Great band, shame about the name

Call your act something silly and you'll regret it for the rest of your career. It might even dent sales, says Simon Hardeman

As Noel Gallagher releases another single from his now-platinum debut solo album, and both he and brother Liam announce major UK dates for next year, the question is: how can they have got their band names so wrong?

Noel has a knack for the musicality of a meaningless phrase ("Champagne Supernova", "Shakermaker", etc) but High Flying Birds is wrong in so many ways: the way when you say it you have to stop uncomfortably after the "high" and regather yourself before saying "flying"; the way it suggested achievement before the band had achieved anything; the way it so obviously references a classic Sixties band (The Byrds) without any elegance.

Worse, it's Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. It falls between the two stools of putting Noel's name upfront but wanting to give the impression of being in a band of equals.

At least no one can say that Beady Eye is a mouthful. But it's still dreadful. Liam said earlier this year: "We tried a few names, but they'd all been taken. Like Monkey Eyes, Cat's Eyes. But I dunno – you've gotta call yourself something." As rationales go, "I dunno – you've gotta call yourself something" it isn't exactly throbbing with purpose.

It's extraordinary the number of bands who admit to not caring much about their name. Mogwai guitarist Stuart Braithwaite said: "The name... has no significant meaning and we always intended on getting a better one, but like a lot of other things we never got round to it."

Other bands hampered by names they just can't have thought about hard enough are Prefab Sprout, Biffy Clyro, and Smashing Pumpkins – whose bassist, D'arcy Wretzky, told The Washington Post even the band thought Smashing Pumpkins was "a stupid name, a dumb bad joke and a bad idea".

But whether you're spending night after night in the pub, or day after day in the boardroom of your record company, trying to think of a name, the effort is surely worth it. Because the moniker you choose can hang like an albatross around the neck of your guitar. A few years ago Test Icicles were making half-decent music. But their dreadful sniggering adolescent pun of a name gave them no chance among most women or men over the age of 12.

The other side of the coin features names that reek of trying to be too clever, often with tiresome punctuation. Stand-out examples are deliberately unpronounceable names like !!!. Even the band have problems with it – they have to make their website address www.chkchkchk.net. Rising band Alt-J chose a symbol for their name, except they're not called Triangle, but Alt-J – the keys you hit on an Apple keyboard to create it.

Back to Noel and Liam. Perhaps thinking up a name for a post-success band is particularly difficult. Take the supergroup formed by Led Zeppelin guitar god Jimmy Page and Free/Bad Company's lungs, Paul Rodgers. You'd expect it to encapsulate power, noise, excitement. They called themselves The Firm –about as rock 'n' roll as a packed lunch.

Noel says he liked the idea of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac in the 1960s. Ironically, the band shortened that to Fleetwood Mac almost immediately. In a second irony, the "High Flying Birds" came from a Jefferson Airplane song – ironic because Jefferson Airplane are notable for having squandered a great name. After the psychedelic success of "White Rabbit" they became Jefferson Starship (disco-shiny dross) and then simply the bland, corporate Starship. It shows that a great band by any other name does not necessarily sound as sweet.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones