The Beatles, The John Paul Quartet, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Fab Four -- What's in a name? | Recording and musicology | Fab forum

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The Beatles, The John Paul Quartet, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Fab Four -- What's in a name?
24 November 2011
2.55am
Rat Salad
Washington DC USA
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I've long thought a band's name doesn't matter in terms of their success. Stupid names are successful, great names fail.

If the Beatles had another name, would they have been as successful?

24 November 2011
5.23pm
Joe
Pepperland
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Perhaps, but it depends on what they'd have chosen. There are plenty of terrible band names around (Led Zeppelin, Smashing Pumpkins) which you tend not to question because they sound memorable and the songs overshadow the name. So if The Beatles had another catchy yet fairly neutral name that people could remember, and still had the songs, image and humour, they'd have done just fine.

Not if they were called Herman's Hermits though – some names stand out as being utterly dismal, and it's hard to take the band seriously regardless of their output. We'd still have the music but they might not have got quite so far in their career (breaking America etc). One or two singles, perhaps, then someone else would have usurped them as the nation's favourites. And The Beatles were too clever, too image-conscious to go around with a truly crap name.

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24 November 2011
10.24pm
vonbontee
Inside a Letterbox
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Are you sure you're not thinking retroactively, Joe? It sounds terrible today, but i would imagine that "Herman's Hermits" seemed like a fairly innovative band name at the time - although self-defeating, since there was no actual Herman in the band.

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
24 November 2011
11.23pm
meanmistermustard
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At the time the beatles was a strange name, hence all the questions at the time of why the name 'beatles' and who came up with it. At least the Crickets (which helped inspire the name Beatles) had some relation to music but who had heard of a musical beetle? You had to see the name to see the 'beat' part but to just here the names 'The Beatles' must have left people a little lost.

In relation to the question set, I think their music, their humour and their personalities would still have won over the fans and press. Unless they were called something so idiotic and/or undignified by the media and the music organisations at the time and even then Brian would have had a quiet word in their ear.

It wasnt the name that got Brian interested enough to be their manager or George Martin to be their producer.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
25 November 2011
9.56am
Joe
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Von – of course I'm thinking retroactively. It's very hard to put yourself in the mindset of someone in the 1960s hearing The Beatles, but them not being called The Beatles and having a terrible name. Part of me thinks it wouldn't have made a difference, but predicting what'll be popular is incredibly difficult.

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25 November 2011
6.44pm
MeanMrsMustard
Nowhere Land
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But… But…
If they hadn't been the Beatles, we wouldn't be on the Beatles Bible! Which is a cool name!

If I seem to act unkind, it's only me, it's not my mind that is confusing things.

28 November 2011
1.13am
Rat Salad
Washington DC USA
The Indra
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23 November 2011
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What if we named bands serially, like "Band #687," and later "Band #2056"?  This would be a Soviet way of naming them as they named the hotels in the Eastern Bloc back in the day. No need for a marketing department although the cost of promotion might continue in some strange way.

You want to suggest something in a band's name but not too much, and you don't want to unnecessarily offend anyone. "The Beatles" was originally a very silly name as I recall but at least was only one, sort-of-clever word; it didn't contain a lot of semantic information. It was almost a logo before we all knew the term; branding, a marketing success and lesson learned.

There was "beat" and "bugs." It was cute (the mop-topped boys, and they were marketed as "boys"), suggesting something upbeat or at worst harmless -- back then, nobody wanted to offend anyone; whereas today, offending someone seems to be the goal even while extolling the value of cultural diversity.  I think they could have been "The BackBeats" or "The Merseys" and we wouldn't know the difference today.

I think The Rolling Stones have the best name for all these reasons. Other good names are The Bangles, The Go-Go's, and The Kinks. There must be hundreds more I can't think of. They don't mean anything but evoke a good mood. 

28 November 2011
2.12am
meanmistermustard
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The Who is a great name.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
28 November 2011
2.17am
Rat Salad
Washington DC USA
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23 November 2011
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The Who -- one of my favorite bands from "Happy Jack" and earlier -- certainly has a "neutral" name!  Unfortunately, it's completely devoid of meaning. But here's a good example of purely meaningless name associated with a great body of work and popularity. Except in the extremes, it probably doesn't matter what the name is, and that was my thought.

28 November 2011
12.59pm
minime
Candlestick Park
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16 February 2011
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Should they have chosen "salt and pepper lonely hearts club band" as their name, I doubt they would have become so popular. A band name's must be short enough for people to memorize it on first hearing. But other than that, I don't think Beatles's name really contributed to its popularity.

28 November 2011
8.35pm
AliJaggerMcCartney
Locked in a Newspaper Taxi with Lucy and Bungalow Bill
Ed Sullivan Show
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18 September 2011
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meanmistermustard said:

The Who is a great name.

Same here, I also think Led Zeppelin and The Doors are brilliant names.

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