Terrible Names These Legendary Bands Had Originally

You've got your instruments. You've got your friends. You've got a garage to play in, and maybe you've even got a couple gigs booked at the local bar. After all these individual pieces are assembled, though, you'll be confronted with one of the biggest decisions in your little group's impending history: What the heck are you going to call yourselves?

Picking a band name isn't easy. It's hard enough to be a novelist naming a book or a startup company figuring out their target audience, much less a group of scrappy, passionate young musicians all trying to agree on what their theme is. It's no huge surprise that so many bands started out with names that didn't stick, and honestly, that's nothing to be embarrassed about. Often, it takes a few tries to get it right, even for groups that have become iconic. Some of these names, though, range from being confusing to hilariously dumb to outright nauseating, and today, we're taking a look at these terrible names that once belonged to legendary bands.

Earth, Wind & Fire wanted a little pepper with their salt

Okay, so Earth, Wind & Fire is an awesome band. Combining phenomenal talent with a distinctive style — plus songs you'll never forget — Maurice White's group has endured as one of the most iconic bands of the 20th century. The second you think of them, the lyrics to their 1978 hit single "September" probably start running through your head. C'mon, admit it, you're humming the tune now.

The band's groovy, spiritual name perfectly complements their music, and it's no wonder that White, a Sagittarius, says that he picked this moniker out from the elements in his astrological chart, according to a 1999 issue of Vibe. However, back when the band first formed, they called themselves the Salty Peppers. At the time, White says he was still in his "jazz stage," but he was leaning toward doing something more universal, with vocals, which eventually became the band you know today. So fortunately, he steered away from Salty Peppers. And as a band's name really does influence their creative trajectory, it's hard to imagine a group named after dining table condiments reaching the same heights that Earth, Wind & Fire did.

Black Sabbath used to be a blues band with a terrible name

With the legendary Ozzy Osbourne as their frontman, Black Sabbath were pioneers of that crazy genre you now call heavy metal. And hey, if you look at 'em in their prime, all those shaggy, long-haired dudes certainly look like they'd belong to a band with an apocalyptic name like Black Sabbath. These days, it's wild to think the group formed all the way back at the tail end of the '60s, only to ride through most of the 20th century (chaotic periods aside) and into the 21st, until their recent disbandment in 2017

Back when these guys first started screaming together in 1968, though, they didn't call themselves Black Sabbath, according to Ultimate Classic Rock. Instead, they went by the ultra-badass, ulra-ruthless name of ... uh, the Polka Tulk Blues Band. Yeah. It wasn't an ironic name, either. They really were supposed to be a blues band at that point, complete with a saxophonist and a slide guitar player. 

Needless to say, the Polka Tulk Blues Band label didn't stick. According to Nolan Stolz's Experiencing Black Sabbath: A Listener's Companion, the blues band soon renamed themselves after the blue planet, Earth. At some point while they were Earth, the guys shifted into darker, louder tones, presumably alongside their name change to Black Sabbath.

Thank god Kurt Cobain came up with Nirvana

Nirvana was the band of the '90s. They were the raggedy heart, soul, and body of grunge, from their early victories to the band's tragic climax. And it can't be understated just how much the name "Nirvana" guided the band's vision, success, and following. The contrast between the band's aggressively unfinished sound and their emotional lyrics somehow fits perfectly with the spiritual essence of Nirvana, the Buddhist state of enlightenment. In essence, the band's name frames their music as a shedding of greed and hate, a passionate thrust toward a deeper goal of attaining peace with oneself. According to Louder Sound, Kurt Cobain said that he wanted, in his words, "a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk name like the Angry Samoans."

It's a good thing he finally decided on Nirvana, though, because all of his other name ideas were uniformly awful. Skid Row was one early Nirvana name. Ted Ed Fred was another. Other name ideas that Kurt had, according to Yahoo! News, included Man Bug, the Reaganites, and Smell Fish. The worst of the worst, though, was Fecal Matter, a name which definitely wouldn't have played well when the band hit it big. Seriously, who wants to say they're a fan of a band called Fecal Matter, of all things?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers had a little too much zip in their step

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are practically a genre unto themselves. They've been playing together since the '80s, so you know their sound when you hear it, but it's tricky to slot it into any pre-existing labels. That's probably exactly the dilemma that faced Anthony Kiedis, Flea and company in the early days, when they hadn't yet decided to name themselves after a spicy fruit. 

