15 of the Most Unique Band Names in the History of Rock and Roll

Do you ever pick up an album and wonder how the band chose their name? Some names are simple and describe the group’s musical sound. In contrast, others are bizarre and leave you scratching your head about their origins.

A bad name can ruin a band — it’s like making a poor first impression. Ten of the following bands have some of the most iconic and perfectly suited names, while the others should go back to the drawing board. Which names in the history of rock’ n roll do you think are the best?

1. Metallica

Metallica performing in London in 2008
Image Credit: CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

There’s no question what your earbuds are going to feast on when you start playing a Metallica album. Drummer Lars Ulrich’s friend was trying to think of a name for a new metal music fanzine and had proposed “MetalMania” and “Metallica.”

Ulrich nixed them both but secretly loved the name “Metallica” for his new band. He quickly snatched it up, and in 1981, one of the greatest rock bands of all time got its name.

2. Mötley Crüe

Mötley Crüe playing at Sweden rock festival 2012
Image Credit: CC BY 3.0/Wiki Commons.

Bassist and group founder Nikki Sixx considered naming this band Christmas. It doesn’t really have the same ring as the ’80s metal glam band that took Los Angeles by storm.

Luckily, guitarist Mick Mars remembered an agent calling his old band a “motley-looking crew.” After a few variations of spelling and some added umlauts, the band settled on Mötley Crüe. It certainly encompasses rock n’ roll more than the name “Christmas.”

3. The Ramones

The Ramones in 1977
Image Credit: Danny Fields/Wiki Commons.

One of the original pioneers of punk rock, The Ramones, changed the shape of music in New York City. The genius of the band, Douglas Colvin, took on the moniker Dee Dee Ramone. He convinced the rest of his band to change their names. The end result is a band including Dee Dee, Johnny, Joey, and Tommy Ramone.

Their famous logo has their names wrapped around in a circle with an eagle holding a baseball bat in the center. It’s one of the most popular band logos 50 years after their formation.

4. AC/DC

ACDC's Black Ice World Tour
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Could you summarize a band like AC/DC better than a term used to measure high-voltage? The name is perfect for a group that brings electric energy every time they hit the stage.

Brothers and founding band members Malcolm and Angus Young have their sister Margaret to thank for their famous band’s name. After seeing the letters “AC/DC” on a vacuum cleaner, she suggested it to the duo. How rock n’ roll is keeping a tidy living room?

5. Fleetwood Mac

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Records/Wiki Commons.

Lead guitarist Peter Green wanted to pay homage to what he considered the band’s workhorses: the bass player and drummer. He believed they didn’t get their fair due when it came to fame and appreciation of their talents.

Green, in turn, decided on the name Fleetwood Mac, named for Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, the band’s rhythm section. The name stuck, and 50 years later, the pair is still playing music.

6. Grateful Dead

Image Credit: The Grateful Dead.

The popular hippie band chose their name when they were doing what they do best: tripping on psychedelics. Lead singer Jerry Garcia was reading through a folklore dictionary when he stumbled upon the term, which is “related to the soul of an unburied dead person expressing karmic gratitude to someone who arranged for their eventual burial.”

It’s the perfect name for these stoner rockers. Metal bands have kicked themselves for years for not coming up with the name first, and it’s hard to imagine a world without the legions of Dead Heads out there.

7. Iron Maiden

Paul Di'Anno and Steve Harris from Iron Maiden
Image Credit: Harry Potts – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

When you pick up an album and see the ghoulish artwork named Iron Maiden across the cover, you just know this album is heavy metal. The name is the ideal name for in-your-face rock n’ roll that is sure to irritate your parents.

Lead bassist Steve Harris attributes the band’s name to a film adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask, a novel by Alexandre Dumas. The film reminded him of the Iron Maiden, an evil, terrifying torture device from the Dark Ages. How heavy metal is that!?

8. KISS

Image Credit: Casablanca Records/Wiki Commons.

KISS has made their career by putting on epic rock shows, wearing elaborate costumes, and selling a lot of merchandise. The simple four-letter word became the perfect logo for the band and is now one of the most famous band fonts in the world.

Their final decision was much better than their original name, Wicked Lester. Somehow, I can’t see that name lit up in fire and selling out arenas for 40-plus years.

9. Led Zeppelin

Image Credit: Atlantic Records/Wiki Commons.

One of the biggest bands to ever take the stage is Led Zeppelin. The combination of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham brought heavy rock back to the limelight in the 1970s. It was actually The Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle who described their music as a lead balloon.

Is there a better way to describe their sound than by comparing it to a lead balloon soaring through the sky? I don’t think so.

10. Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd
Image Credit: Lynyrd Skynyrd.

You might be surprised to hear that no one in the Southern rock band is named Lynyrd or Skynyrd. The name actually comes from the group’s high-school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner.

Apparently, the grumpy gym teacher didn’t care for the young rockers’ long hair and rebellious ways. They kept those rebellious ways when they cemented their old teacher’s name in the annals of rock n’ roll history.

11. Smashing Pumpkins

Image Credit: Graham Racher – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

Frontman Billy Corgan was an iconic musician of the 1990s. He wrote some of the greatest anthems of the decade, yet his band still gets static for their name.

The name Smashing Pumpkins was picked in a rush without much thought. In a 1993 Washington Post interview with bass player D’arcy Wretzky, she had this to say about the name, “It is a stupid name, a dumb bad joke and a bad idea.” She went on to claim that “smashing” was supposed to mean great in the way they use the word in British slang. Either way, no one really knows what the name means, and at this point, it doesn’t really matter.

12. Panic! At the Disco

Image Credit: Anna Enriquez – CC BY 2.0/Wiki Commons.

You don’t have to break down the name Panic! At the Disco to understand how ridiculous it is. The first part of the name allegedly comes from a song by The Smiths, which includes a line about a disco burning down.

That’s all fine and dandy, but why include the exclamation mark? To me, it just seems like a reach to be unique.

13. Chumbawamba

Boff Whalley of Chumbawamba
Image Credit: Schorle, Own Work – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

This one-hit wonder is still cashing checks for their one-hit wonder, “Tubthumping.” Yet some fans are wondering where the bad got their name. Well, a group of British “anarchists” needed a band name that resonated with the passion of their views, so they picked a gibberish word.

This sounds like a great plan because the word Chumbawamba definitely makes me want to overthrow something. Ironically, their only hit is about having fun in a pub and not taking down the oppressing authorities.

14. Hoobastank

Hoobastank in 2006
Image Credit: CC BY 2.5/Wiki Commons.

How are you supposed to take a band seriously with a name like Hoobastank? Apparently, when asked, the band’s vocalist, Doug Robb, had to say about the name: “It’s really cool; it’s one of those old high school inside-joke words that didn’t really mean anything.”

Really? They couldn’t think of a better name than “Hoobastank”? An inside joke means that only a select group of people understand the meaning. Why would you want to cut off your fans from such an important aspect of your band?

15. Hootie and the Blowfish

Hootie and the Blowfish
Image Credit: William G. Lewis/Wiki Commons.

Do you think an honest Darius Rucker would go back in time and rename his band to avoid decades of fans thinking his name is Hootie? There’s a generation of fans who grew up thinking Hootie was the lead singer. The truth is that the names of college choir friends are nicknamed “Hootie” and “the Blowfish” because one looks like an owl and the other like a blowfish.

What type of friends tell someone they look like a blowfish? I wouldn’t really take that as a compliment.

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