From ABBA to X: are these the 101 best band names in the world?

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The answer is no, but they are an interesting selection of writer Bart Bull’s favourites, listed in his book Battle of the Band Names (Abrams Image, 2009), subtitled The Best and Worst Band Names Ever (“and all the brilliant, colourful, stupid ones in between”).

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His list actually includes 102 names, but for some reason Judas Priest appear twice. Maybe he just really, really likes them. Mistakes always creep in to these books: Ultimate Spinach are repeatedly given a superfluous “The”, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen become “Commander Cody and the Los Planet Airmen” and, unless it’s a joke, Jelly Roll Morton never worked with Red Hot Chili Peppers, having died in 1941. (He did play with The Red Hot Peppers.) Less forgivably, Snoop Doggy Dogg becomes “Snoop Doggie Dogg” – doesn’t the author, or his editor, know that “the world keeps spinning to the D-O-double-G-Y”?

This is nitpicking, because this is a wonderful read, by some way the most entertaining book in the genre. It lists hundreds of band names, including many I’d never heard of (some of which, for all I know, he may have made up), but it’s much more than just a book of lists: Bull writes well, and is very funny. The section contrasting guitar instrumentalists The Ventures with the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia – “practising pedal steel on three-chord country songs for like two or three hours on stage” – is hilarious.

Bull is nothing if not obsessive. If you are interested in Appetite for Deception, and two dozen other Guns N’ Roses tribute bands, you will find them here. There are reggae names, punk names, rockabilly names, metal names, bands that include the word “teens”, bands that include the name “tones”, Brothers, Playboys, and Ramblers. And Lee Harvey Skaswald.

Bull strays on to contentious territory in his section on the worst band names, in which he mysteriously includes The Electric Flag and It’s a Beautiful Day, while leaving out The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie, who themselves described their name, without exaggeration, as “dumb” and “moronic”.

However, I forgive, and indeed envy, the author for his blissful ignorance of the fact that a trio named Bun ‘nd Cheese once appeared on The X Factor.

Like all the band name books, so far as I am aware, this one is out of print, but readily available secondhand.

Getting back to his selection of the best names, such things are of course subjective but it’s hard to argue with the choice of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Richard Hell and The Voidoids, and New Riders of the Purple Sage – all the perfect combination of form and function. Others, well – Armored Saint, really? And is The Beatles actually a great name?

Anyway, here’s Bull’s list of what he erroneously calls “the top 99 or so greatest band names ever without question (in no particular order)”.

ABBA

Shot Down Over Equador Jr

The Sex Pistols

The Del-Vikings

DEVO

… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

All Girl Summer Fun Band

Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys

The Plastic People of the Universe

Black Sabbath

Killing Joke

The Barbarians

Judas Priest

Scritti Politti

The Fendermen

Parliament-Funkadelic

Black Flag

The Bar-Kays

Free Beer

James Brown and The New New Super Heavy James Brown Revue

Richard Hell and The Voidoids

Top Jimmy and The Rhythm Pigs

Loudness

Reparata and The Delrons

The Beverly Hillbillies

Bad Brains

Motörhead

Earth, Wind & Fire

The Circle Jerks

Faith No More

The Guilloteens

The Shadows of Knight

King Midas and The Mufflers

Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

Sublime

Corrosion of Conformity

The Screamin’ Sirens

Buck Owens and The Buckaroos

The Upsetters (“from New Orleans or Jamaica, take your pick”)

Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Chili [sic] Peppers

Jack Off Jill

Cradle of Filth

The Runaways

X (“from Australia, Japan, and Los Angeles, take your pick”)

Blue Öyster Cult

The Killer Barbies

The Beatles

The Vantours

Bolt Thrower

Buffalo Springfield

Professor Longhair and His Shuffling Hungarians

The Brides of Funkenstein

James Brown and The Famous Flames

The Rhythm Orchids

Sam The Sham and The Pharoahs

Quiet Riot

The Minutemen

Kraftwerk

Armored Saint

Disco Tex and The Sex-O-Lettes

The Sons of the Pioneers

Manic Street Preachers

The Treacherous Three

The Gun Club

Tool

The Teenage Kings of Harmony

Stark Naked and The Car Thieves

I Spit On Your Gravy

Dead Kennedys

Slayer

The Soup Dragons

Built To Spill

Iron Maiden

Brenda and The Tabulations

The Angry Samoans

The Fatback Band

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen

Nine Inch Nails

The Meat Puppets

Rage Against the Machine

Avenged Sevenfold

The Drifters

Girls Vs Boys (does he mean Girls Against Boys?)

Bongwater

The Pop Group

BMX Bandits

Martha and The Vandellas

The Rip Chords

Lords of Acid

Dearly Beheaded

The Turbans

Spooky Tooth

Booker T and The MG’s

The Bop Kings

The [sic] New Riders of the Purple Sage

The Banana Splits

Machine Screw

Wormfood

The Marvelettes

Judas Priest (again)

The Sonics

Steppenwolf

If you have read this far, who knows, you may have your own suggestions for best (and worst) band names? Please post below.

 

 

 

 

Last modified: January 23, 2017

3 Responses to " From ABBA to X: are these the 101 best band names in the world? "

  1. The Velvet Underpants, Terminal Cheesecake, Alice Donut, The Lovely Eggs, Concrete Sox, Poundaflesh and Cat Wax Axe Co.

  2. Simon says:

    Obviously, it’s Guns N’ Roses and not ‘N as you’ve expressed in this post, though neither are grammatically correct.

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