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The Origins of the ‘80s Biggest Bands’ Curious Names

Adam Young | September 28, 2017
The meanings of band names in the '80s.
Inspired by the rock-worthy band names of the ‘60s and drug-inspired names of the ‘70s, ‘80s music groups kept the quirky name trend going. Here’s how some of the biggest groups, whose unforgettable titles seeped into America’s subconscious via mix tapes and walkmans, got those peculiar names.


If you thought of a certain band from Athens, Georgia, when learning about rapid-eye movement in school, you're right on the money. According to rumors, the group settled on R.E.M. after front man Michael Stipe selected it randomly from a dictionary.

Tears for Fears

Tears for Fears had its share of growing pains in the band-name department back when they formed in the early ’80s. First, the members were part of the band Graduate before forming History of Headaches. Eventually, members Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal settled on the now-household name Tears for Fears, inspired by primal therapy — a form of therapy that received publicity when Beatle John Lennon began using it in 1970.


The British duo consisting of Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart became a musical team after their previous band, called the Tourists, split up in 1980. The two soon became the Eurythmics, named after a pedagogical exercise system Lennox was familiar with as a kid — it's a system of interpreting musical rhythms through the body, invented by a Swiss composer to explain the symmetry and spirit of music. In short, the name is synonymous with harmonious.

Depeche Mode

In a way, English electro band Depeche Mode formed earlier in the ‘70s as No Romance in China with Vince Clark and Andy Fletcher. Later, Clark, Fletcher and Martin Gore became Composition of Sound but decided to go more electronic in the ‘80s, when David Gahan joined up, and Depeche Mode was born. When the members saw a French fashion magazine called Depeche Mode (meaning, essentially, dispatched fashion), they were inspired.

Culture Club

Boy George once sang with Bow Wow Wow under the moniker Lieutenant Lush, before starting his own band consisting of a gay, Irish lead singer (himself); a black British bassist; a blonde, English guitarist and keyboardist; and a Jewish drummer — hence the clever and sensible name, Culture Club.

The Bangles

Led by Susanna Hoffs and Debbi Peterson, the Bangles formed in 1981 in Los Angeles but not before they called themselves the Bangs. A legal issue forced the band to change their name, and they became simply Bangles in 1982, after recording a new EP. At the last minute, the EP was changed and released as Bangles, and a phenomenon was born.


Remember Bananarama? The all-female band out of London got their name by combining the title of a kids' program at the time called The Banana Splits with Roxy Music's hit record at the time, Pajama Rama.

Duran Duran

Legendary ’80s rockers Duran Duran started out as a trio, who were fond of the Roger Vadim science-fiction film, Barbarella, in which the villain is named Dr. Durand Durand — and that's where they got Duran Duran. Much later, in 1997, the guys released the song "Electric Barbarella" on the album Medazzaland.

So, what happened with band names in the ‘90s? Stay tuned to find out the stories behind your grunge-era favorites.
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