If it seems that all the good names are band names taken, you’re not far off. Despite the best intentions of the following groups, they soon discovered that someone already had dibs on their monicker and were forced to change things up. Sometimes the change was temporary, sometimes forever.
1. Canadian Bush vs. British Bush
The short-lived Canadian band left their imprint on the scene. Gavin Rossdale and company made headlines in 1995 over their name. There was a British alternative band named Bush. The British Bush was formed in London in 1992 and had moderate success with their debut album, 1994’s Sixteen Stone.
The battle of the Bushes led to the Brit band having to release their albums in Canada under the name Bush-X for a few years before a backroom settled allowed Gavin’s Bush to drop the X.
2. UK Nirvana vs. Kurt’s Nirvana
The other Nirvana were a UK based progressive rock band that rocked from the late 60s to the 70s, a group that enjoyed limited commercial stardom before breaking up. They reformed in 1985 and have been touring since, dropping a best-of compilation in 2010. The members took Kurt to court and eventually reached a $25,000 buy-out settlement.They also argue that the cover for their album Simon Simopath looks very similar to the cover to Nevermind.
3. There Was a Smiths Before The Smiths
When Johnny Marr was starting primary school, American rock band Smiths were dropping their seventh single. From Los Angeles, California, Smiths had one Top 5 hit with a cover of the Burt Bacharach diddy, Baby It’s You featuring Gayle McCormick on lead vocals. It sold over one million copies in the summer and early fall of ’69. Smiths would later be renamed just plain “Smith.”
4. The Charlatans are Forced to Add an “UK”
The American Charlatans were a psych-rcok band beloved by certain fans of the San Francisco scene of the 1960s. They were a mix of jug band, country and blues. They had a rebellious side. Their first album, The Charlatans was not released until 1969, years after their heyday. When the Madchester-era Charlatans started to release music in the US, they were forced to add a “UK” suffix to their name as a legal measure to avoid a $6 million lawsuit.
They aren’t alone in this solution. Other “UK” suffixers include the Mission (see below) and the Chameleons.
5. There’s a Reason They’re Called The ENGLISH Beat
The Beat was an American power pop band from L.A. that was born around 1979, right about the same time a ska band called The Beat was starting their careerin Birmingham. Front person Paul Collins later released a few projects with an alternative country group, The Paul Collins Band who played American inspired country rock and folk rock. The Beat would soon reformed being known as Paul Collins’ Beat.
Meanwhile, the Birmingham Beat dropped in the word “English” just to smooth things over when it came to North American releases.
6. You Mean Oasis Wasn’t the First Oasis?
There were two pre-Gallagher Oasises (Oases?) One was a California band and the other was from UK.
The American band–from Marin County–dates to the early 70s and were personally signed to Atlantic by Ahmet Ertegun. Their first album was made in a month but would be shelved for two months due to management malfunctions and never ended up being released. After the band broke up, two of the members formed a spin-off outfit and recorded one album in 1973 entitled named Oasis. That was the last anyone heard from them under that name.
A few members sporadically recorded throughout the 70s under the name RJ Fox, which also leaned on some original Oasis material.
Fast-forward the to 1984 when a UK outfit chose the name Oasis, releasing a self-titled debut album on WEA which featured two singles. The album itself reached as high as #23 on the UK album chart before sinking out of sight.
Points of trivia: This Oasis had a cellist named Julian Lloyd-Webber, younger brother of Andrew. You might have heard of him. Another member was Mary Hopkin who had a major solo hit with “Those Were the Days,” a Paul McCartney-produced single in 1968.
7. The Non-Goth Mission
When the Goth Mission was coming together in Leeds in the middle 80s, there was already an R&B band in Philadelphia using the name Mission. To keep things separate, safe and legal, the British Mission opted to tack on the ever-useful “UK” to their name just like the Charlatans.
Here’s what the original Mission sounded like.
8. Suede Gets the “London” Treatment
Things were going fine for Brett Anderson’s Suede until they ran up against an obscure lounge singer from Baltimore . She filed a lawsuit resulting in the British Suede having to adopting the name London Suede for the US market. The subsequent publicicity did wonders for her career.
9. It Was Almost “Wham UK!”
When George Michael and Andrew Ridgely formed Wham! in 1981, they had no idea a Nashville funk/disco band of the same name had recorded an album in 1978. By the time they were selling significant records in 1984-85, the Nashville Wham had broken up but did score by selling their name to the British group for £50,000.
10. One Direction Pays Off a Punk Band Called One Direction
When you think about it, someone should have grabbed “One Direction” before the British boy band–which is exactly what happened. In this case, a $1 million lawsuit by a California punk band called One Direction got their attention. A few negotiations and a lot of cash later, California’s One Direction became Uncharted Shores.
Interestingly, all songs by the band-formerly-known-as-One Direction seem to have been expunged from YouTube.
There are other examples: The Chemical Brothers, Yaz/Yazoo, the Raconteurs’ issue in Australia, an Oz issue with Squeeze. Care to expand or offer any other examples?
Thanks to Shane Alexander helping with this piece.