The Top 5 Most Creative Stories Behind Band Names
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on October 6, 2006 | PRINT

What's in a name? Most people look up the meaning behind their names, only to find it represents another word or name. Caroline comes from Latin meaning giving. Eric is the ruler of all. And Melissa refers to the nasty stinging bug we know as the bee. We always take those surveys that determine our porn star name or gangster name that a computer simply generates for us. But how do musicians create their band names? Some band names seem simple but in fact represent something you've never even thought about.

1.) Iron Maiden: An electrifying metal band whose name refers to a medieval torture device. The iron maiden was a tall iron cabinet about seven-feet tall and three-feet wide with the likeness of Mary carved on it. A set of double doors opened to reveal that the inside of the maiden was fitted with dozens of sharp spikes. These spikes could be moved around depending on the individual requirements of the person's body and their crime. The overall result would be more or less lethal and mutilating depending upon where the spikes were located.

Supposedly, the condemned prisoner had to pass through seven rooms with seven doors before his scheduled execution. At the end of a long corridor, he found himself looking into the innocent face of an iron wardrobe. He would be placed inside of the maiden and the doors were shut very slowly so that the sharp points penetrated the man's arms and legs in several places, along with his belly and chest, bladder, eyes, shoulders, and his buttocks, but not enough to kill him. He would be left there to bleed profusely and slowly weaken until he died of a combination of shock and blood loss, if not asphyxiation. The torture was also heightened by the extreme claustrophobia. For such an intense metal band, Iron Maiden is a perfect fitting name.

2.) The Beatles: There are a few theories as to how The Beatles came up with their name. Here are a few of the most popular:

1) Stuart Sutcliffe, an original band member came up with the Beetles as a play on Buddy Holly's group, the Crickets, who they loved. They also used names like the Quarrymen and sometimes The Silver Beetles. Later it became the Beatles, emphasizing the "beat" aspect of music (and perhaps poetry). John Lennon is generally credited with combining Beetles and Beat to come up with the Beatles spelling.

2) John Lennon also stated that the film "The Wild One" was an influence. The film features a black leather-clad motorcycle gang called the Beetles.

3) The final theory as to how the Beatles got their name, and the one that makes this band name in the top five, is because of something Lennon was fond of saying when asked the "how did you get your name" question in an interview in 1964: "I had a vision when I was 12, and I saw a man on a flaming pie, and he said 'You are Beatles with an "a,"' and we are."

3.) Better than Ezra: You have to give this band props for how they developed for their name. Once upon a time, a long time ago, before they were even remotely famous, the group was at a Battle of the Bands. They were still nameless and a band called Ezra had just finished up a set that wasn't warmly received. The band had to announce their name when they went up, so they called themselves Better Than Ezra.

4.) The Postal Service: After a dispute with the real United States Postal Service, the Postal Service was able to keep its name as long as it helped promote mail usage. The deep desire to have the name started when Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard wanted to write music, but lived in two completely different cities. They mailed music to each other from Los Angeles to Seattle and within five months created an album, "Give Up." Simple snail mail proved to be inexpensive and rather efficient for them. The real Postal Service actually sells their album online and the band continues to do promotions for them.

5.) 311: Imagine this scenario: You're arrested one night, handcuffed and taken home to your parents. The citation you receive is numbered 311: Indecent Exposure. This skinny dipper just happened to be the former guitarist of 311, Jim Watson. After the humor of the name wore off, they simply decided to keep the abstract title since it didn't represent them in anyway. Many specific controversial rumors sparked up about the band name origin, though, including a reference to the Ku Klux Klan: K is the 11th letter in the alphabet, and 311 represented three Ks.

Makes you wonder how your favorite band made its name, huh? Next time you hear some Iron Maiden, you'll cringe from knowing about the medieval torture device, and you'll definitely laugh about 311. What creative story could be behind your band name?

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