RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS

01 November 2008

Literary Rock Band Names



I have received a very long list from the writer Tim D'Arch Smith (The Books of the Beast, Alembic, Love in Earnest, The Times Deceas'd, R.A. Caton and the Fortune Press etc.,) which I add in its entirety with a few amplifications and notes. Many, many thanks Tim. In the comments on our recent cursory list (Velvet Underground) someone added 'The Fall' who took their name from Camus and a metal band called 'As I Lay Dying' from Faulkner's masterpiece. Tim's list is about as definitive as you can get, but if you know some more please add them in COMMENTS. Rave on -it's a crazy feeling...

The Artful Dodger ( in Fagin's gang in 'Oliver Twist')
Arts Bears: from a phrase in Jane Harrison, Art and Ritual, ‘art bears traces of its collective, social origin’
Boomtown Rats, possibly in Kerouac or in Woody Guthrie’s Bound For Glory, the name of Geldof’s first band.
The Birthday Party (Pinter)
Bronski Beat: Bronski is the hero in The Tin Drum
Battered Ornaments: a phrase used by Fowler in his Dictionary of Modern English Usage.
Bubble Puppy, a reference to ‘bumple-puppy’ (unskilled) in Brave New World.
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
Bhagavad Guitars
Bitter Lemons (Durrell)
The Boy Hairdressers: The Boy Hairdresser was the original title of Joe Orton’s first play, broadcast under the title of The Ruffian on the Stairs.
Book of (Holy) Lies
Benny Profane, a character in Thomas Pynchon’s V.
Brave New World (Huxley)
The Blue Nile (non fiction work by Alan Moorhead - a very common book)
Comsat Angels, an abbreviation of Communications Satellite, from a story by J. G. Ballard
Cape Diem, from Horace, carpe diem.
The Chrysalids, title of a novel by John Wyndham
Colour Me Badd, title of an unpublished poem by Sylvia Plath?
A Confederacy of Dunces, novel by John Kennedy Toole
Dead Fingers Talk, novel by William Burroughs
Desperate Bicycles, from a passage in J. B. Priestley’s Angel Pavement (1930), ‘Turning into Angel Pavement from that crazy jumble of buses, lorries, drays, private cars, and desperate bicycles…’
The Doors, ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed,|All things would appear … infinite’– Blake then a book-title by Aldous Huxley. There was also a band called Doors of Perception
Durutti Column, André Bertrand, Le retour de la colonne Durutti (Strasbourg, 1966), a comic paper
Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
Drive Like Jehu: ‘Jehu the son of Nimshi … he driveth furiously’ – 2 Kings ix, 20
Dzyan, reference to Tibetan book, possibly fictional, mentioned by Madam Blavatsky
Damnation of Adam Blessing, book-title by Vin Packer (pseud. for Marijane Meaker). Adam Blessing was the name of a member of the band.
Eyeless in Gaza, novel by Aldous Huxley
Ejwuusl Wessahqqan: novel by Clark Ashton Smith
Flock of Seagulls, after the novel by Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingstone Seagull
Fra Lippo Lippi, poem-title by Robert Browning
Fear and Loathing (from Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)
Fear of Flying
The Five Just Men (from Edgar Wallace's The Four Just Men)
Five Lose Timmy (an Enid Blyton reference)
Frumious Bandersnatch (the Bandersnatch is a fictional creature mentioned in Lewis Carroll's poems Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark)
Forty Nine Hudson, the name of a car in Kerouac’s On the Road
Fiver, a rabbit in Watership Down
The Grateful Dead, book-title by Gordon Hall Geroud (Folk-Lore Society, 1908) or a ballad found in Childs or ‘the outcome of a night of stoned lexicology,’ (in the band’s words)
Guadalcanal Diary, book-title
Grace Pool, character in Jane Eyre
Gleaming Spires, perhaps a reworking of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dreaming spires’
Green Carnation (worn by Oscar and also the title of a 90s book)
Generation X, title of a 1960s paperback about British youth by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson
Harpers Bizarre
House of Love, from Anais Nin’s Spy in the House of Love
Icicle Works, from a short-story by Frederik Pohl, ‘The Day the Icicle Works Closed’
Jethro Tull, writer on agriculture (1674–1741)
Justified Ancients of Mu, a name from the Illuminatus! trilogy of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (1975)
JPS Experience: JPS= Jean Paul Sartre
JJ72, a Camus reference
Kinsey report
Look Back in Anger (play by John Osborne)
Love and Squalor (from Salinger)
Matching Mole = machine molle French for Soft Machine
Ministry of Love, from 1984
Mr Curt (from Conrad's Heart of Darkness via the movie Apocalypse Now)
Manhattan Transfer, title of a novel by John Dos Passos
McCavity’s Cat (Eliot - 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats)
Mugwumps, feature in The Naked Lunch
Mogo’s Flute, title of a children’s book
New Riders of the Purple Sage, from the Zane Grey novel, Riders of the Purple Sage
Nova Express (William Burroughs)
Necronomicon
Oberon (a character in William Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream)
101ers, the torture room in 1984 (denied by the semi literate Joe Strummer)
Other Voices (from a Truman Capote novel)
Popol Vuh (The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiche Maya)
Pooh Sticks (from A.A. Milne)
Pylon, after the Faulkner novel
Question Men, perhaps out of Kafka
The Quiet Room, short story by Poe
Soft Machine (Burroughs again)
Sad Café (from Carson Mccullers book)
Steppenwolf
Steely Dan
Supertramp
Spring in Fialta, short story by Nabokov
S–Z, Barthes’s book on semiotics
Sot-Weed Factor (John Barth's fat novel)
Smersh (from Ian Fleming)
Swan’s Way
Separate Tables (a play by Rattigan)
Shub-Niggorath, one of Lovecraft’s Old Ones
The Soft Boys, a conflation of Burroughs’s Soft Machine and The Wild Boys
The Saints, after Charteris’s detective
Stryper, ‘and with his stripes we are healed’ – Isaiah, 53, 5
Sabres of Paradise, book-title by Lesley Blanche
Silver Apples, a phrase from Yeats’s ‘Song of Wandering Ængus’
Samian, an American children’s book by Dr Seuss
Sixpence None the Richer, phrase from C. S. Lewis’s, Mere Christianity
The Teardrop Explodes, an occurrence in a Prince Namor story in the comic Daredevil, June 1971
Tears for Fears, book by Arthur Janov
Thin Lizzy, from the Beano (British children's comic and annual)
Thompson twins, characters in Hergé’s Tin Tin books

