Some of the most family-loved, media friendly band names weren’t as innocuous as they seemed. Where were the censors to protect us, anyway?
The male ego is not a dirty word.
The average guy ejaculates 9cc of semen. But the British ‘70s art rockers 10cc (‘I’m Not In Love’, ‘Dreadlock Holiday’) wanted to go one better.
Another tale is that their record chief had a dream that a band he signed had the #1 album and single on the Billboard chart, and called 10cc. He insisted they use that name.
Similarly, a male ejaculates enough to fill a spoon, which is what the 1960s US hippy folk-rockers Lovin’ Spoonful (‘Summer In The City’, ‘Daydream’) were said to be inferring.
Officially it was a line from Mississippi John Hurt ‘s ‘Coffee Blues’ although Hurt’s spoon was also accused of being about the heating and melting of heroin.
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The sullen Seattle sultans disguised their name being after the slippery stuff with red herring explanations.
There was Eddy Vedder’s great-grandmother Pearl making hallucinatory jam with peyote (the good);
Pearl Jam was the nickname of NBA champ Mookie Blaylock whom they’d first called themselves after (the bad);
Vedder was blissed out over the enchanting process of a sand grain turning itself into a pearl (the ugly).
The Chrissie Amphlett-featuring Australian movie Monkey Grip was mostly about a heroin addict..
But feminists hijacked the name to mean the strength of a vagina over the penis during sex, which led to riot girrls bands around the world commandeering the name.
Will herstory remember it as a more empowering call to arms than Pussy Riot, Tinvulva, The Slits, Perfect Pussy, Tacocat, Growler, Vertical Smile and Vagina Panther?
The Flaming Lips
The name was obvious but fans insisted the US band took its designation from a Fred Astaire movie in which the word apparently appears.
But singer Wayne Coyne told Spin, “I even remember making a flyer for the show where I cut out a picture of a woman with her legs spread and put a mouth over her, uh, parts — so there was this idea of a throbbing orifice.
“It just proves that if a man is completely left to his own devices, he’ll always go straight for vaginas.”
The power pop trio from Limerick, Ireland, insisted VAG stood for Very Angry Girls but wink-winked to fans they were “inspired” by the likes of The Muffs and Hole.
311 is the Omaha, Nebraska, police code for indecent exposure.
As a teenager, bassist P-Nut and friends went skinny dipping in a public pool … and suffered the indignity of being taken home to their parents still in the nuddie.
Limp Biscuit is a schoolboy dare played in Britain and Australia where a group of chowderheads stand in a circle around a biscuit, and wank onto it.
Last one to splash has to eat the soggy pastry. Like, grossorama.
A similar blow-first schoolboy game is Circle Jerk, adopted by Black Flag original Keith Morris for his next band, with the same set of come-as-you-are rules but doesn’t include the biscuit.
Their drummer was so mortified by the name that he quit. On the spot. Not very hardcore, we don’t think.
Melbourne ‘90s hit makers Chocolate Starfish had no problem getting on mainstream radio despite calling themselves after the impression one’s asshole leaves on the bedsheets after particularly enthusiastic rompy-stompy.
Box The Jesuit
The mid-80s Sydney outfit Box The Jesuit had a healthy obsession with sex in their lyrics, so it’s not surprising that their name came from a 19th century British phrase for masturbation.
Pet Shop Boys
The early bullshit story about the origin of the Pet Shop Boys name – that in underground gay discos there were dark rooms where you “did it” without knowing with whom or what – has plagued the duo since they started out in 1981.
Added fuel to this bit of cow cookie was the urban legend that some gays shoved hamsters up their cabooses for extra gratification.
However it’s far more interesting than the real story, so we’re keeping it in.
That is, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe had friends who ran a pet shop in the London suburb of Ealing and who were called the pet shop boys by their social circle, and our heroes liked the name because it sounded hip hop.
The late Don Van Vlie spent most of his career dodging questions on how he became Captain Beefheart.
But in one early interview, he claimed his weird uncle Alan would expose himself to girls, squeeze his dick until the head turned purple and crow that it looked “like a big ole’ beef heart”. Who knows, it could even be true.
Other bands inspired by Captain Beefheart’s John Thomas included Tool, Meat Puppets, Whitesnake (the term from an African American put-down of white guys’ smaller dicks), Third Eye Blind, Ramrod (a ‘60s Australian band managed for a time by future prime minister Paul Keating) and One Eyed Trouser Snake although Austin punk group Dicks were so named because all members had Richard as their first name.
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were not only smart-bums when it came to digging art-music but were also fans enough of Beat Generation books to actually understand them.
Steely Dan was a dildo in William Burroughs novel Naked Lunch, a giant metal steam-powered thing which was crushed by n evila German bulldyke hooker using her … well, what The Beatles referred to as “fish and finger pie” in ‘Penny Lane’.
The Velvet Underground
One of the members found a book called Velvet Underground on a New York sidewalk, about the sexual underground practises in 1960s America including S&M.
The S&M-in-a-novel practice continued with one of their best known songs, ‘Venus In Furs’.
Mudhoney took their name from a Russ Meyer soft-core flick
Before Muse became Muse, they were Rocket Baby Dolls, which Matt Bellamy remembered came from “some dodgy… Japanese porn film.”
After leaving Jane’s Addiction and looking to start a new project, Perry Farrell was flicking through a skin mag where he saw an ad for fireworks.
It made more sense as the LA riots had just broken out.
An acronym for ‘We Are Sex Perverts’ was scratched into the end of the groove on the first album by the Californian shock-rockers.
The story goes that when band members were asked if it meant We Are So Powerful, We Are Satan’s Preachers or We Ate Savory Pancakes, they’d reply, We Ain’t Sure Pal!