Making the Brand: The 40 Greatest Band Names of All Time
Our nerd cabal separates the Whos from the Hoobastanks
Why It’s Great: As transgressive self-empowerment goes, this is tough to beat. (Though bassist Tessa Pollitt’s previous outfit, the Castrators, comes close.) A band name no self-respecting radio station/newspaper/PR agency/major label would touch is a prerequisite for punk, really, and the Slits had quite literally the mother of them all: “The concave mirror to the convex phallic innuendo of Sex Pistols,” as Simon Reynolds once put it. Or just listen to the way James Murphy drawls out “the Slllitttts” during the neurotic band-name-rundown conclusion to “Losing My Edge.” (T, I, JNSQ) R.H.
Why It’s Great: The group’s name is slick and clever, just like their music. And you cannot deny the pure alliterative pleasure of saying Tony! Toni! Toné! out loud, coupled with the knowledge that you’re actually pronouncing three words spelled totally differently. And! Punctuated! With! Exclamation! Points! (VA, JNSQ, WP) CARYN GANZ
WAYNE: Hey Tiny — who’s playing tonight?
TINY: Jolly Green Giants, Shitty Beatles.
WAYNE: The Shitty Beatles? Are they any good?
TINY [gravely]: They suck.
WAYNE: Then it’s not just a clever name.
Why It’s Great: Because that’s hilarious. Because there you have all 82 minutes of This Is Spinal Tap’s venom and affectionate wit condensed into, like, 15 seconds. Because “the Shitty Beatles” is now permanent universal shorthand for “Band X” or “Band Whose Name I Can’t Remember.” Because it’s the best fake band name of all time. Because they’re the Beatles that the ’90s deserved. (WP, P, T) R.H.
Why It’s Great: The original Art of Noises screed basically declared instruments a dead scene, imagining orchestras as an organized assembly of explosions, hisses, scrapes, and shrieks. The ’80s Art of Noise did too, but you could breakdance to it! (P, WP, I) C.W.
Why It’s Great: It’s the rare pun that can elicit an “Ohhhh…now I get it!” forehead slap years after first being heard. But the salacious double P, business-y vibe of the “Inc.,” and technophilic lip-syncing (see!) association also encapsulated the aspirational and goofy garishness of the late-disco era. (WP, I, P)
From the Band:: “I was in the studio and opened up a phone mbook and saw something with an L, but I didn’t like it,” remembers founder Steven Greenberg. “So I said, ‘How about Lip Service? But someone at the studio said that they worked with a voice-over company called that. I like funny spellings…I can’t stand the name, though.” DAVID MARCHESE