Dire Straits : Brothers David and Mark Knopfler, along with friends John Illsley and Pick Withers, formed Dire Straits – choosing a name believed to originate from a suggestion by a musician flatmate of Withers’. He allegedly plucked it out of thin air while they were rehearsing in the kitchen of a friend, before Dire Straits recorded a five-song demo tape under the name in 1977.
Iron Maiden : Iron Maiden were formed on Christmas Day 1975 by bassist Steve Harris shortly after he left his previous group, Smiler. Harris attributes the band’s name to a film adaptation of ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ from the novel by Alexandre Dumas. The title reminded him of the iron maiden, a notorious torture device from the Dark Ages.
Jefferson Airplane / Starship : In ‘60s-era San Francisco, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Moby Grape ruled the day, so it wasn’t unusual for a band to call itself something like Blind Lemon Jefferson Airplane – playing off the name of bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson. If anything, shortening it to Jefferson Airplane was an impressive display of concision. When naming a later, revamped version of the band, they changed again to reflect the late Paul Kantner’s sci-fi obsession.
Judas Priest : Early member Bruno Stapenhill pitched this moniker to original frontman Al Atkins after hearing “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” by Bob Dylan. “I remember telling Al, ‘What do you think of that for a name?'” Stapenhill later said. “I mean, he was never really into Bob Dylan and he says, ‘Oh, that’s a great name.’ And that how it came about.”
Led Zeppelin : The Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle joined Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones on the Jeff Beck single “Beck’s Bolero” in the summer of 1966 – leading to studio chatter about the prospect of forming a new group. Moon – or perhaps Entwistle – joked that it would go over like a lead balloon. While trying to come up with a name for a new group featuring Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant two years later, Page remembered the quip – and they became Led Zeppelin.