While saying that a band name such as Led Zeppelin or The Beatles sucks may lead to a fairly interesting argument, at the end of the day, it all becomes pretty clear that it doesn’t matter anymore. While there may have been a time when picking such a flat choice of words such as “The Doors” could have seriously influenced the course of events, once the band’s talent got its chance to shine and they became successful, it was all water under the bridge; nobody cared about the name anymore. Differently put, I do believe that picking an original two-or-three words can be important for a newly-formed band, but find it a bit silly to give my opinion on it, when the band in question has already become successful. I mean, it’s already almost a trademark for god’s sake. And all the groups that I will mention below definitely fit that bill. So rather than that, I’ll just try to trace the name’s origins and background story in order to find out how it came to be the way we know it today.
1) The Beatles
The Beatles have gone through numerous name changes (The Black Jacks, Quarry Men, Johnny and the Moondogs and probably others) before finally settling down to The Silver Beetles, as a tribute to Buddy Holly (whose band’s name was The Crickets). It is not yet known whether it was John Lennon or Stuart Sutcliffe (the band’s original bassist who died of an Aneurysm at the age of 21) who came up with the idea of replacing the word’s second “e” with an “a”, thus creating the alternate spelling that has become their definitive name.
2) Pink Floyd
It was the band’s soon-to-become leader, Syd Barrett, who picked their name by combining two bluesists’, Pink Anderson’s and Floyd Council’s surnames. Before Syd joined in the band, they were funnily called Tea Set. Looking even more backwards, we have Spectrum Five, Leonard’s Lodgers, the Abdabs and the Screaming Abdab, and the Meggadeaths (should we call them the godfathers of heavy metal?).
3) Led Zeppelin
This is my favourite story of them all: apparently, at a certain time in 1966, Jeff Beck assembled a one-session supergroup featuring his Yardbirds-colleague Jimmy Page on guitar, future Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Rolling Stones’ pianist Nicky Hopkins and The Who’s rhythm section, Keith Moon and John Entwistle in order to record an instrumental piece carrying the name of Beck’s Bolero. As a sort of mockingly joke, either Moon or Entwistle (many sources claim Moon to have said so, but John was quoted later as giving credit to himself) compared the band to a lead balloon, meaning that it would “go down” quickly. When our little ambitious guitarist Jimmy Page decided to form his new band (at first called The New Yardbirds), he adopted that name, by changing it to Lead Zeppelin and then to Led Zeppelin, at their manager’s suggestion (to avoid mispronunciation). Page also stated that the name represented a balanced dose of both heavy and light; “combustibility and grace”.
Not much of a story, this one. Apparently, the word was picked at random from the dictionary by their guitarist, Joey Santiago. A pixie is a folklore mythical creature of Celtic origins that appears to be very joyful, childlike and mischievous and which looks much like an elf. For those with further interest (a.k.a geeks), you can read more about the creatures here.
5) Talking Heads
The term “talking head” is a metaphor used in television-business to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person (usually the newscaster). The resulting footage is that of a head which does not seem to be connected to a body. The band picked the term by reading a TV Guide, according to bassist Tina Weymouth.