Rock and Roll Zoo – Five Bands Named After Animals

Bands with animal names are roaming the globe at this very minute. On the prowl for crowds of humans, they fly here and there, or lurk among desert shadows, chilling out, with some waiting to howl at the moon. The Animals and Modest Mouse or Bloodhound Dogs are among dozens of acts taking to Mother Nature for inspiration in choosing their names. Music fans and trivia buffs point to many examples including Buffalo Springfield or Dog’s Eye View and lots and lots of other assorted bands with animal names.

A list of animal names in music has dozens of artists – Cat Stevens – and groups that, for one reason or another, decided to include or adopt an animal as the name of their band.

Animal Magnetism at The Rock and Roll Zoo

The Beatles are without question the most famous rock and roll band ever. Period. They have been the subjects of so many articles, books, movies, plays, tribute bands and so on that their fans may or may not know how they came to be known as The Beatles.

In 1957 Paul McCartney met fellow teenager John Lennon in Liverpool. Paul soon was invited to join Lennon’s group, The Quarrymen. George Harrison joined several months later, and within a year they were playing regular gigs at a club called The Casbah. Vocalist Stuart Sutcliffe and drummer Peter Best, whose mother owned The Casbah club, became members. The initial names of the band ranged from The Quarrymen, Johnny & The Moon Dogs, and The Silver Beetles. John Lennon was the one who created the band’s final name, The Beatles, a mix of beat and beetle. With the width and depth of knowledge regarding the Fab Four, the masterpieces from and disputes among Lennon and McCartney are studied in college, so we’ll say that ‘the rest is history’.

Formed in 1967, Three Dog Night had an original lineup of vocalists Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells. The trio plunged into the public eye as Redwood and cut a few unsuccessful singles. In 1968 they dropped the name and became Three Dog Night, then decided to expand their range by hiring backing musicians Ron Morgan (guitar), Floyd Sneed (drums), Joe Schermie (bass), and Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards). Soon after releasing their debut album (Three Dog Night aka ‘One’) they became one of the most successful U.S. bands during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Three Dog Night has been awarded 12 gold albums and has had a streak of 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits, seven of which went gold. June Fairchild, the girlfriend of lead singer Danny Hutton, is said to have suggested the group’s name after reading how aborigines in Australia expressed the chill during the night by the number of dogs they had to curl up with to stay warm. Some urban legends attribute the meaning of the name to Eskimos in the northern reaches of North America.

A sampling of songwriters that have contributed to Three Dog Night albums include Harry Nilsson, Jesse Colin Young, Hoyt Axton, Stevie Wonder, Dave Loggins, Jimmy Greenspoon, Steve Winwood, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Dave Mason, Sam Cooke, Jimmy Cliff, Leo Sayer, Dobie Gray, and Paul Rodgers.

Out on Long Island, in 1967, a handful of musicians ended up forming Blue Öyster Cult, a band that hoped to become the American answer to Black Sabbath. When Buck Dharma (guitar), Albert Bouchard (drums), Allen Lanier (keyboards), Les Braunstein (vocals) and Andrew Winters (bass) teamed up with music critic and manager Sandy Pearlman the stage was set. Pearlman booked various gigs and negotiated recording contracts with Elektra and Columbia under the name Soft White Underbelly – his original poetry also provided the lyrics for many of their songs. The band went through various revamps including names such as Oaxaca and the Stalk-Forrest Group. The band recorded an album’s worth of material for Elektra and a 300-copy promo single – “What Is Quicksand?” – was released. The entire album was eventually released by Rhino Handmade Records (as St. Cecilia: The Elektra Recordings in 2001). After a few more temporary band names, including the Santos Sisters, the band became Blue Öyster Cult in 1971. In Pearlman’s poetry, the “Blue Oyster Cult” was a group of aliens who had assembled to secretly guide Earth’s history. In a 1976 interview, Pearlman claimed that the band’s name came about after finding an anagram for “Cully Stout Beer”. Assorted bands later copied the practice of using umlauts in their band name or logo including Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, and Queensrÿche.

The music of Blue Öyster Cult embraced the weirdness and deliberate mysticism of the era with obscure imagery and obtuse lyrics and chord patterns. Their hit single “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was featured in the famous Saturday Night Live sketch, “More cowbell”, reached number 12 on the Billboard charts, and has become a classic. Over the years a couple of books have been written about the group; BLUE ÖYSTER CULT: Secrets Revealed! in 2009, and a French title, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT: La Carrière du mal, in 2013. “On tour forever”, the BOC motto, still rings true as the group continues booking concerts and rocking the rafters.

While growing up in Detroit Glenn Frey met Bob Seger in 1967, and a year later he provided acoustic guitar and some of the backup vocals on Seger’s hit single “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”. In 1968 Frey moved to Los Angeles where he met and lived in the same apartment building with Jackson Browne. In the early 70’s, while hanging out at the Troubadour, Frey was introduced to drummer Don Henley and the two were signed to Amos Records. Frey soon was hired as a singer and rhythm guitarist for Linda Ronstadt’s Silk Purse tour. Frey asked Henley to join the group, which soon added bassist Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, a journeyman musician and expert when it comes to stringed instruments such as guitar, banjo, mandolin, steel guitar, and dobro. In 1971 Frey and Henley decided to form their own group, leading to the birth of the Eagles.

