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10 Band Names Taken From Literature: Steely Dan, The Doors, And More

 

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If there's one surefire way to add a sense of importance and artistic integrity to your band, it's to name your band after something you read in a book. Here are ten bands who took their names from literary works.

1. Steely Dan

One of my favorite things to do to classic rock fans is to explain where the name "Steely Dan" actually comes from. "Steely Dan" is a reference to William S. Burroughs' 1959 novel Naked Lunch, a book I'll admit to reading but not actually understanding. In Naked Lunch, "Steely Dan III from Yokohama" is a steam-powered dildo, which is not really something that comes to mind when listening to "Reelin' In The Years."

2. The Feelies

New Jersey jangle-pop band the Feelies took its name from Aldous Huxley's dystopian classic Brave New World, where "feelies" are movies that manipulate all of the senses, including touch. They're basically extreme versions of 3D movies.

3. The Doors

Just like the Feelies, the Doors also took its name from the work of writer Aldous Huxley, though the name actually originated with writer William Blake. Huxley's novel The Doors of Perception took its name from a quote in Blake's poem "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell."

4. Josef K

Though "Josef K" would imply the name of a solo artist, Josef K was actually an underappreciated post-punk band from Scotland during the late '70s and early '80s. The band's name comes from the main character of Franz Kafka's The Trial, whose last name is never revealed.

5. Gregor Samsa

Another band to take its name from the work of Franz Kafka is Virginia post-rock outfit Gregor Samsa, named for the protagonist in Kafka's The Metamorphosis, about a man who inexplicably turns into a beetle.

6. Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse may write intense and occasionally aggressive music, but the band's name often sounds like something a cute twee pop band would adopt. The term "modest mouse" actually derives from a Virginia Woolf passage from "The Mark On the Wall," about "modest, mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises."

7. The Magnetic Fields

The music of indie pop band the Magnetic Fields may not delve into surrealism, but the band's name comes from the 1920 novel Les Champs Magnetiques, or The Magnetic Fields, written by Andre Breton and Philippe Soupault, which is considered to be the first work of surrealism in literature.

8. The Velvet Underground

"The Velvet Underground" has always been one of my favorite band names, but the band members didn't come up with the name themselves. The Velvet Underground is actually the title of a non-fiction book about bizarre sexual practices in the United States, published in 1963. This wasn't the only time the band would reference a sex-themed novel: the song "Venus is Furs" is named after a novel about sadomasochism.

9. The Fall

Though Mark E. Smith is generally considered to be the leader of the Fall, he wasn't responsible for the band's name. "The Fall" originated with original bassist Tony Friel, who took the name from Albert Camus' philosophical novel The Fall.

10. Burzum

Though countless metal bands have taken their names from the work of J.R.R. Tolkien (including Amon Amarth and Gorgoroth), the most notorious is Varg Vikernes' Burzum, whose name is taken from the Black Speech word for "darkness," as is revealed in The Lord of the Rings.  

I know there are more, so what other bands have done this? Let us know in the comments section!

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