To quote Shakespeare: “What’s in a band name? That which we call a group by any other name would sound just as rockin’.”
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Inspiration for a band name can be found anywhere and everywhere. Because words and music so often overlap, it only seems natural that a band’s moniker would be derived from a book, a poem, or any body of literary work. Below are 10 bands who hit the books and found inspiration for their names in literature.
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1. The Doors
The ’60s-era rock icons took their band name from Aldous Huxley’s 1954 book, The Doors of Perception. The name of the autobiographical book about a mescaline-induced psychedelic experience took its own name from a William Blake book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which a particular line reads: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.” What’s more lit than a band inspired by a book inspired by another book?
2. Steely Dan
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of the jazz-rock outfit Steely Dan were fans of the writings of the beatniks, so when coming up with a band name, they drew inspiration from the greats … and the not-so-greats. Steely Dan was the name of a steam-powered dildo in William S. Burroughs’ 1959 novel Naked Lunch.
3. Veruca Salt
Spoiled, rich, and rotten are words that come to mind when Veruca Salt is mentioned. The character from the 1964 Roald Dahl Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that is. The ’90s alt-rock girl group with the same name, well, they just rocked.
4. Modest Mouse
The indie band Modest Mouse takes its name from a passage in Virginia Woolf’s 1917 short story, “The Mark on the Wall.” The lines in question read: “I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest, mouse-colored people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises.”
5. The Boo Radleys
English alt-rockers The Boo Radleys took their name from the reclusive character, Boo Radley, in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
6. Titus Andronicus
Rock band Titus Andronicus borrowed their moniker from the Shakespeare play of the same name.
7. Joy Division
The post-punk outfit Joy Division tried out several band names before landing on their literature-inspired moniker. They took the name from a reference in the 1953 novella, House of Dolls, by Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Ka-tzetnik 135633.
The story describes “Joy Divisions” in concentration camps where groups of Jewish women were kept for Nazi soldiers’ sexual pleasure.
The band name Steppenwolf was borrowed from the 1927 Hermann Hesse book of the same name. The Hesse novel itself was named after the German word for a subspecies of the grey wolf, the steppe wolf.
9. Uriah Heep
Uriah Heep is a famed prog-rock band, but Uriah Heep is also a devious character that appears in the 1850s Charles Dickens classic novel David Copperfield.
10. The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground’s name was inspired by the 1963 book of the same name. Written by journalist Michael Leigh, the book is an exploration of various “taboos” surrounding sex and sexual relationships.
Their song “Venus in Furs” was also lit-influenced by the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch penned novella of the same name.
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