Back when the band first began touring through Los Angeles wearing nothing but carefully positioned tube socks, their original name, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, was Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem. Yes, you read that right. Now, that'd be a fine title for, say, a colorful book by a children's author like Roald Dahl — which would, let's face it, get shortened to something like "Tony Flow" for the inevitable movie adaptation — but for a band? Too weird, too long, and too hard to remember, though the recurring use of "M" is clever enough.

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony had a truly terrible original name

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is a rap group that figured out how to nail a theme, keep it consistent, and make it work. From the title of their breakout single, Thuggish Ruggish Bone, to the nicknames used by the members of the band — Bizzy Bone, Layzie Bone, Wish Bone, and Flesh-n-None, respectively — there's a reason their brand has been so successful. 

That said, they weren't always calling themselves Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Their prior name was B.O.N.E. Enterpri$e, according to Gerrick D. Kennedy's Parental Discretion Is Advised: The Rise of N.W.A and the Dawn of Gangsta Rap. Before that, they were known as the Band Aid Boys. Now, if you're thinking that the Band Aid Boys sounds like the sort of silly name a bunch of junior high kids would come up ... well, that's exactly what it was, because they actually did come together in junior high. So hey, compared to some of the other bands here, these guys at least have a good excuse for their original name.

The Beatles took a few tries to get it right

You have to admit, the Beatles is one ridiculously clever name for a band. Can you imagine how many first graders out there, from generation to generation, have spelled the word "beetle" wrong when they first came across it, much to the delight of their Beatle-loving parents?  Oddly enough, though, back when Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison were just a crew of rowdy teens hanging out together on the stage, according to Biography, they called themselves "the Quarrymen," of all things. Not the greatest name. Now, to be clear, the Quarrymen technically existed before these guys came around, but they definitely took it over. Lennon was the first future Beatle to join the Quarrymen, followed by McCartney, and it was the introduction of Harrison that truly transformed the band. As these guys practiced, booked shows, and got better and better, it eventually became clear that that ol' Quarrymen name wasn't going to cut it. 

So, they turned the page, and adopted the brand spankin' new name of ... uh, Johnny and the Moon Dogs. As you can probably guess, that one didn't last long. Soon, they became the Silver Beetles, then the Silver Beats, until finally, somebody realized that merging Beats and Beetles (minus the whole "silver" theme) was awfully catchy. So take note, musicians. Even if your first couple band names don't take off, follow the example of the Beatles, and keep trying new ones.

Radiohead's original name was astonishingly uncreative

Radiohead is a band that, based on their songs, would seem destined to have a crazy story behind their crazy-cool name. The story isn't that wild, though, and the original name was about the most mundane thing imaginable. See, back when the crew of British guys that would become Radiohead first met, according to Greg Metzer's Rock Band Origins, they were students at the Abingdon School (near Oxford) in the '80s, and bizarrely enough, they were far more preoccupied with their studies than their little band hobby. So, when they did get together for practice, it was always on a Friday. And, boringly enough, that was their first name: "On a Friday."

Sorry, folks, but On a Friday is a terrible name for a band. Can you just imagine how awkward it would be to schedule gigs? "C'mon, guys, let's go see On a Friday on this Saturday!" Ugh. By the time they signed a record deal, they knew it was time to get a better name, and after considering such awkward possibilities as Music (c'mon, guys) and Jude, they eventually were inspired to choose the epic-sounding, utterly perfect name of Radiohead, based on a song by the Talking Heads titled, you guessed it, "Radio Head." Groovy.

Pearl Jam was a band all about basketball

Way back before Pearl Jam was releasing hits like "Even Flow" and "Jeremy," it seems they were shooting hoops, trading basketball cards, and calling themselves "Mookie Blaylock," after the retired NBA point guard of that name. As if that wasn't a big enough tribute to their favorite basketball star, Mookie Blaylock (the band, not the real guy) released their first album under the title Ten, according to The New York Times, which was Mookie's jersey number. This all happened somewhat incidentally, though. As Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament puts it, they simply admired Mookie's game, and as he explained, "As time went on, we sort of created a little bit of a monster out of the name. We never intended it to actually be the name of the band."

True Pearl Jam fans have never forgotten, though, and neither have the members of Pearl Jam themselves. Years later, the real Blaylock got into a serious car accident, and the band, who had long since renamed themselves Pearl Jam, posted a "sending good thoughts" message to Mookie on their Instagram

But where did a weird name like "Pearl Jam" first come from? In 1991, Eddie Vedder told Rolling Stone that his great grandmother, Pearl, had once made a jam (the kind you spread on toast) that included hallucinogenic ingredients. Amusing anecdote, but it's total BS. In another Rolling Stone interview years later, Vedder admitted that while his great grandma was named Pearl, the story regarding her trippy jam was fabricated.

