“I’d say the first thing which came into my head. I even suggested it was a yoghurt at one time!” How Tangerine Dream got their name (we think)

Edgar Froese
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the 60s Edgar Froese was making music under the name The Ones, but an early encounter with experimental music left him searching for a new title. In 2011 the late electronica pioneer told Prog how the name Tangerine Dream came about – and we decided to believe this particular explanation.

The origin of the name Tangerine Dream has long been shrouded in mystery. That’s because founder Edgar Froese would deliberately mislead people.

“It was one of those questions everyone had, and I got bored of answering it all the time,” he explains. ‘So I began to invent reasons, just to misdirect everyone. I’d say the first thing which came into my head. I even suggested it was a yoghurt at one time!”

So where does the truth lie? It starts when Froese first went to West Berlin to study art in the mid-60s. At the time he had an R&B band called The Ones, but they were quickly disbanded as he became increasingly involved in experimental and surreal music. He wanted a name that matched that type of approach.

“I remembered a line from the Beatles song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” Froese explains. “It went: ‘tangerine trees and marmalade skies’ – and that’s honestly where the name came from. I didn’t think Marmalade Skies was a good one, but the idea of tangerine trees stuck.”

I’ve read we couldn’t understand what the Beatles were singing about… this is not what happened

Of course, that’s not the name he eventually settled on. How did ‘trees’ become ‘dream?’ One long-circulating theory is that he misheard the lyric and thought that the line was actually about a tangerine dream. “That’s not true at all,” says Froese. “I’ve read in several different sources that our English wasn’t very good and we couldn’t understand the idea the Beatles were singing about, so we just thought the idea of a tangerine dream fitted better. This is not what happened.”

In reality – and this might surprise a lot of people – it was a joke. And if the thought of Germans showing a sense of humour is slightly shocking, then prepare to be... well, mildly gobsmacked.

“The German for tree is ‘traum,’ and the German for dream is ‘baum,’” Froese says. “Those two words sound so similar that I thought, ‘Well, why not substitute one for the other?’ I suppose you could say it was a surrealist joke, and as we were heavily into surrealism at the time – Salvador Dalí was a major influence – it seemed like the right way to go. So, tangerine trees became tangerine dream, and we had a name.”

There’s one more element to the process: “We could have used the plural,” Froese says, “but the singular suggested we were all pulling in the same direction – unified by one dream. It’s a case of within the absurd often lies what is artistically possible.”

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021