Tolkien names such as Nazxul, Shadowfax, Cirith Ungol, Galadriel, Gandalf, Gollum,
Aragorn, Burzum (Orcish for ‘darkness’), Cirith Gorgor, Fatty Lumpkin, Isengard, Lorien, Marillion, Mordor,
True West, a play by Sam Shepherd
Tygers of Pan Tang, phrase from a Michael Moorcock novel
23 Skidoo, the title of chapter 23 of Crowley’s Book of Lies
Those Without (band with Syd Barrett), after a book-title by Françoise Sagan
A Testament of Youth (novel by Vera Brittain)
This Mortal Coil, Hamlet, III, 1.
Tommyknockers, a Stephen King novel
Tripmaster Monkey, book-title by Maxine Hong Kingston
Three Fish, a poem by Rumi
Thin White Rope, Burroughs’s description of the male ejaculate
Uriah Heep
Ubik, novel by Philip K. Dick
Ungl’unl’rrlh’chchch, phrase in Lovecraft’s’ Rays in the Walls’
Veruca Salt, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
Whizz for Atoms, the third in the Molesworth series by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle
The Wasp Factory (thanks to Iain Banks)
White Stains (from an obscene rare book by Crowley)
Weena Morloch, from Wells’s Time Machine
Wreck of the Hesperus (a doom metal band from Ireland, name from Longfellow's poem)
X-Ray Spex, from an advertisement in a True Detective magazine

53 comments:

JeffConn said...

Heaven 17, from Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.
Depeche Mode, from a French fashion magazine.
The Fall, from the Albert Camus book.

Anonymous said...

Shelleyan Orphan

Cocteau Twins

Motorcycle Boy (character in S.E. Hinton's "Rumblefish")

The Dead Milkmen, from Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, which features a character known as Macon "Milkman" Dead III

Anonymous said...

