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.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?