A$AP Mob

New York hip-hop collective. A$AP Bari, one of its founders, describes in this interview how they came up with the name: “One day, we were all in Wendy’s in SoHo. [I said] ‘We should just be called PIF Unit.’ The s**t was like, Paid In Full, something. So one day, Yams was like, ‘F**k that. We’re called A$AP.’ I was like, ‘What the f**k that mean?’ He was like, ‘Always Strive And Prosper.’ I was like, ‘You know what, Yams? That s**t is too hard.’ “


There’s Abba, the Swedish seafood company, and then there’s ABBA, one of the most successful pop acts of all time. The name is an acronym, spelling out the first names Agnetha, Benny, Björn, and Anni-Frid, and a palindrome (the same backwards as forwards). Benny had been in The Hep Stars (“the Swedish Beatles”) and Björn was a member of The Hootenanny Singers, so the new name was a big improvement. Alternative suggestions put forward in a newspaper competition included Alibaba, Baba, and FABB. Everyone, including the seafood company, loved ABBA. If you love them too, just say Thank You For the Music.

The Abstracts

Fifties doo-wop quartet whose lineup included John Phillips and a bloke called Philip Wallace Blondheim Jr who, after The Abstracts had become The Smoothies, changed his own name to Scott McKenzie. He and Phillips later formed The Journeymen before, having declined the chance to join Phillips in The Mamas & The Papas, McKenzie found international fame by recording the flower power anthem San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).

Aerosol Burns

Named after this 1978 song by Essential Logic (Lora Logic’s post-X-Ray Spex outfit), Aerosol Burns describe themselves as “a three-piece playing fierce garage-bound heartbreak power pop”, which seems to cover most of the bases. Here is their very first single, Afraid of the Phone.



An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump

Named, rather clumsily, after Joseph Wright of Derby’s 1768 painting (right). Members: C-Bird, D-Bird and X-Bird. Like most bands featured in The Guardian’s new band of the week slot (in 2009), little heard of since. But here they are, looking and sounding pretty good.

And And And

No, not the one in The Commitments. A real band, based in Portland, Oregon, who describe themselves on their website as “everyday misfits who happen to have a pretty interesting band”. Well, they have a cool name. Their latest album is called The Failure.


After All Saints split up in 2001, Natalie and Nicole Appleton began performing as a duo and recorded a successful album, Everything’s Eventual. Nicole told viewers to the BBC’s Frank Skinner show in 2002 why they removed the S from their name: “It’s harder. It’s stronger. It’s a statement, instead of, like, ‘Appletons’.” All Saints reformed in 2006. And in 2013.


Articolo 31

Italian hip-hop duo, members of a collective called Spaghetti Funk, whose compelling 1998 cover of Like a Rolling Stone, Come Una Pietra Scalciata, is featured in the film Masked and Anonymous (2003), co-written by and starring Bob Dylan. Articolo 31 say they took their name from the article of the Irish constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press (though they are believed to have meant section 31 of that country’s Broadcasting Authority Act).

The Association

The most technically accomplished vocal harmony group of the 1960s, The Association sang “like a rugged heavenly choir”, as the critic Lilian Roxon memorably wrote. Formed from a 13-piece folk-rock group called The Men, and named at random from the dictionary (The Aristocrats had been an alternative), the new group enjoyed success with a string of sublime hit singles, from Along Comes Mary and Cherish to Never My Love and Windy. Best of all, perhaps, is Everything That Touches You. They suffered from an initial clean-cut image that led to the description “too hip for the square and too square for the hip”  – although they were cool enough to open the Monterey Pop Festival and made some fine albums, notably Insight Out (1967) and the essential Birthday (1968). Their best work was produced by Bones Howe, the king of sunshine pop.