Tom and Barry Howe, conjoined twins with a third dormant head growing out of the latter’s shoulder, form a band called The Bang-Bang in Brian Aldiss’s strange 1977 novella Brothers of the Head. They become stars until, in the author’s words, “their hatred of each other tears them apart”. Other fictional bands briefly featured in the story are Gibraltar and The Noise.
“We were The Bangs. We loved The Bangs. It was very powerful, very short and in your face,” (Debbi Peterson). Sadly, there was already another The Bangs, in New Jersey, who threatened to sue. The (California) Bangs changed their name to Bangles – “We thought, well let’s just add three letters and it was kind of a Beatles reference in some odd way … Bangles, Beatles,” (Susanna Hoff). Bangles never looked back and The Bangs? Well, it was just another manic Monday for them – serving burgers ‘n’ fries in downtown Union City. Moral: never sue over your name. (Ask The Birds.)
The Beach Boys
Initially Carl and The Passions, which now sounds much cooler than The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson said in 2008: “A group’s name is not very important. If we’d been called The Peach Boys, I don’t think it would have made much difference to our success. We were going to be The Pendletones, after a sweater everyone was wearing, or The Beach Bums.” Yes, Brian: Good Vibrations, one of the pinnacles of artistic achievement in pop (or any other) music. By The Beach Bums. Confusingly, Brian subsequently revealed in his 2016 autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, that in 1970 he suggested changing the band’s name to The Beach, “because we weren’t boys any more”. However: “I told the rest of the guys that but they didn’t like the idea.”
Liverpool beat combo who enjoyed some success in the 1960s. This one got to No 2 in the UK charts. Formerly The Silver Beatles (and before that, The Silver Beetles or The Beatals). The name was suggested by Stuart Sutcliffe, their original bass guitarist, as a tribute to Buddy Holly’s backing group, The Crickets. They were known as The Rhythm Beatles in Hebrew, but this did not stop the Israeli government banning them.
Bingo Hand Job
British R&B group that featured future Face and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, sporting the biggest fringe in pop. Contemporaries of The Byrds, whom The Birds’ manager sued over their name (he lost); the Americans responded in the song Eight Miles High with the lines “nowhere is there warmth to be found/among those afraid of losing their ground”. The Birds perform here in The Deadly Bees, a not-very-horrifying horror film directed by Freddie Francis in 1966.
Black Leaves of Envy
Teenage metal band championed by Dave Grohl when their local council in Cornwall, England, told them to keep the noise down while practising in their garage after complaints from the neighbours. Grohl wrote to the council: “I am an American musician of over 30 years, having played professionally with such bands as Nirvana and Foo Fighters. Like many musicians, I started in a garage in my neighbourhood. Music is not only a healthy pastime, it is a wonderful, creative outlet for kids.”
The Black Tubes
Bomb The Bass
Tim Simenon says of the name: “The concept was one of bombing the bass line with different ideas, with a collage of sounds. Bombing was a graffiti term for writing, like people would ‘bomb’ trains or whatever.” Beat dat.
To make the perfect bucks fizz, add two parts champagne to one part orange juice; serve chilled, ideally for breakfast. It was invented in 1921 at Buck’s Club, the gentlemen’s club in London that was the model for PG Wodehouse’s Drones Club. The group were named after the drink. Mike Nolan: “We needed a name and were stuck for ideas. Then Nichola Martin, who’d put the band together with Andy [Hill], said: ‘Anyone fancy a bucks fizz?’ She meant the cocktail but I said: That’s a good one!” With the help of a little skirt-ripping, they won the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest with Making Your Mind Up. Since then, legal wrangles over the name – sound familiar? – have seen two versions of the band touring. If you wanna see some more … click, click.
Zydeco is the traditional dance music of black southern Louisiana, and Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr, who died in 2016, was its greatest ambassador. The nickname arose from a supposed resemblance to the character played by William “Buckwheat” Thomas in the popular movie series Our Gang (later known as The Little Rascals). His first band, Buckwheat and The Hitchhikers, performed soul covers; after playing with Clifton Chenier, “the king of the zydeco”, he learned accordion and in 1979 formed his own zydeco outfit, Buckwheat Zydeco and The Ils Sont Partis Band (Ils sont partis – “they’re off” – came from the Louisiana racetrack), later known simply as Buckwheat Zydeco. On a Night Like This (1987) was the first in a successful series of albums on the Island label that took the music to a new audience, including the Montreux Jazz Festival.
The Burning Buddhists
Named after Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in protest against the Vietnam War. Rob Morrish, the guitarist, wanted The Experimental Surfers but was outvoted; this was revealed 20 years later (in 2006) in the course of an entertaining correspondence in The Guardian’s Notes & Queries column about whether anyone has ever been hit by a falling piano when walking past a tall building.
Byrds Byrds Byrds
Canadian tribute band who prompted this Twitter exchange between actual Byrds, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby, in February 2017: @RogerMcGuinn Hey @thedavidcrosby this is a cover band called Byrds Byrds Byrds do you care? @thedavidcrosby I don’t know Roger ..what do you think ? ..are they any good ? ..does that matter ? I’ll get a letter sent if you want @Roger McGuinn I like ’em they’re a good Canadian band.
The coolest band of the 1960s? Heck, the coolest of all time. And one of the most innovative, whose influence can be widely heard today, more than half a century after their biggest hit. They began life in Los Angeles as The Jet Set, released one single as The Beefeaters in an attempt to cash in on the British invasion, and finally found inspiration for the name that would make them famous on Thanksgiving Day, 26 November, 1964. Birdses (a song by Dino Valenti), Birds and Burds were all rejected before they hit on The Byrds. Unlike The Birds, a British band who sued them over the name (and lost), these Byrds could really fly. How high? Eight Miles High.