My growing up years, the 50s and 60s, saw the advent of Rock and Roll. I did homework accompanied by a turntable and a stack of vinyl records, both the 7-inch, 45rpm and the 12-inch, 33rpm long-playing versions. Over those two decades, bands that populated the airways had names like: The Beach Boys, The Four Preps, The Kingston Trio, The Diamonds, The Belltones, The Four Seasons, The Platters, The Temptations, The Dave Clark Five, The Supremes, and The Coasters. (They seemed to like the word “the.”) Innocuous, no-nonsense names that didn’t leave you scratching your head like you had psoriasis.
It’s anybody’s guess how many bands have been formed and deformed in the five-plus decades since the invention of rock. But one thing is evident: there has evolved a competition to come up with band names that range from ludicrous to incomprehensible to offensive. Examples . . . of which you can look up the history of each online if so inclined.
Smashing Pumpkins A nod to the sad so-called holiday of Halloween . . . and death to pumpkin-spice lattes. Leader Billy Corgan and bandmates reportedly dashed the name off quickly, not realizing they'd be fielding lame pumpkin-based jokes about it for the rest of their lives. Off and on and off and on since 1988, apparently they presently continue to smash.
Dogs Die in Hot Cars Before we query their name, let us say that this Scottish band has a very well-meaning lesson in their name: dogs do die in hot cars. Please, please, please, don’t leave your dog alone in an even remotely hot car. Equally significant, don’t name your band Dogs Die in Hot Cars. It reminds everyone their beloved dog will die one day, and emphasizes the end of life vs the zest for it. Salient point: it rightly promotes incarceration for people who leave their canine to roast to death in a vehicle.
Toad the Wet Sprocket While working with Monty Python, British comedian Eric Idle created a gag about a band with the worst name ever. The band took on the mantle a decade-and-a-half later, but it remained just as silly as it was when it was fictional. I leave it to your imagination to deduce how the name has anything to do with music . . . or life . . . or anything.
Puddle of Mudd Oh, the alliteration of “d”s makes me drool. Not to mention the tingly emotions evoked by both puddles and mud. (The double “d”s for mud obviously a typo.) This Kansas City rock band has sold over seven million albums, proving that muddled names sell well in spite of having no discernable meaning.
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band This group derived its name from a 1920s-era British cartoon character. At first, it was known as the Bonzo Dog Dada Band, underscoring its link with the aggressively absurdist Dada art movement of the post-World War I era. But if they had known anything about Allie Wrubel and Ray Gilbert, they likely would have named themselves The Bonzo Dog Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Band.
Diarrhea Planet Not everyone is open to music by a band whose name suggests an intergalactic ass explosion. This might be part of why they popped out after nine years of rectal struggle.
Kajagoogoo The group named themselves Kajagoogoo, coined phonetically from the first sounds that many infants make. Another on-and-off-and-on band that wet their pants for the last time in 2011.
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die This 14-word, 48-letter band is still trying to catch up to their name. The band's style has been variously called emo, indie rock, post-rock, post-hardcore, and space rock. Figuring out what that means is as simply as why they chose the longest band name in history. (Note: a couple of other best-forgotten groups fashioned longer names, but merely a collection of letters that mean absolutely nothing.)
Hatebreed This band evidenced signs of homophobia, and front man and vocalist Jamey Jasta declared himself a homophobe. Also, the group’s one-time drummer, “Nickel P”, was sentenced in 2014 to 45 years in the slammer for murder. Thrash metal, brutal metal, death metal, and doom metal characterize their offerings. Admission: I hate it.
Meatloaf Aberration. Meatloaf is not a band; he’s a singer. But his stage name merits mention. Born Marvin Lee Aday, his father actually gave him the moniker. He was a big kid from the get-go, and said that one day his father saw him wrapped up in a blanket and pronounced that he looked like a meat loaf. The name stuck. He had (alas, he died last year in Nashville) an extensive discography, two of the notables being: “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
Aunt Betsy Last but not least. Aunt Betsy was a band that emerged from the scene of Seattle's mid-90's acoustic movement. Their wonderful music resists classification. After several albums and cross-country tours, they disbanded when on the brink of the big time. The band’s name conjures images of a warm and loving family member, which reflects the tone of most of their songs.