On day four of my week of Top Five lists I come to a list that I had a difficult time keeping to only five! Today is a list of Punk Rock names and, frankly, there are a lot of great ones. Of course, Punkers are not the first musicians to rename themselves. For example, Richard Starkey loved American Westerns and bling on his fingers and so became Ringo Starr. But Punkers have definitely taken renaming to a whole new level. In fact, quite often the renaming is part of the Punk process: a way to show that you’ve embraced a new life, or rejected an old one, by taking on a name that sets you apart from “normal” society.
My favorite Punk names are those that are funny and self-deprecating. I could’ve had quite a list that included names like Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten, Rat Scabies, Captain Sensible and Cheetah Chrome. However, I will follow the rules in a most un-Punk-like manner and stick to five. So here they are, My Top Five Punk Rock Names. You may not like them, you may have a list you think is better, but that’s just fine because, y’know, that’s so Punk Rock.
5. Siouxsie Sioux – nee Susan Janet Ballion
She’s the British Punk fashionista with the name to match. When you combine it with the band name – Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees – it is even better.
4. Iggy Pop – nee James Newell Osterberg, Jr.
Iggy predates the Punk era but he was a massive influence on the music, style and, of course, the rite of renaming. As with Siouxsie, when combined with the band name – Iggy Pop and the Stooges – it becomes just about perfect. And, seriously, does this guy look like a James Osterberg, Jr. to you?
3. Jello Biafra – nee Eric Reed Boucher
He’s the front man for the Dead Kennedys, a band name you may find offensive or humorous, depending on your perspective. But the name Jello Biafra is just plain funny and wonderfully nonsensical. It contains within it a true “F#&k you” to any convention whatsoever and therefore makes it truly Punk.
2. Poly Styrene – nee Marian Joan Elliot Said
One of my favorites because it is so funny and so British. What we call Styrofoam in North America the Brits call Polystyrene. It is self-deprecation combined with a sharp sense of humor. Poly was with the short-lived all-women group the Slits but her name lives on as one of Punk’s best.
1. Joe Strummer – nee John Graham Mellor
At the number one position on my list is the name of the front man for the Clash, and perhaps the least showy Punk name of them all. Why is it my favorite? Because it conveys a humbleness and a sense of the everyman which perfectly encapsulates Joe Strummer’s vision of what Punk Rock was about. He said he couldn’t do all those “fiddly bits” on guitar and that led him to the name. But he was also aware of the power of this new brand of folk music. “This is Joe Public speaking!” he shouted out on the track “Complete Control” and he was, maybe more than anyone else in the history of Punk Rock, the voice of the people.