Making the Brand

Spin Magazine last week published an article listing their 40 greatest band names of all time.  I agree with most of the list (Motörhead is #1) but I’m not sure why the stopped at 40. So let’s continue the list.  Here are the ten band names I would add in alphabetical order.

Arcade Fire1) Arcade Fire

The idea of an arcade on fire sets the tone for the music.  There are approximately 13 bands members on stage and the name accurately describes the insanity of their live shows of controlled chaos.

Beastie Boys2) Beastie Boys

According to Michael Diamond, BEASTIE stands for Boys Entering Anarchistic Stages Towards Internal Excellence.  It makes sense to me.  But it also is a play on beastly which completely describes their early music.  But simply put, all three members were simply Beasties, there could be no other description


Electric Light Orchestra ELO3) Electric Light Orchestra

They’re a rock band but with strings.  It’s an orchestrated rock band but poppy or light.   The name perfectly sums up the band plus the acronym ELO sounds natural almost like an Englishman greeting you.

The Go-Go's4) The Go-Go’s

It’s fun and playful and empowering for the first all girl rock band to have an album hit #1 on the charts

The Jam5) The Jam

I’m sure it’s a play off their English predecessors, The Who and The Kinks but it’s also a great name that can be taken as a band that’s giving you the best (This is THE Jam) or it can simply be accepted as something to put on your toast.


I’m not a fan of the band in its current incarnation but the name is brilliant.  It’s simple, it’s sexy, it defined glam rock and it was possibly dangerous.  As a kid, I heard it stood for Knights In Satan’s Service.  Extra points for a great looking logo.


I don’t think anyone in the band really likes the name but I think it was part of the success.  It stands for Rapid Eye Movement which described their early sound of dreamlike, jangly guitar sound and the incoherent singing of Michael Stipe.  Peter Buck said REM could stand Rhinoceros, Elephants and Monkeys for all he cared but I think the generic letters helped shape the band into making them whatever they wanted to be; 80s rock heroes or 90s multi-million sellers.

Rush8) Rush

It combines the simplicity of KISS and like The Jam, a great description of the music.

Sonic Youth9) Sonic Youth

I love this name.  Sonic Youth came from combining the nickname of MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith with the trend of reggae artists, such as Big Youth, featuring the word “Youth” in their names. Bassist Kim Gordon recalled that “as soon as guitarist Thurston Moore came up with the name Sonic Youth, a certain sound that was more of what we wanted to do came about.”

The White Stripes10) The White Stripes

Jack White surely has an eye for colors and the name The White Stripes was a perfect introduction to his vision.  “Red, white and black, the band’s signature colors, are, according to Jack White, “the most powerful color combination of all time, from a Coca-Cola can to a Nazi banner.”  These colors permeate the duo’s distinctive wardrobe and album artwork. In some interviews, the group has said that the colors red and white refer to peppermint candy, a symbol of childhood innocence.”

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