Level 42, from Douglas Adams' "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

Anonymous said...

Not a book, but there was an awful band that called themselves 'Zasu's Petals,' which is a reference to the Capra film 'It's A Wonderful Life.'

VJESCI said...

modest mouse.they take their name from this bit of the story "The Mark On The Wall" by virginia woolf: "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-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises."

my chemical romance.inspired by the irvine welsh book "Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance"

joy division.inspired by accounts of "joy divisions" (groups of nazis who raped women) found in "The House of Dolls (Das Hoys fun di Lalkes)" by Karol Cetinsky under his camp name and number (Ka-Tzetnik 135633)

miette said...

Television, if Tom Verlaine was precognitive and saw forward to Toussaint. Maybe?

Anonymous said...

Good Charlotte from "Good Charlotte: The Girls of Good Day Orphanage" by Carol Beach York.

Anonymous said...

Steppenwolf, from the Hesse novel.
Cabaret Voltaire, from the Dada cabaret and (one issue only) journal.

Anonymous said...

Okkervil River, from a short story by Tatyana Tolstoya. They're good.

Anonymous said...

Two Gallants, from the Joyce story of the same name in Dubliners.

Anonymous said...

the ballad of mops hacker (from the novel lives of the monster dogs) and the carson mcullers (from well, carson mccullers)

Eric Rosenfield said...

The Airborne Toxic Event -- from White Noise by Don Delillo

Anonymous said...

The Hollow Men, Melbourne indie pop band of the early 80's.

John Mutford said...

Billy Talent from Michael Turner's Hard Core Logo and Gogol Bordello after Nikolai Gogol.

Anonymous said...

Collective Soul from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

Evie said...

Augie March, an Australian band named after the protagonist of Saul Bellow's The Adventures of Augie March.

Tim said...

I didn't know a lot of these - thanks for the list. Some other literary band names:

Moloko and Campag Velocet, both from A Clockwork Orange.

The Velvet Underground, who took their name from the Michael Leigh's book on sexual behaviour in America.

Anonymous said...

Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories, from the book by J.D. Salinger.

1960's psychedelic band H.P. Lovecraft.

Mott the Hoople, from a novel by Willard Manus.

Jenny said...

Silverchair, from the C.s. Lewis book The Silver Chair. (IMO good book, crappy band)

I'm not sure if DuranDuran counts, since Barbarella was a comic as well as a movie, and I think they chose it from the movie.

Anonymous said...

Soft Machine - Bourroughs story

CaitlinMElliott said...

Bob Dylan, the Dylan is a reference to Dylan Thomas.

Anonymous said...

Pere Ubu
The Boo Radleys
Trout Fishing In America
Genesis
Moby
Blood Meridian

Reinaldo Garcia said...

The Doors, from Huxley's THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION.

Anonymous said...

The Caulfield Sisters, named after Holden's sister Phoebe from Catcher in the Rye

Secret Goldfish, also from Catcher in the Rye

truongster said...

rainer maria after the poet (rilke).

Joe said...

Humble Pie is a phrase used often in English Literature, most famously by Uriah Heep in Dickens' David Copperfield:

'When I was quite a young boy,' said Uriah, 'I got to know what umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate umble pie with an appetite. I stopped at the umble point of my learning, and says I, "Hold hard!" When you offered to teach me Latin, I knew better. "People like to be above you," says father, "keep yourself down." I am very umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I've got a little power!'

MagsTheAxe said...

Darkest of the Hillside Thickets is a Canadian rock band. They took their name from a phrase in Lovecraft's story The Tomb: "I will tell only of the lone tomb in the darkest of the hillside thickets." They've performed with such bands as GWAR and They Might Be Giants.

Beautiful Screaming Lady said...

Sad that no-one's mentioned Rollerskate Skinny, from Catcher in the Rye. Sad because they're clearly more obscure than I'd like them to be.

Anonymous said...

That would be "Rats in the Walls" by H.P. Lovecraft

steambadger said...

Small correction: Bronski is a character in The Tin Drum, but he's not the hero. Oskar Matzerath is the hero.

Anonymous said...