Nickelback's first name was less than complimentary

These days, everybody loves to bash Nickelback. It's one of those rare activities that unites people from all walks of life, all over the globe. The truth is, though, that Nickelback are the ones laughing the hardest. Back in 2017, according to Digital Music News, the crew that brought you such grating hits as "Rockstar" became the eleventh best-selling band of all time. Facts are facts.

That said, if you hate Nickelback, you're going to love hearing what their original name was. 

See, back in the mid-'90s when these guys first started playing shows, as reported by The Globe and Mail, they went by the name of ... (drumroll) ... the Village Idiots. Hey, you can't make this stuff up. To be clear, the Village Idiots were a cover band, as explained by Mercury News, and when they decided to start playing their own music, they complemented the change with a new name, Nickelback. This was allegedly a reference to Chad Kroeger's old day job as a Starbucks barista, where he'd often tell people, "Here's your nickel back," as he handed them their change. Weird story, but once you've heard it, it's hard to imagine Nickelback's name arising from anything else.

The legendary Simon and Garfunkel had some cartoonish inspiration

The classic duo of Simon & Garfunkel have what is, one would think, the most obvious name ever ... because it's just, you know, their actual names. In reality, though, Rolling Stone says that the pair behind such hits as "The Sound of Silence" originally went by the pseudonyms of Tom and Jerry back in the '50s. Yes, that's right, just like the Hanna-Barbera cartoon with the antagonistic cat and mouse. And if you're wondering which was which, well, Garfunkel went by the name Tom Graph, and Simon was Jerry Landis.

To be clear, these goofy monikers weren't really their fault. While they did come up with the names themselves, they'd simply used them for a few local gigs. Once they finally nabbed a contract, their promoter was afraid that the boys' names were "too ethnic-sounding" — in other words, both of them had Jewish backgrounds — and thus, they played under the more WASPy-sounding Tom and Jerry, to make sure that Ward Cleaver-era Americans didn't get too worried that they might actually enjoy the music produced by a couple of Jewish kids. It wasn't until 1964 where the duo finally played as Simon & Garfunkel for the first time, making their big "debut" at Folk City.

Creed's original band name was ... terrible and disturbing

Okay, so by this point, you've laughed, cried, or shaken your head at a lot of terrible band names. Bad as all of them might be, though, you should now buckle up, and be prepared for the absolute worst of them all. Really. Because the original name that Creed went by, noted by lead singer Scott Stapp's memoir Sinner's Creed, is about the creepiest, most uncomfortable band name ever. Evidently, back when Creed first got started, they called themselves "Naked Toddler."

Why? It seems that the idea came from guitarist Mark Tremonti, based on a newspaper clipping about a child abduction. During the band's first show at a club named Yanni's, the name was about as unpopular as you'd think it would be. As Stapp writes, "Girls hated it." Based on this unenthusiastic response — which, frankly, should've been foreseen way ahead of time — they considered other names, such as Backbone and/or Spine, before settling on Creed. 

Now, given how creepy this original name was, you'd think that Creed would be desperately trying to brush it under the carpet. Bizarrely enough, though, they don't seem that embarrassed, considering that they mentioned it as a trivia question on their Facebook page back in 2012.

Finger Eleven saw 'monkeys' in the sky, with rainbows

Sometimes, when you've pulled a good band together and you want to play a few shows, your first "name" is a joke — and sometimes, that joke sticks around far longer than you might want. That's probably what happened to the Canadian band who saddled themselves with the name "Rainbow Butt Monkeys" back in the '90s, according to Interrobang, which definitely sounds more like a cartoon meme than a serious musical effort.

By the time the Rainbow Butt Monkeys were readying for the release of their album Tip in 1997, by Mercury Records, they realized that their current name wasn't going to cut it anymore ... at least, not if they wanted anyone to take them seriously. So, they decided on the new name of Finger Eleven, which singer Scott Anderson later told Music Insider Magazine came from one of his lyrics. As he explained, "The name is my fault. What happened was, we were in the studio making music, and I had this verse in a song about 'finger eleven pointing the other way,' and I was talking about doing your own thing, going your own way, despite what anybody might say or whatever obstacles are in your way, just doing your thing — it's about following your instinct."

One could argue that there's no name which would better represent "doing your own thing" than Rainbow Butt Monkeys, dumb and goofy as it might be, but hey.