Band names have always been an obsession of mine. Thinking of the different names I would use for my fictional band helps me take a step forward into achieving my fantasy of being a rock star, without the heavy lifting involved in learning how to play an instrument. In my down time, when I'm not wasting it thinking of band names, I do something more productive - analyze other band names.
A good band name is simple and memorable, and "Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band" fits the criteria effectively. However, when Bruce began his career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he bounced around between a variety of oddly named musical groups. What follows is a ranking of my personal favorite pre-E Street Band names, with the sole criteria being my own arbitrary opinion.
Missed the cut: Child, Sundance Blues Band. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of those names.
5. The Bruce Springsteen Band
Formed in 1971, Bruce clearly didn't strain himself too hard when coming up with this name. Not only is it boring, it is too pretentious. While he is "The Boss", Bruce has always been a man of the people. He saves accolades such as "pants-dropping" and "booty shaking" for his band, not himself. Plus, it reminds me of The Dave Matthews Band, which is never a good thing.
From the late 1960s, it was in this band where he acquired the nickname "The Boss". This name seems to be a product of its time, as other hippy-esque bands were forming using "Earth" as well, such as Manfred Mann's Earth Band and Earth, Wind, and Fire. But, part of me would like to see Bruce open a show with a Will-Smith-in-Independence-Day greeting: "Welcome To Earth!"
3. The Castiles
Way back in 1967, when Bruce was just 17, he was part of The Castiles. Look at those young boys up there! Like the name would indicate, they were trying to replicate The Beatles clean-cut image (and pop sound, as heard in the video above). Part of me wishes to see the alternate reality where The Castiles were a bigger hit. Could you imagine Bruce writing more Beatles-stylized pop songs and wearing coordinated outfits? (Side note: it's pronounced kah-steels right? I usually mispronounce words that I only read - I pronounced "superfluous" as "SUPERfluous" for an embarrassingly long time)
2. Steel Mill
This is Bruce's most significant pre-E Street Band group, as it featured Vini Lopez, Danny Federici, and Steve Van Zandt. You can find tons of there lengthy jam sessions on Youtube, and they are definitely worth checking out. But forget the noise, what about the name? There's something very 70s rock about this name, mainly about a) it is two words that sound similar and you'd be unable to pronounce it drunk and b) it sounds vaguely homoerotic. Deep Purple and the fictional Stillwater also fit this description.
1. Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom
Really, was there any other choice? Far be it for me to criticize Bruce's career decisions, but not sticking with Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom is a huge mistake. It not only fits Bruce's personality to a tee, it is instantly memorable. I'd argue that he'd be even more popular today had he been known to everyone as "Dr. Z" over "The Boss". Now, indeed, being called "Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom" may undercut the emotions of songs like "Devils & Dust" or "Lost in the Flood", but it is a small price to pay for having one of the greatest names in rock and roll history.
Sadly, we are where we are with the E Street Band. But, the good news is that the title of Dr. Zoom is still vacant in the world. I would highly encourage any young musician to keep this name in mind, and anyone with the last name "Zoom" to enroll in medical school.