5 Bands Named After Planets and Other Bodies Within Space

The stars, planets, and other celestial bodies within outer space have often inspired some of the most eccentric band names. Once the space race set off in the mid-1950s, there was a fascination with space and all its cosmic entities for nearly two decades. In 1969, the British rockers formerly known as Hocus Pocus changed their name to UFO. Known for their spacier sound — and later for their 1974 hit “Doctor Doctor” — UFO didn’t technically name themselves after unidentified flying objects but the London club of the same name where they were first discovered.

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Memphis rockers Big Star, featuring the late vocalist Alex Chilton, guitarist Chris Bell, and bassist Andy Hummel, along with drummer Jody Stephens, were never named after some big, celestial body. They technically pulled their name from the grocery store where they often made their snack runs while recording. They even used the store logo with the word “Star” omitted to avoid copyright infringement.

[RELATED: 5 Bands Forced to Change Their Name After Releasing Music]

The late David Roback initially thought “Mazzy” would be a great name after his previous Paisley Underground band, Opal, dissolved. When his friend and singer Hope Sandoval joined his new band, she suggested adding the word “Star,” for starlight, which was always a recurring theme in her poetry.

In whatever space bands have landed on their name, here are five acts that looked to the universe to find it.

1. Billy Haley & His Comets

First called the Saddlemen, Bill Haley renamed his group Bill Haley with Haley’s Comets, a play on Halley’s Comet, the comet that’s visible from Earth every 76 years. After going to No. 12 with their song “Crazy Man, Crazy,” which was co-written by Haley and bassist Marshall Lytle, the band was renamed Bill Haley & His Comets.

In 1955, the group went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their hit “Rock Around the Clock,” which was co-written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers, and was the first rock and roll song to top the charts in the U.S. and UK.

Bill Haley & His Comets was the perfect name for the group, and their meteoric rise to fame in the 1950s with other hits like “See You Later, Alligator” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”

Check out the story behind the writers of Bill Haley & His Comets’ 1955 hit “Rock Around the Clock” HERE.

2. Earth, Wind & Fire

Funk, soul, and R&B icons Earth, Wind & Fire pulled their name directly from the stars. After singer Maurice White left his group The Ramsey Trio in the late ’60s, he joined up with friends Don Whitehead and Wade Flemons, and the three wrote music for Chicago-area commercials. Soon after, they formed the Salty Peppers in 1969.

Once the trio relocated to Los Angeles and signed to Warner Bros., White changed their name to Earth, Wind & Fire after the three elements in his astrological chart. White, who was born December 19, 1941, was a Sagittarius, which is linked to earth, air, and fire.

[RELATED: Behind Earth, Wind & Fire’s Song “September”]

“I started Earth, Wind & Fire because I had a vision and music was playing in my head that I wanted to bring through,” said White, in one of his final interviews, prior to his death on February 4, 2016. “What I had in mind was exactly what Earth, Wind & Fire became. There was an evolution and as time went on, the sound was developed by the musicians I brought into the group.”

Along with their hits “Shining Star,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “September,” among many others, Earth Wind, & Fire sold more than 90 million records worldwide, won six Grammys, and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

In 2022 and 2023, Earth Wind & Fire saw the passing of two more longtime members, saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk and drummer Fred White. The group’s current lineup features Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson, along with B. David Whitworth, Myron McKinley, John Paris, Philip Bailey, Jr., Morris O’Connor, and Serg Dimitrijevic.

3. 30 Seconds to Mars

Brothers Jared and Shannon Leto played music together since they were kids. When they formed their band in 1998, they performed under a number of different names before landing on Thirty Seconds to Mars (also listed as 30 Seconds to Mars). The name was pulled from a rare manuscript that Jared came across, called Argus Apocraphex, which was possibly penned by science writer James Gleick or co-authored. Though much isn’t known about the text, a subsection of the thesis does include the title “Thirty Seconds From Mars,” which sounded cinematic, and immediate enough, for the band.  

[RELATED Behind the Band Name 30 Seconds to Mars]

“It’s a reference, a rough translation, so who knows,” said Jared Leto, elaborating on the origins of the band name. I think the idea is interesting. It’s a metaphor for the future. It’s a silly metaphor on one hand, but it’s an idea that is being proven, I think, every single day.”

Leto continued, “Thirty Seconds to Mars [is] the fact that we’re so close to something that’s not a tangible thing/idea. Also, Mars being the God of War makes it really interesting, as well. You could substitute that in there, but the thing that’s nicest about the name, and what’s important for my brother and I, when we were thinking about all of this, is that it be imaginative and really represented the sound of our music in as unique a way as possible. I think that it does that. It’s different.”

Thirty Seconds to Mars released their self-titled debut in 2002 and have a sixth, It’s the End of the World but It’s a Beautiful Day, out September 2023.

4. The Neptunes

For more than three decades, Pharrell Wiliams and Chad Hugo have continued writing and producing hits together as The Neptunes. Formed in 1992, the hip-hop duo only released one album, Clones in 2003, and a number of singles through 2020.

Willams and Hugo called themselves The Neptunes, according to BMI, since “astrologically, Neptune rules water and the Earth is, after all, mostly water.”

Together, the duo has continued writing and producing hits, including Nelly’s No. 1 “Hot in Herre,” along with Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” *N’SYNC’s “Girlfriend,” and Kelis’ 2003 hit “Milkshake,” among others, along with songs for Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Diddy, and more.

[RELATED: 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Pharrell Williams Wrote for Other Artists]

The Neptunes have won four Grammys, including Best Contemporary R&B Album for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical in 2004, and Best Contemporary R&B Album in 2006 for producing and co-writing Mariah Carey’s 2006 album, The Emancipation of Mimi.

5. M83

The spiral galaxy Messier 83 inspired the name of the French electronic group M83. Formed in 1999 in the southern coastal city of Antibes, M83 was originally a duo featuring Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau. After the release of their second album, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts, Fromageau left and Gonzalez has kept M83 going since then.

M83 released nine albums from their eponymous 2001 debut, through their Grammy-nominated Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, featuring their hit “Midnight City,” and their 2023 release Fantasy.

“I started my career being very personal about my albums, being very shy about sharing music with other artists,” said Gonzalez in 2023. “It was very scary for me to release an album when I started, but nowadays, I feel like opening up to people. The idea of a group of friends who are able to create music together is definitely a beautiful thing to me.”

He continued, “It’s harder than being alone, obviously, because you have to deal with personalities and different characters and moods, and all of that, but it’s also probably the most gratifying thing that you can get in life.”

Blast from the Past: Check out our 2009 interview with Anthony Gonzalez HERE.

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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