Branding is an important part of any creative pursuit and picking a name that will fit your image doesn’t come easy for everyone. In fact, it can potentially be the Achilles heel to a band’s success. We’ve all had shoddy “aha!” moments, thinking we’re onto the next best thing only to realize the next day that the idea was as great as deciding to play the triangle in junior high. Thankfully, some have been able to make an overhaul before sinking their rocking ship.
Even The Beatles didn’t come up with that name first, instead thinking The Quarrymen would suit them just fine. The Grateful Dead were originally called The Warlocks, and perhaps would still be if it hadn’t already been copped by a band on the same label as the Palo Alto rock group. Talking Heads originally went by The Artistics, Van Halen was Mammoth, and sometimes stage names like “Tity Boi” need to be changed to roll with the times.
Luckily, the inaugural name choice doesn’t always hold up and bands get the memo before it’s too late. Here are 10 of the oddest, most awkward, and simply hilarious original band names that were once the real deal.
Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
The group consisting of Flea, guitarist Hillel Slovak, and drummer Jack Irons – plus a newly recruited high school chum by the name of Anthony Kiedis – first dubbed themselves this ridiculously long joke of a name. After playing a couple of shows together they switched it up and became the Red Hot Chili Peppers, thankfully.
During the same time, Irons and Slovak were also part of a group called What Is This? The latter actually inked a deal with MCA before RHCP signed their own deal with EMI America, which shook the band for a hot minute before Kiedis and Flea found their replacement members — Jack Sherman and Cliff Martinez.
The Band-Aid Boys (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony)
This ‘90s rap act brought us “Shoot Em Up” and the unforgettable “Crossroads,” but before the troupe defined their ‘bone’ nicknames, they were just some high school kids in Cleveland. After Anthony Henderson (a.k.a. “Krayzie Bone”) got into a moped fender bender, his bandage-laced body soon became the starting point for ‘The Band Aid Boys’ because that’s how kids come up with names.
Wicked Lester (KISS)
Is it any wonder that four dudes drenched in clown makeup and hairspray grabbed attention and formed a name like KISS? It’s been speculated that the initials stand for “Knights In Satan’s Service,” although they’ve dismissed any attachment to Satan or evil, but serpent tongues are cool.
Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley first played together in the less-licking ‘70s band, Wicked Lester. Before the two classic rockers were known by their stage names they were simply Gene Klein and Stanley Elsen happy to just get a record out regardless of what their band was called.
Stanley said they were “good boys” that did “everything that the producer told us,” according to a 2013 interview with Classic Rock. Prior to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Stanley told Vulture that Kiss “is rooted in bands I saw at the Filmore East, like the Who and Led Zeppelin. Although we had more visual appeal, than, say the Doobie Brothers, it was never to compensate for a lack of musical power.”
The Rain (Oasis)
This band was formed by Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs, Tony McCarroll, Paul McGuigan, Chris Hutton, and recruited lead singer Liam Gallagher. Never shy to voice an opinion, it was Liam who thought the band needed to change to Oasis after seeing the name on a tour poster he had in his room. Their original name came from the Beatles’ b-side of “Paperback Writer”, “Rain”.
The Obelisk (The Cure)
The Cure recently steamrolled through Canada, reclaiming their ability to make grown ass man weep, hard. I saw a Facebook post by a friend who got ditched last minute and was looking for “someone who really gets it” to attend with him, making sure to add some “I’m going to cry” Cole’s Notes. Even Blink 182 references their admiration for the band in the song “San Diego” off their new album California. Suffice to say, emotional men like this band that once was named after a monument.
Rainbow Butt Monkeys (Finger Eleven)
Imagine how challenging it could be for a VJ to hold a straight face when throwing to a video by a band whose name is Rainbow Butt Monkeys? You never know, this horrid name could’ve paved the way for this future act, which I’m eternally thankful for. In 1997, the band revamped their name to Finger Eleven, which brought with it tracks like “Paralyzer,” “Quicksand” and the sappy pop-rock merry-go-round song (which endlessly played on the radio or MuchMusic) “One Thing.”
Pud (The Doobie Brothers)
The Doobie Brothers had a name change that was arguably for the better. With a career spanning over five decades, going from their original dick joke to their anything but discreet weed moniker proves that their talent doesn’t include coming up with names.
Mookie Blaylock (Pearl Jam)
One of the catalysts of the Seattle movement, Mookie Blaylock’s story started thanks to the NBA point guard of the same name. After finding the New Jersey Nets player’s basketball card inside of an early demo case, Eddie Vedder and the gang went with it during their early stages as a young new band.
That was until they actually started getting noticed and realized latching onto the popularity of a NBA player (who had an unfortunate fall from grace) wasn’t going to allow them to achieve their own star power, so they buried it.
You’ve probably heard the various suggestions for how Pearl Jam decided on being Pearl Jam — it could possibly have been because of Vedder’s great grandmother Pearl’s peyote jam or that ‘pearl’ just popped into bassist Jeff Ament’s mind, later adding jam because it sounds good, or it could of just stemmed from a waitress named Pearl — who knows. Whatever the case may be (there still hasn’t been one definitive answer given), the name has stuck for over 25 years and counting.
Kara’s Flowers (Maroon 5)
While in high school, Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick began their music journey as Kara’s Flowers. The name came from their most devoted fan Kara, and the lads kept it until the band regrouped in 2000, adding guitarist James Valentine to the line-up and cementing Maroon 5 as their moniker.
On A Friday (Radiohead)
The British band, like many others on the list, formed when they were young high school boys. Everyone loved/loves Fridays so naming a band “On A Friday” does have its appeal. Now hearing “You’re going to catch ‘On A Friday’ later?” or “Where’s ‘On A Friday’?” doesn’t tingle the knees the same way. Plus, does this mean they could only play on Fridays for all of eternity? That’s kind of limiting.
We don’t need to ponder any of those questions since EMI became invested in 1991 and advised them to change their name. The band paid tribute to Talking Heads’ 1986 song “Radio Head” in a grand way.