The band was signed to the newly formed Asylum Records, started by rock music mogul David Geffen. Geffen then sent the group to Aspen, Colorado for a few live gigs (as Teen King and the Emergencies), rehearsals, and songwriting sessions. Although disputed, Don Felder credits Leadon with coming up with the band name during a tequila-induced outing in the Mojave Desert while recalling an article about the Hopi’s esteem for the eagle. However, J.D. Souther, a friend of the band, states that the idea came after Frey shouted out “Eagles!” when they saw eagles flying above.

In February 1972 the eponymous debut album was recorded in England and led to three Top 40 singles, “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. Rolling Stone commented that the album “created a new template for laid-back L.A. country-rock style”. The album went platinum in March 2001, taking 29 years to achieve this milestone. In 1973 Desperado was released as the second studio album, which initially was not a total commercial success. The single “Tequila Sunrise” reached #64 on the U.S. charts, and the band encountered friction between the members as Frey and Henley wrote 8 of the 11 songs on the album, and they began to dominate the creative aspects of Eagles. Eventually, the album was certified Gold by the RIAA in September 1974. The album is now considered by some critics to be one of the most significant albums of country rock.

The group released two more albums (On the Border and One of These Nights) in 1974 and 1975. Three singles resulted from On the Border: “Already Gone”, “James Dean” and “Best of My Love”, which topped the charts in 1975. One of These Nights produced three Top-Five singles, “One of These Nights”, “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Take It To The Limit”, reaching Numbers 1, 2, and 4 respectively. The band released their first compilation album in February of 1976 and took the music world by storm. It became the best-selling album of the 20th century in the U.S. Their Greatest Hits has sold 29 million copies in the U.S. and 42 million copies across the globe. It was the best-selling album in history until it was taken over by Michael Jackson’s Thriller following his death in 2009, leaving Eagles as the most successful American band of the decade.

Over the following decade the group released a handful of albums and embarked on several various tours, but the writing was on the wall. Lawsuits and infighting led to their eventual demise, which was pretty much cemented with the recent death of co-founder Glen Frey. At the Grammy Awards in February, the Eagles, with Leadon, guitarist Stuart Smith, and Jackson Browne gave their rendition of “Take It Easy” in honor of the life of Frey. Finally, in a March 2016 interview with BBC News, Henley expressed his feelings that the Grammy tribute was the band’s final farewell and said: “I don’t think you’ll see us performing again.”

Following the death of Frey, Alex Suskind of the Guardian wrote that “The band’s habits and its hardcore fanbase are easily mockable. They both revel in excess, with no apologies. At the very least, you have to be impressed with the consistency.”

In Hanover, Germany, Rudolf Schenker formed the Scorpions – the year was 1965 – that was over fifty years ago. Since the band’s start, its focus has varied from hard rock to heavy metal. Schenker, on rhythm guitar, is the last remaining original Scorpion, although Klaus Meine has been the lead singer for all of the band’s studio albums, and lead guitarist Matthias Jabs has been around since 1979. Their first album, Lonesome Crow, was recorded shortly after Scorpions became a fully professional band, appearing in only six or seven days. The album was released during February 1972 in West Germany as the soundtrack to the German anti-drug movie Das Kalte Paradies, and May 1973 in the United States. After some personnel changes, in 1974 the new line-up of Scorpions released Fly to the Rainbow. The album was somewhat well received and outsold Lonesome Crow, and songs such as “Speedy’s Coming” established the band’s sound.

Scorpions on BoomerSwag!In 1976, Scorpions released Virgin Killer. The cover art was designed by Stefan Bohle who was the product manager for RCA Records, their label at the time. The cover, which featured a nude prepubescent girl behind a broken pane of glass, brought the band considerable market exposure but was soon pulled or replaced in other countries. In 2008 the cover was banned on the English Wikipedia by the Internet Watch Foundation. After the release of Taken by Force, RCA Records increased efforts to promote the album in stores and on the radio. During a tour in Japan, the band recorded live for Tokyo Tapes, which was released in the U.S. and Europe six months after its Japanese release. Following the departure of lead guitarist Uli Roth in mid-1978, after auditioning 140 guitarists, Scorpions recruited Matthias Jabs.Over the following years, the Scorpions found international fame and fortune. Expressing a career like the Scorpions in mere numbers is almost impossible. However, one number that should still be mentioned is more than 100 million records have been sold to date. This makes the Scorpions by far the most successful rock band of Continental Europe.

It has been said that “bands come and go”, but some of the great musical acts show up and, thankfully, never leave. We really hope that all rock and roll animals will never become extinct!


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