Rock Formations - Categorical Answers To How Band Names Were Formed
by Dave Wilson Dave Wilson
||May 9, 2005
ROCK FORMATIONS is a nonfiction title covering the origins of music group and artist stage names. The entries (of which there are approximately 1,000) are grouped into categories sharing similar themes, for example, those names which were inspired by movies, those inspired by places, etc. There is also a comprehensive index.
Here is an excerpt from ROCK FORMATIONS, chapter one entitled Lights, Camera, Action!
(Bands and artists whose names were inspired by movies or movie titles)
? & THE MYSTERIANS
Group leader “?” used the name Rudy Martinez to collect royalties, although there is some doubt that it is his real name. “Mysterians” came from the low-budget Japanese sci-fi movie "The Mysterians" (1957), directed by Ishiro Honda (sometimes referenced as Inoshiro Honda), who achieved fame as director of the original Godzilla movies.
Originally formed as Still Life, the new name was inspired by the title of a B-movie directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis, and starring Jeffrey Allen, Connie Mason and Thomas Wood. The movie was actually titled "2,000 Maniacs" (1965), a cult film based on the play "Brigadoon" (about the Scottish village that only appears once each century) and was originally to have been titled “5,000 Maniacs”. The band name was suggested by John Lombardo (guitars) on joining the band. Everyone accepted that “10,000 Maniacs” was the actual title of the movie when in fact no one in the band had seen it.
"Bad Company" was the title of a 1972 Robert Benton-directed Civil War western starring Jeff Bridges, and was suggested by vocalist Paul Rodgers. It was initially the title of a song he had written with Simon Kirke, prior to the band choosing a name. Led Zeppelin’s label Swan Song tried to get them to change the name on signing them, considering it to be too dangerous-sounding, but the band refused.
The name Blues Traveler has two sources of inspiration, both involving movies starring Dan Aykroyd, of whom the group are big fans (Aykroyd has appeared on stage with the band several times). One source is "The Blues Brothers" (1980), directed by John Landis, and the other is Gozer the Traveler, a character mentioned in "Ghostbusters" (1984), directed by Ivan Reitman.
Counting Crows took their name from an old English divination rhyme, comparing the pointlessness of life with the act of counting crows. The poem was quoted in one of vocalist Adam Duritz’s girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker’s films Signs Of Life (1989), directed by John David Coles. Actually, the original poem (which is an old English folk poem) refers to counting magpies rather than crows (it was also adapted in the title song of ’70s UK children’s TV series "Magpie"), and is supposed to tell the future of someone who sees a flock of magpies, depending on how many birds make up the flock:
One for sorrow, two for mirth,
Three for a wedding, four for a birth,
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret not to be told
Eight for heaven, nine for hell
And ten for the devil's own sel'.
Curled Up With A Good Book
Rock Formations is one of those books that, when you see it, you kick yourself for not having thought up such a great idea yourself. Author Dave Wilson says it took him at least nine years to research this book, and the end result is well worth it. In fact, it just may be the most entertaining and fun book I’ve read in the last few years!
Basically, Wilson was wondering one day where the heck the band Steely Dan came up with their name, and that was the thought that launched this book, which documents where bands came up with their unusual names. Hundreds of band names are included, each with a brief description of what the name means, who may or may not have thought it up, and even the origins of some band member stage names. This, my friends, is the ultimate coffee-table, fun-at-parties, attention-grabbing, conversation-starting book, so if you are shy, you may want to think about buying a copy just to keep with you when on the commuter train or in line at the grocery store, then let the trivia be your guide to wild success as a conversationalist!
So the funk band Rufus got their name from an advice column in Mechanics Illustrated Magazine. And Oingo Boingo (a great name if there ever was one) came from the even stranger name of a musical troupe, The Mysterious Knights of Oingo Boingo. The Temptations were originally The Elgins until either Motown Boss Berry Gordy or band member Otis Williams came up with the former title (depends on whose story you believe). Dire Straits named themselves after their financial situation early on in their careers.
Big Bopper got his name after seeing a bunch of kids doing The Bop. Bo Diddley’s name comes from the slang term for “bully.” The Foo Fighters (a personal fave at my house) took their moniker from the term US Pilots used to describe mysterious UFOs during the Second World War. Blink 182 combined their favorite band name, Blink, with the number of times Al Pacino says the “F” word in “Scarface.” And did you know that ABBA is nothing more than the collection of first letters of each band member’s name?
Rock Formations will keep you entertained for hours, but the real fun begins when you share your newfound band name trivia knowledge with friends and strangers alike, who will think you are a cultural genius as you inform them that Ben Folds Five is really a trio led by a guy named, you guessed it, Ben Folds.
Or, should you want to impress that lovely gal (or foxy guy) in Accounting, you can always tell her the true origins of the name Toad The Wet Sprocket. She will think you are truly gifted. But don’t forget to thank Dave Wilson. He’s the one who spent all those years tracking down the story behind band names from Ace of Base to ZZ Top.
Dave, you rock. I only wish I had thought of it first.
Marie D Jones
A clever collection of entries with the content grouped under common themes such as A-List Celebs, Culture Vultures, Ohh, LaLa, etc.
Discover the link between heavy metal bands & toys. Find out what ABBA & a can of tuna have in common. Discover which mega-stars were given initials at birth which don't actually stand for anything.
Rock Formations is a fun & informative catalog with 30 chapters on Lights, Camera, Action; Author! Author; Media Darlings; Discography; The Acknowledgements; Music Industrial; Artistic License; Take The Stand; Re Issues; A Higher Plane; I Dub Thee; Nom de Plume; Also Known As; Kith and Kin & many more!
Dave Wilson is a musician & engineer who has studied popular music history for many years.
I liked the double entendre in the title of Rock Formations, as well as the American & British jargon. It is a utilitarian book, with no pictures, still for all the Rock'n'Roll & Blues lovers on your list, this will make a super & unique stocking stuffer.
(Rebecca Brown 08/14/05)
For those cut throat music trivia games where the definitive answer to the origin of Foghat must be known, Dave Wilson’s book is exactly what you are looking for. [For those of you who ARE curious to know how Foghat got it’s name, it was made up by singer/guitarist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett and his brother during a childhood game of Scrabble.]
Wilson has written the book to be short bits of trivia rather than long, elaborate history of as some other books on popular culture that I have seen. This makes a great coffee table book since you are not committed to twenty pages of the history that leads up to the origin. He has also divided the book up to group together inspiration from similar sources, such as all the genera’s of media, those that were given to them by producers and just outright accidents, hometowns, sports, food and drinks, spiritual connections and just because as well. Wilson has also made a point to cross reference when necessary and explain the stage names associated with the bands as well as supply a list of stage names to birth names with all of this tied to an index. It is very obvious that much care and consideration was given to the creation of this book.
David Wilson spent the first part of this books creation in the UK and the later half in California and it very much shows in the selection of musical groups. I believe it’s fairly balanced between UK and American groups and I found myself wondering who a fair number of the UK groups were. Being like most people who recognize a song but have no idea who sing it, I found myself wondering what song they were best known for and then getting totally distracted from the origin story. A song key might have been a nice addition as well to maybe assist in those moments when you were not able to connect the dots, so to speak. Over all I found the book to be rather fascinating and I think it will help me participate more in the random trivia moments that my friends tend to fall into at random points when we are together. Who knows, I might just have a slight edge in the arts and entertainment section of Trivia Pursuit after reading Dave Wilson’s book. You never know when knowing that Foghat was an attempt at winning a game of Scrabble would come in handy. A trivia game of Jeopardy proportions just might be ridding on it.
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