Johnny Niswonger

Drunk Fux, The Well Hungarians, My Dixie Wrecked. Funny, but odd.

Homer K Blua
Homer K Blua

Btw my band name is Pet Rock: the musical ... This guy would have a fit

Homer K Blua
Homer K Blua

This article confuses me .... Sure some of them are silly but most of them are not that odd or offensive just a few... Some I like

Eammon Azizi
Eammon Azizi

Octopussynormous - Baltimore, Md. - circa 1997.

wizardwithahatchet22
wizardwithahatchet22

i actually worked with one of the guys from My Dixie Wrecked.. i still have that album ParaphaNAILya

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