In 1986, a song was released as a nightmarish, yet ironic vision of what Christmas would be like after a nuclear holocaust, but even “Weird Al” Yankovic could not envision what would happen when, on Sept. 11, 2001, planes struck the World Trade Center. Suddenly, real life turned into a bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie, as The Onion so eloquently put it, and Yankovic’s “Christmas At Ground Zero” took on a terrible and unintended meaning. He’s never played the song again in any setting, but what if it wasn’t just a song, but a name? What would your band do if the name you came up with suddenly became wildly inappropriate?
For these seven bands, the names that seemed so great at the time turned out to be rather unfortunate.
You may remember Isis as an Egyptian goddess, or as a short-lived female counterpart to Captain Marvel from Saturday mornings in the mid-1970s (who gained her powers from an Egyptian amulet, naturally), but today, when someone refers to ISIS, it’s most likely in connection with The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But ISIS was also a post-metal band that released nine albums and called it quits in 2010. Now the band Isis, despite no longer being a band, is garnering “off-color” comments on its Facebook page (which has since been retitled ISIS The Band), and fans have begun swearing off its t-shirts, Isis’s former drummer told a reporter from ABC News. But now is a good time to remember that ISIS once stood not for beheadings, but head-banging.
2. I Am The World Trade Center
Perhaps the worst timing came for I Am The World Trade Center, a band so named in 1999 using the “twin towers” as a metaphor for the romantic and musical bond between its two members, multi-instrumentalist Daniel Geller (co-founder of Kindercore Records) and vocalist Amy Dykes. In July 2001, they released their debut album, Out Of The Loop. Two months later, they were accused of opportunism by those who stumbled upon the record, especially as the eleventh track was unfortunately named “September.” After 9/11, the electro-pop duo toured for a while as “I Am The World” before reverting back to their full name. Although the pair haven’t released any records since 2004, they have been gigging off and on since 2005 and played a reunion gig in their hometown of Athens, Ga. this June. “It’s our name and we’re proud of it,” Geller told Lazy-I in 2003. “We debated about changing it, but nothing else seems to fit.”
3. The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower
Although named after a line from Lipstick Traces, Greil Marcus’s book about punk rock, there’s no doubt forming a band called The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower raised a few eyebrows in 2001. Raising eyebrows proved to be one of the band’s specialties, given its predilection for Nazi imagery and themes (to wit, their album Love in the Fascist Brothel and the below video), “random acts of homo-erotic behavior,” and according to lead singer Brandon Welchez, causing a “near riot” in Salt Lake City and being banned in Baltimore for causing a “piss waterfall.” Though they disbanded in 2006 (two of the members went on to form Crocodiles), it’s safe to assume they had a resurgence in Google hits in July, when authorities in France foiled…wait for it!…a plot to blow up the Eiffel Tower.
Chicago doom metal band Bloodiest was a runner-up in The Reader’s “Best of Chicago” issue in 2013 and described itself on Facebook as “scaring the goofy sunglasses and mustaches right off of the hipsters. The singer is possessed. Guitars. Fuck yeah.” In August, one of those aforementioned guitarists, Sean Riley, allegedly hit and killed a pedestrian while driving drunk. A Breathalyzer test performed at the police station six hours after the accident showed Riley with a blood alcohol level of .161, twice Illinois’ legal limit. The pedestrian in question, Jose Serrano, “suffered a broken leg, broken foot, broken arm and died from massive head trauma,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Bloodiest, indeed.
5. This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb
This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb started causing a ruckus when it formed in 1997, but things came to a head when fans started putting the band’s promotional stickers on bikes. Authorities unfamiliar with the relatively obscure group triggered bomb scares at an Austin, Texas peace march in 2001; at Ohio University and Saint Joseph’s University in 2006; at Memphis International Airport in 2009; and at a protest outside a federal building in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 2012. The group defused itself in February 2011, but two of the members still write and play together in Zippers To Nowhere, a group which has thus far not triggered any bomb squad responses.
Speaking of causing a commotion, the warm, fuzzy, yet deadly, disease known as anthrax seemed like the perfect name for a thrash-metal band when it formed in 1981. But a week after 9/11, envelopes containing spores of the virulent bacteria started showing up in the mailboxes of broadcast networks, newspapers, and senators. By the time the scare ended, 22 people had been infected, and five died. The band Anthrax reacted by adding information about the actual disease to its website in an effort to calm a panicked public, and joked that it might change its name to “something more friendly, like Basket Full of Puppies.” Ultimately, after receiving support from members of the New York fire and police departments, Anthrax decided to stick with its given name.
7. Procol Harum
In 1967, English band Procol Harum released its hit single, “Whiter Shade Of Pale,” which later featured prominently in the 1983 movie The Big Chill. Today, of course, Procol Harum is touring again, and has most recently been burning down churches and kidnapping 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria. Oh, wait, that’s the terrorist group Boko Haram. According to the UK’s Daily Star, even the head of the Nigerian secret service was confused, calling for the band’s extradition and reportedly saying in an interview, “As part of my investigation I have been listening to the back catalogue of Procol Harum and have to admit I am positively confused. Can somebody please tell me what on earth a ‘fandango’ is?” On behalf of the band, lead singer Gary Brooker responded, “I don’t think Boko Haram have released any progressive rock albums, at least not to my knowledge, so that should prove our innocence.” You be the judge, and we here at Pop ’stache will look forward to showing up on all kinds of terrorist watchlists moving forward.