Killdozer - after a short story by Ted Sturgeon

Paul said...

Guadalcanal Diary (came out of the same scene as R.E.M. and the B-52s; named after Richard Tregaskis' book)

Anonymous said...

Faith No More, from the 1983 book by John Shelby Spong

Kiss, band name inspired by poem of the same name by Shel Silverstein

Judas Priest, John 12:7: "From the heart of Judas, a priest born to be."

skyway said...

The Feelies, from Brave New World.

Anonymous said...

the ellen james society

ty said...

Hot Water Music from Bukowski's book of the same name.

Pretty Girls Make Graves from Kerouac's The Dharma Bums

Anonymous said...

Fugazi- for "fucked up, got ambushed, zipped in" from Mark Baker's "Nam".

Also, Tilly and the Wall, from the title of a children's book about a mouse...

Anonymous said...

Days Between Stations, the title of the ‘85 Steve Erickson novel, was used by a Midwest band about 15 years ago, and since then a more recent band also has taken the name (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Days_Between_Stations). It’s also the title of an album by the band Radio Nowhere and has been used by critic Greil Marcus as the name of a music column.

japanjane said...

Milton and the Devils Party ... an indie rock band in Philadelphia made up of a couple of English professors. Great group ... great lyrics ... great sound. http://mdp.gotfreedom.net/

Anonymous said...

A couple of corrections- Judas Priest was named after a Bob Dylan song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" and Silverchair was reportedly derived from two songs on an early set-list of theirs: Nirvana’s “Sliver” ( or Smashing Pumpkins’ “Silverf**k”) and “Berlin Chair” by YouAmI

http://www.youami.com.au/

Anonymous said...

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Bad Seed is a novel by William March and a film by Mervyn Leroy)

Anonymous said...

The Heavy Metal Kids. London band from the seventies - good one too! Another William Burroughs name.

Anonymous said...

I think "The 101ers" does have to come off the list. I doubt Joe Strummer should be called "semi-literate", as mentioned: he probably knew his George Orwell. But the name comes from the address where the band started playing - 101 Walterton Road, Maida Vale, London.

Elspeth said...

Great list! BTW, Veruca Salt named their band from "the brat-girl on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", so the movie version of the book. I liked the reference to the character in the book better - "The girl who got everything she ever wanted".

Also, The Ophelias were named after the character in Hamlet; The Miss Alans from Room with a View.

Anonymous said...

K's Choice - from Kafka's K. der Prozess

Metal Molly - Molly Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses

Anonymous said...

Titus Andronicus after the Shakespeare play.

Anonymous said...

The Florida hardcore band Shai Hulud named themselves after the worm monsters in the book Dune.

Hot Water Music, a gritty punk band out of Gainesville (kind of like Jawbreaker, Small Brown Bike, etc.), named themselves after a book of Charles Bukowski's poetry.

Good call on whomever said Rainer Maria, seriously underrated band- even by myself, I haven't listened to/thought about them in years.

It's funny I can think of literally dozens of song and album titles inspired by books- but not any more bands.

I suppose it would redundant to include all the "Wizard rock" bands like Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, etc.?

Anonymous said...

LMNOP from the alphabet

Anonymous said...

The Beta Band took their name for the cast in Brave New World

Anonymous said...

excellent, but a little too anglosaxon centered, you forgot 3 incredible german bands:
Les Liacons Dangereuses
Faust
Die Haut ("the skin", after Curzio Malaparte's novel)
also
Man Ray (argentinian pop band, quite big in the 90s)
Mishima (indie pop band, Spain)
and back into WASP world:
Current 93 (after Crowley)

Anonymous said...

"Wake Me When It's Over", a book by Rob Sacher (former owner of the famous NYC club where The Strokes and Interpol first performed) is taken from the song of the same title by the NYC shoegaze band, Longwave....

Anonymous said...

There's also Of Mice and Men

This is great I've always gotten a kick out of this

Anonymous said...

Maybe 2011 will be the new 1982? :) Or...not. I'm from the same childhood era as you but all I remember is people everywhere with bad hair, neon clothing and too much blusher. However, TV was full of hotness. At least then. Now, looking back, not so much. Happy 2011!
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