Romans meeting - Parentalia
The Romans already said so: a name is a kind of sign. Many of us mortals live with the names given to us at birth, but we can defy our faith just a little by starting a music band – because then we can pick a name ourselves.

Nomen est omen – is the name truly a sign? Well, no. As far as we know no music band is made up of ten thousand maniacs, and rock stages are not populated by thin Lizzies, super tramps or William Shakespeare’s sister. Figure out yourself which bands are meant here, or keep on reading.

Shakespeare - Whats in a nameTalking about Shakespeare: what about his What’s in a name? Does the name of a band really not matter? Can you actually give a group any name that just pops up in your mind? Well no, that’s not true either. Those who unleash the power of the reference work of our time – the Internet – will see that names definitely do matter. There is no other explanation for the many sites offering name aid in the form of electronic band name generators. Nor for all those people who on all kinds of fora worry about questions like ‘What should I call my band?’; ‘Is there already a band called Green Strawberry?’ or ‘What do you think of The Vomiters as a band name?’.

Mad Doctor of Market Street One SheetIt’s all rather amusing: numerous wannabe musicians (worse actually: among them are people who don’t know how to elicit a false note from a detuned ocarina) are already concerned about later, when the line up is finally complete and the repertoire all set, what their band should then be called. You can hear their brains cranking from miles away. If you want to give God a good laugh, tell him of your future plans, as the Namibians say.

What’s more, it’s remarkable how many bands do their stinking best to be seen to be intellectuals. Why do so many formations look for the answer in book titles, works and little pieces, let loose on mankind by hip, misunderstood or completely lost authors? Puzzling.

While we’re at it, there are also scores of bands who simply adopt the name of a movie as their band name. Not seldom movies from the avant garde quarter are involved, or oddball comedies or even children’s films – judging by Beethoven when he was looking for a name for his 2nd.

Queen at Live AidAnd let’s also not forget the multitudes of musical groups, eager to show that – however mediocre their own repertoire may be – they are well aware that in the world of light music there are many other, much more interesting bands.

Musical formations abound that were named after album or song titles of other groups, even if the songs are in the Never heard of category. The more obscure the song, the better.

We can allow ourselves to feel a bit sorry for all the nameless formations who finally decide to take business seriously and come up with a good name. It isn’t easy indeed to hit precisely the right chord when making such a choice. Sad but true, success doesn’t entirely depend on craftsmanship, and it’s not entirely dependent on the capacity to write beautiful songs either.

‘In this competitive era, choosing company and product names are the single most important marketing decisions businesses face,’ Jack Trout writes in Business 2.0; surely Trout will not mind if we declare his statement applicable to one of the smallest enterprise forms we know: bands.

Another expert, Lisa Lepine: under the heading The DIY Musician, she raises the question: ‘How do you choose a band name that really works?’ Lisa obviously has the answer:  “The name is so integral to how the world perceives you; if you haven’t chosen a name that reflects the totality of your story, you’re already starting at a disadvantage. I learned the hard way, with a couple different bands, about names. Both these bands would have really succeeded in a much different way if the names had been changed. If the name doesn’t work for you, it can work against you.” And, Lisa adds, provokingly: “Music is the last thing that’s important."

However self-assured our experts may sound, and however grimly many currently nameless music formations are in pursuit of the ultimate band name, it seems wise not to worry too much about it. Many of those splendid, weird or astonishing band names at some point were pulled out of the hat fairly carelessly and without much fuzz. Which is why many bands with hindsight regretted, and still regret, that they didn’t give it more and longer consideration when it really mattered. As a result some of them now dedicate a good part of their considerable creative powers to coming up with explanations for those once carelessly chosen textual banners.

This did not make things easier for the compilers of this miniature encyclopaedia: on their quest they often had to wrestle their way through apocryphal drivel, high-flown fantasies, idle rumours and utterly unfounded speculations. To say nothing of the precious and time-consuming research that our tenacious, perfectionist associates have had to conduct – the same who also sifted out the errors, inaccuracies and imaginations from the proofs of this encyclopaedia.

That does not alter the fact that we have done our utmost to work as meticulously as possible. It also implies that criticism is allowed. We are open for all suggestions, improvements and additions. 

We recommend to consume this band naming handbook bit by bit – two or three band names a day is more than sufficient. The sun sets every day and the next day there will be new remarkable band names. We will keep you up to date.

Pomuzi Publishers
Weesp, The Netherlands, March 2012

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