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Rating 1960s Bands' Names

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EFFECTS OF MUSIC

The names of the top bands of the 1960s are so much a part of them that it's almost impossible to think of the names simply as names. But let's make the effort in order to evaluate how good their names were.

Of course, names can be good in many ways. They can be descriptive, ironic, memorably eccentric... But, it seems to me that some of the best bands had the worst names.

Here's an unordered and, of course, utterly subjective list, graded on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is best:

  • Jefferson Airplane: Retro + modern + meaningless = psychedelic. 8
  • Supremes : Cocky, but lived up to it. 8
  • Rolling Stones: Great name for itinerant minstrels. Terrible name for a rock band. 4
  • Fairport Convention: Appropriately rustic and archaic. If it didn't sound like the name of an obscure British peace treaty or forgotten dart rules, it'd be close to perfect. 8
  • Grateful Dead: Good hyperbolic name for a metal group. Totally inappropriate for a group as sunny as this. Points added because they were clearly tripping when they came up with it. 6
  • Mamas and Papas: Terrific name for a kiddy band. Meh name for a pop group. 5
  • Gladys Knight and the Pips: Pips? Really? Is this a British vaudeville group that comes out in boaters? All of this band's points go to the first half of its name: 3
  • The Beach Boys: Beach music sung by boys. Sounds frivolous, but then they sing. Frivolously. And then they do Pet Sounds. 9
  • Four Tops: There are four of them. They are the tops. The naming convention flags their genre. Well done, lads! 9
  • The Doors: An incredibly prosaic name that works ironically for their druggy music. Plus, it's an appropriate literary reference — which would be better if their worst songs weren't the ones that opened the doors of perception the widest. They shouldn't have invited The Lizard King to the naming discussion. 9
  • The Four Seasons: They have nothing to do with the seasons. They have nothing to do with Vivaldi. It's a bland, generic, misleading, slightly pretentious, placeholder of a name. Point added for the correct counting of band members. 2
  • Jerry and the Pacemakers: You know immediately what sort of band they are, unless you hear "pacemaker" as a medical device and think that they're going to show up in walkers and plaid pants buckled beneath their pot bellies. Gotta split the difference on this one: 4
  • Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention: The Mothers were men, plus you have the swear-word implication, plus they were actually inventive. All of which doesn't even matter. You had me at "Zappa." 10
  • The Byrds: Did they misspell it because "birds.com" was already taken? Oh, wait. They misspelled it to be cool. genericName + misspelling = genericName - 2. Final score: 1
  • Creem: Ironically refined food-based name. Sexual connotation. Bold statement that they were a super-group composed of the filtered extract of great other groups. The lack of a definite article makes it even cockier. 10
  • Sly and the Family Stone: You've got the slyness of "Sly" and the family-ness of "Family," but together with a straight-on drug reference. A totally wtf name for a wtf group. 9
  • Steppenwolf: Sounds vaguely and appropriately threatening and aggressive, despite the totally inappropriate literary reference. 7
  • Credence Clearwater Revival: The length of the name has a throwback quality, and the three words each independently says that this is a group about something simple and pure. It would have been a terribly pretentious name for a folk group, but it works better for a rock group. 5
  • Led Zeppelin: The winner in a contentious argument about what to name a psychedelicious band, if the band members were all 14 years old. For an adult band, it's just embarrassing. 3
  • The Beatles: See Led Zeppelin, but drop the band's age to 12. "Oooh, and we can spell it B-E-AT instead of B-E-E-T." Is it an accident that as far as I know, the Beatles never once used a beetle in their iconography? Terrible pun, terrible name. 2