1980s Band Names Demystified
HAVE you been wasting precious hours of your day wondering where A Flock of Seagulls got their name? Well, wonder no more. Before your very eyes are the etymologies of 1980s pop-synth and post-punk bands, illuminated for posterity. No more shall mankind contemplate the origin of Kajagoogoo. Mystery solved.
Named after a gang of children that Geldof had read about in Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory.
Trevor Horn imagined a futuristic computer creating a synthetic band “The Buggles”, a corruption of The Beatles
Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Dexedrine, a brand of dextroamphetamine – the original ADHD medication, and a once popular recreational stimulant.
Any excuse to hear this. (Cue the school disco frenzy.)
Named after the villain in Barbarella, Dr. Durand Durand
Fine Young Cannibals
From the 1960 film All the Fine Young Cannibals starring Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood.
A Flock of Seagulls
Taken from the lyrics to “Toiler on the Sea” by The Stranglers
We ventured overland
Fought with the aliens
The young ones used their hands
Pointed the way to a flock
A flock of seagulls!
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
A random headline from the New Yorker magazine (the “Frankie” in question referred to Frank Sinatra)
A fictional band mentioned in Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange.
Named after the board game. The heavy metal umlauts were added for effect.
Inspired by the band XTC and Australian jam makers IXL, they decided on a foreshortened version of “inaccessible”.
Jesus and Mary Chain
Allegedly from a breakfast cereal package which advertised that you could send off for a free Jesus and Mary chain.
A slight variation on a baby’s first sounds: gaga googoo
42 as in the answer to the meaning of life in the Douglas Adams book The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
Love and Rockets
After the Jaime and Mario Hernandez alternative comic books
Homage to Madness a song by reggae artist Prince Buster.
Ready to the the Rude Boy dance that anyone could do (again, any excuse):
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
They wanted a name that in no way would confuse them as a punk band. I think they succeeded.
Named after the Platters song The Great Pretender.
Public Image, Ltd.
After the Muriel Spark novel The Public Image
A homage to the Italian Marxist writer and political theorist Antonio Gramsci. The correct spelling in Italian to refer to “Political Writings” would have produced “Scritti Politici, but was changed to sound like the Little Richard song Tutti Frutti.
From the David Bowie song “The Jean Genie”
“Hes so simple minded he can’t drive his module,
He bites on the neon and sleeps in the capsule”
The band’s name originally was “Red”, but when the singer had to repeatedly clarify their name as “Red, simply Red”, it seemed to stick.
A combination of the nickname of MC5′s Fred “Sonic” Smith with “Youth” from reggae artist Big Youth.
The name refers to many hangings at Spandau Prison where the victims would twitch and jump (a macabre ballet) at the end of a rope.
A facetious tribute to The Velvet Underground’s oft-derided 1973 album Squeeze.
Tears for Fears
Inspired by “primal therapy”, developed by American psychologist Arthur Janov, who had John Lennon as a patient in 1970.
From the Thompson and Thompson characters from The Adventures of TinTin
Named after a Vulcan Elder on Star Trek
Originally, Huang Chung which they claimed translated to “perfect pitch” and the sound a guitar makes. The spelling was changed from “Huang” to “Wang” simply to make it easier to pronounce.
… and there you have it. You’re welcome.