Coming up with a band name can be difficult, which might help to explain why there are so many terrible ones out there. It’s also why a lot of names appear to have been reused by more than one bands– either knowingly or inadvertently. There are tons of examples, but here are 10 particularly well-known bands along with their lesser-known namesakes.
The original Iron Maiden: Formed in Bolton in 1969, Iron Maiden (sometimes known as The Iron Maiden) played a blues-based rock influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Free. Came to an end in ’76 after guitarist Ian Boulton-Smith sadly died of cancer.
The other Iron Maiden: The two overlapped as Steve Harris formed the other Iron Maiden on Christmas Day 1975. He has said he took inspiration for the name from a film adaptation of The Man in the Iron Mask.
Who won? Harris’ creation went on to become superstars. When the original band exhumed previously unreleased material under the unwieldy monicker ‘1970-1976 The Bolton Iron Maiden’ in 2006, with all proceeds going to cancer research, they said the ‘new’ Iron Maiden were very supportive and helped plug the release on their website.
The original Nirvana: A psychedelic pop duo formed in London whose 1967 debut, The Story of Simon Simopath, was one of the first concept album. Scored a Top 40 hit with Rainbow Chaser but broke up in 1971, before reforming in the mid-80s and were active when the ‘other’ Nirvana emerged.
The other Nirvana: Formed in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987 by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic. You may have heard of them.
Who won? The second Nirvana became one of the biggest bands in the world, and their impact can still be felt long after Cobain’s death in 1994. The originals sued them over the name for an out-of-court settlement (reportedly a mere $100K) and are still extant, so they didn’t do too badly out of it.
The original Slayer: Tough one this. Two bands named Slayer formed in 1981 though it’s unclear which made it out of the gate soon. But the most famous of the pair got together in LA, released debut album Show No Mercy in 1983 and helped invent thrash metal.
The other Slayer: San Antonio proto-power metallers who released their own debut EP, Prepare To Die, in 1983. But their full-length debut album, Go For The Throat, wouldn’t come out until 1988, by which time the band had long folded. The album was released under the name S.A. Slayer, just to avoid confusion.
Who won? The Californian Slayer became one of the Big Four of thrash metal and there’s an international Slayer Day, although members of the San Antonio Slayer went on to play with Riot, Machine Head, Watchtower and Sacred Reich, so it wasn’t a total waste of time.
The original Skid Row: An Irish blues-rock band formed in the late 60s. People who passed through its revolving door line-up included Phil Lynott, Eric Bell and Gary Moore, all of whom would go on to play in Thin Lizzy.
The other Skid Row: New Jersey hard rockers fronted by Sebastian Bach who got a leg up from Bon Jovi, riding the late 80s hair metal wave as it crested. Their self-titled 1989 debut album sold millions, though they toughened up for follow-up Slave To The Grind
Who won? The originals had moderate success in the UK and Ireland, though they remain best-known as the launchpad for Lynott and Moore. On a numbers level, the US Skid Row take it easily.
The original Ghost: There have been a number of different bands named Ghost, including an experimental folk-rock and separate visual kei band, both from Japan, as well as a Polish death metal band who formed in Gdansk in 1988.
The other Ghost: Masked Swedish occult metallers who have become one of the biggest rock bands around today.
Who won? The ‘new’ Ghost are undeniably a modern rock sensation, though they had to call themselves Ghost B.C. in the US between 2013 and 2015 – not for legal reasons, just to separate themselves from all the other Ghosts out there.
The original Poison: Formed in 1982 in Germany, they played a nascent form of extreme metal alongside the likes of Venom and Hellhammer.
The other Poison: Poodle-haired 80s glam metal poster boys behind hits such as Talk Dirty To Me and Every Rose Has Its Thorn.
Who won? The original Poison never had their lyrics quoted in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, did they?
The original Slipknot: Connecticut crossover-thrash act active throughout the 80s and nothing to do with the masked nonet who emerged a decade later.
The other Slipknot: Exploded out of Des Moines in a burst of dead crows and chaos. Went on to become the (masked) face of 21st century metal.
Who won? Des Moines finest, no contest.
The original Mr Big: British pop-rock band active in the 70s who toured with the likes of Sweet and The Runaways and had a top 5 UK hit with Romeo in 1977. The dictionary definition of a one hit wonder.
The other Mr Big: US hard rock supergroup formed in 1988 by ex-Dave Lee Roth bassist Billy Sheehan, Racer X guitar hotshot Paul Gilbert, singer Eric Martin and drummer Pat Torpey. Their 1989 single To Be With You was their lone UK Top 5 hit. Spooky.
Who won? Both bands had one big hit, both bands got to appear on Top Of The Pop, but the US Mr Big were huge in Japan, so they get the prize.
The original Anthrax: Crusty anarcho-punk band that formed in Gravesend, UK in 1980 and put out a couple of EPs on the influential Crass Records.
The other Anthrax: New York band who formed a year later and went on to become charter members of thrash metal’s Big Four.
Who won: The British version split in 1984, only to reform in 2010 – albeit as Anthrax UK. By contrast, the US version are still going strong after more than 40 years.
Toad The Wet Sprocket
The original Toad The Wet Sprocket: The chances of their being one band called Toad The Wet Sprocket let alone two seems remote until you realise the name came from a fake group in a Monty Python sketch. The original were a NWOBHM era band who appeared on the landmark 1980 compilation album Metal For Muthas album before splitting two years later.
The other Toad The Wet Sprocket: A late 80s/early 90s folky-alternative rock band from California. Monty Python’s Eric Idle said of hearing the band: “I once wrote a sketch about rock musicians, and I was trying to think of a name that would be so silly nobody would ever use it, or dream it could ever be used.” It was, it turned out, so silly they used it twice.
Who won? The original never rose beyond the NWOBHM’s D-list, while their US counterparts had a decent run of success in the early 90s. Still a stupid name, though.