Asking a band why they gave themselves the name they have has to be the single most obvious question in pop. Very few acts have a decent answer beyond "we just liked it", and certainly no one has managed to reach the gold standard set by The Beatles, whose common response was something along the lines of: "I had a vision when I was 12. And I saw a man on a flaming pie, and he said, 'You are The Beatles with an A.' And so we are."
The fact that it's just a pun on both Buddy Holly's Crickets and beat music was felt to be too obvious to comment upon. So, to save at least 10 bands and further interview awkwardness (and unnecessary storytelling), here are the less vivid, and more humdrum accounts of how they got their names.
1. The Jam
Popular culture has found a few uses for the word 'jam' that could have been invoked in the naming of Paul Weller's first band. It's a term for improvising music, it denotes things which are stuck or crushed together, there's a thrillingly urban traffic connotation that echoes The Clash naming themselves after a newspaper headline about conflict... It could all be so, so punk rock.
However, the true origin came from the breakfast table. Young Paul was wondering what name to choose when his sister Nicky piped up "We've had Bread and Marmalade, why not The Jam?" And lo, their legend was preserved forever more.
Outside of North America, Nickelback may be among the most commonly misspelled names in rock - NickEL, not NickLE - possibly because it's too similar to the name of a fish (stickleback) and nickel isn't a commonly used word. But the humdrum reality of the name is that it came from bass player Mike Kroeger's day job serving coffee. As each drink routinely cost an amount of dollars and 95 cents, he'd spend his time giving customers five cents (or a nickel) in change, and saying, "Here's your nickel back."
Fun fact: Nickelback were originally called Village Idiots.
DIY music scenes like to take ordinary things and give them mythical status by taking them away from their original context. So, when Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein formed a band in Lacey, Washington, and started rehearsing in a room near Sleater-Kinney Road, it seemed natural to make use of these two angular and opaque words for their new musical project.
As a band name, Sleater-Kinney is so opaque it could refer to anything from a supergroup to a lawsuit, and they will already have known what it would look like to see their name in lights, as at appears on the road signs for exit 108 on Interstate 5.
4. Tangerine Dream
With a name like that, you'd think Edgar Froese had either literally woken up in a citrus trance and feverishly scribbled the words in his dream journal, or that he was being deliberately colourful, to try and approximate a psychedelic reverie. However, the slightly more boring truth is that he misunderstood the lyrics to the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (which is, to be fair, exactly that kind of trippy vision).
As English is not his first language, he thought John Lennon's "tangerine trees" was "tangerine dream", and named his band in homage. Mind you, he wasn't the first to make such a lyrical mistake. The Mystery Trend took their name from the "Mystery Tramp" in Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, and The Lightning Seeds got their name from Prince's Raspberry Beret: "The thunder drowns out what the lightning sees."
5. Young Fathers
Young Fathers' collective name is not, as you may wonder, a reference to escalating teenage pregnancy in urban areas, or the reaction of any young man on discovering that he's about to become a babydaddy. It is far closer to home than that. The name comes from the fact that all three members of the group - Graham 'G' Hastings, Alloysious Massaquoi and Kayus Bankole - were named after their fathers. They are, in nomenclature at least, the younger versions of their own dads.
And before you ask, yes, the name Junior was already taken.
Many bands turn to the dictionary to find inspiration when looking for a name. Evanescence looked under E, wanting something a bit wafty, and they found it. The Association found their name while looking up 'aristocrats', which had been suggested instead, and Ash worked their way through the As until they found a word they all liked.
But the ultimate moment of musical random lexicography came from Lionel Richie's band Commodores, who tossed a dictionary into the air to open it, and then pointed randomly at the page. That they are not now called Commodes instead is simply a matter of blind luck.
A band name that is all capital letters and doesn't really read easily (is it "dance" or "dunce"?) suggests an acronym, a shared secret or motto hidden in letter form that binds the band members together. The origin of DNCE is less complicated than that. Waaay less complicated.
Guitarist JinJoo Lee told Heart that the name came from a song they'd written about having too much of a good time to be able to spell: "The way we came up with the name of the band was a song about being too drunk to spell 'dance,' [but] still having a good time... DNCE is 'dance' without an A, which is not a perfect word. But you don't have to be a perfect dancer to be dancing to our music."
8. Backstreet Boys
For all that it sounds like a direct homage to the would-be street toughness of New Kids on the Block, the name Backstreet Boys came from the American equivalent of a car boot sale, the flea market. Backstreet Market was an assortment of stalls, selling crafts and second hand goods on International Drive in Orlando, Florida, and it is said that this is where the future Boys used to hang out.
Which does raise questions about their ability to spot bargain antiques on a trestle table at 50 paces.
9. Linkin Park
The internet has forced many a band to reconsider how to spell their own name. CHVRCHΞS, for example, adopted the V and the funny backless E so that their name would be easier to spot in search engine results pages. And a similar problem could have scuppered the band Hybrid Theory, who were hoping to change their name to Lincoln Park, a nod to the district in Santa Monica.
The problem was, the domain lincolnpark.com had already been taken, so to optimise search engine results, Chester Bennington suggested they spell it 'Linkin', and after a quick check to ensure linkinpark.com was a viable alternative, that is what they did.
Some mundane references are merely the first line of a longer (and more interesting) story. So on the surface of it, Orbital are named after the M25, the motorway that encircles London. Junction 5 of the M25 swoops past Sevenoaks, home of the Hartnoll brothers Paul and Phil.
However, the M25 also played a pivotal role in the illicit rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s. Party people would meet at a pre-arranged junction or services, the location would be given and they'd head off in convoy formation to some secret location. Paul told Brighton's Finest he hit upon the name while sitting at the kitchen table with his friend Chris Daley: "We were brainstorming band names and he was good with words and he had written down Orbital Madness - we were by the M25 which is where the big raves were at the time.
"I liked the idea of it being relevant to where we lived and what was going on at the time. We got rid of the 'madness' bit and the name was born."