5 Band Names Taken from Classic Songs

When you form a band, thinking of a name is nearly as difficult as keeping the group together.

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If you’ve ever tried naming a band, you’ll understand the fear of announcing ideas to your friends. Nothing sounds quite right, too pretentious, too dumb, too long.

However, some of history’s great bands found their names in iconic songs. Here’s the story behind five band names taken from classic songs.


In 1985, classmates at Abingdon School in Oxfordshire, England, formed a band called On a Friday. The group then went on hiatus as the members (minus Jonny Greenwood, who was younger than the others) left for college. In 1991, On a Friday reformed, and after a chance meeting between bassist Colin Greenwood and EMI’s Keith Wozencroft, they signed a record contract. EMI said Greenwood and his friends needed a new band name and On a Friday was rechristened, using the title of the Talking Heads song “Radio Head.”

According to singer Thom Yorke, the song “sums up all these things about receiving stuff.” He added, “It’s about the way you take information in, the way you respond to the environment you’re put in.” Radiohead’s groundbreaking OK Computer seems like a thesis on this idea.

Oh, picking up something good
Hey, radio head
The sound of a brand-new world

The Killers

In the music video for New Order’s “Crystal,” a fictitious teenage rock band performs the song. Their name, “The Killers,” is written on the bass drum. When a Las Vegas post-punk revivalist band formed in 2001, they needed a name and found one in New Order’s video.

New Order released “Crystal” in 2001 as new groups like Interpol and The Strokes revived new wave and garage rock. The Killers became one of the biggest-selling artists from the early 2000s post-punk renaissance.

We’re like crystal
We break easy
I’m a poor man
If you leave me
I’m applauded

Judas Priest

British heavy metal may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the 1960s Greenwich Village folk movement. However, the band’s original bassist, Brian “Bruno” Stapenhill, found a band name in Bob Dylan’s song “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.”

The song appeared on Dylan’s eighth album John Wesley Harding (1967). In the song, Frankie Lee borrows money from his friend Judas Priest. After blowing it all in a brothel, Lee dies of thirst in Priest’s arms. The imagery alludes to biblical Judas and betrayal.

At a 1966 gig in Manchester, an audience member shouted “Judas” at Dylan in response to his electric set. Folk purists didn’t want their generation’s “spokesman” plugging in guitars. Dylan turned to his band and said, “Play it f—–g loud,” before launching into “Like a Rolling Stone.” Breaking the law!

Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
They were the best of friends
So when Frankie Lee needed money one day
Judas quickly pulled out a roll of tens
And placed them on a footstool
Just above the plotted plain
Sayin’, “Take your pick, Frankie Boy
My loss will be your gain.”

Bad Brains

Bad Brains formed in Washington, D.C., employing reggae, funk, and heavy metal to create a new kind of punk rock. They took their name from the Ramones song “Bad Brain.” The band helped found the D.C. hardcore scene, but their influence stretched far beyond the nation’s capital. Bad Brains shaped Fishbone, Living Colour, Faith No More, Rage Against the Machine, Beastie Boys, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Ramones’ fourth album Road to Ruin was released in 1978 and also features the punk anthem “I Wanna Be Sedated.” So, “Bad Brain” might be the morning after Joey Ramone’s wish is granted.

I used to go to parties
I used to drink champagne
Now I’m beginning to feel the strain
Bad, bad brain

The Rolling Stones

Muddy Waters released “Rollin’ Stone” on Chess Records in 1950. Waters had reinterpreted a 1920s Delta blues song called “Catfish Blues.” He also unwittingly named the future’s greatest rock and roll band.

Keith Richards said Brian Jones named the band in 1962 during a phone interview with a journalist who wanted to know what they were calling themselves. Jones spotted a Muddy Waters record on the floor and said, “The Rolling Stones.”

Well, I wish I was a catfish
Swimmin’ in a oh, deep blue sea
I would have all you good-lookin’ women
Fishin’, fishin’ after me

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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