1980’s Baby Names: Heavy Metal names still rock

This week for her Nameberry 9, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel looks back at 1980’s baby names and finds that the glam rock stars of that era are still having an impact on naming today.

Conventional wisdom says that parents are willing to take risks with their daughters’ names, but turn conservative as soon as they hear the words “It’s a boy!”

There’s some truth to that, and yet I know more and  more little fellows with daring names.  The US Top 100 bears this out, too, from Noah to Jayden to Chase, all names that sound mainstream today, but violate some of the traditional norms of naming boys.

I think I might have landed on one of the reasons this week: 80s glam metal.

No, really.  Stay with me.

Heavy metal was everywhere in the 1980s.  With more eyeliner than their girlfriends and more hairspray than their moms, the men of heavy metal challenged – and changed – some of our ideas about masculinity.  Most of the rockers answered to Dave and Rob and Jon and Don, but there were also men called Nikki and C.C. and Deethe same names as their female fans.  When Mark Wahlberg’s character hits it big in 2001’s Rock Star, he transforms from Chris to Izzy.

Now the new movie Rock of Ages, based on the successful musical, gives us Tom Cruise as fictional heavy metal legend Stacee Jaxx.  I’ve yet to see the anthem-packed flick – it hits theaters next week – but the previews had me pondering: how many of today’s stylish names got their start with a power ballad?

This week’s nine newsiest names are all a blast from the headbanging past:

AxelHe owes some of his success to the enduring Alexander, but would Axel really be gaining so fast without a boost from the controversial Guns N’ Roses frontman?

JaxSure, Stacee Jaxx is make-believe, but today’s parents have fallen hard for the letter x.  So did the first generation of metalheads, like Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx.  Doubling the x is the onomastic equivalent of turning it up to eleven.

Zachary – If the 80s made us fall in love with the letter x, they were equally good to z.  There’s Ozzy Osbourne, of course, as well as his guitarist, Zakk Wylde.  Zachary is clearly the most mainstream of the boys’ names, but he’s paved the way for others.

Jett – It would be the 1990s before Jett made it into the US Top 1000, nearly two decades after Joan Jett dominated airwaves with her pop-hard rock hybrid cover of I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.  And yet, she’s part of the reason Jett feels legit – an underused surname that conjures up color and flight.  Ms. Jett, incidentally, was born Joan Larkin.

Crew – From the over-the-top Mötley Crüe to rap’s equally controversial 2 Live Crew to J. Crew, he’s a sound that’s been with this generation of parents for years.  He broke into the US Top 1000 in 2011, sounding mostly prep school perfect, but with a certain rough and tumble undercurrent, too.

Sebastian – Drop the Johann and Sebastian Bach is a very different musical reference – the Skid Row frontman, Sebastian Bach, born Sebastian Bierk.

Cash and Dash – The first is often a nod to another genre’s legend, the man in black, Johnny Cash.  The second feels sporting and literary, too, thanks to Dashiell Hammett.  They both also make me think of Guns N’ Roses one-name-only guitarist, Slash – born Saul HudsonSlash is also one of the first high profile parents to use Cash – his son, Cash Anthony, was born in 2004.

Ace – Like Crew, he didn’t register until recently.  But Kiss devotees will hear Ace and think not just of playing cards and flyboys, but also of guitarist Ace Frehley.  One of the original quartet known for their extravagant make-up and impressive showmanship, Frehley’s stage name still sounds brash, but no longer seems unwearable.

Rose – Let’s end with one for the girls.  There have been Roses long before there were radios, much less electric guitars.  But maybe some of Rose’s modern appeal has to do with Poison’s smash hit power ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”  Or maybe we’re back to Guns N’ Roses once more …

Do you think music has lingering influences on the names we choose?  Are there other examples of names that were wildly strange in our younger days, but now seem stylish, or even ordinary?

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8 Responses to “1980’s Baby Names: Heavy Metal names still rock”

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makslater92 Says:

June 4th, 2012 at 8:37 am

Growing up with parents that listened to this kinda of music (and older) I have always been partial to these types of names.

Axel and Jett are beyond my favorites followed by Sebastian.

Flick Says:

June 4th, 2012 at 9:34 am

Since Axel Rose is an anagram for Oral Sex, I wouldn’t recommend using that one for a child after him.

I grew up in a household with this type of music as a huge influence – my uncle is in his mid 50’s and is still in a metal band and I’ve been into the “music scene” – going to shows and such – since I was really young and I would probably never name my child after my favorite band.

My uncle (the one in the band) named his child Ian after the bassist from Judas Priest since he happened to have the same last name has him, so my little cousin has the exact first and last name as him. Though in my uncles defense, Ian is a Scottish form of John and John is everywhere in my family, so that’s what made him actually go through with it.Oh, and his mother has no idea – lol.

For me, the only “music” related name I could use would be Alice for Alice Cooper. I didn’t love the name until after I saw him in concert a couple years back, I’ll admit, but at least it’s a normal name that no one is going to automatically connect to my taste in music and I think that’s very important.

Oh – and I highly doubt Rose’s popularity had anything to do with Axel Rose.

Rachaol Says:

June 4th, 2012 at 10:34 am

I ran into a thread a while ago discussing Tesla as a name for a girl. Ultimately, it is a great science hero name, but being a teen in the 80’s means Tesla is hair metal all the way!

Sarah.Jane Says:

June 4th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I actually think his name is Axl Rose not Axel Rose.

miloowen Says:

June 4th, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Would be neat to see some names after symphonic metal with its European/Slavic roots, such as the Finnish Tarja….

My daughter used to joke that she’d name a boy Marilyn Manson but I think she’s through that phase now.

I’ll probably be the only Jewish grandma with a Miyazaki or Ayumi at my seder table!

tawnyplate Says:

June 5th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I have a pretty 80’s hair band name….Tawny. Tawny Kitaen was a huge video vixen in the 80’s, mostly famous for her car hood dancing skills in Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again.” I am not named after her but i get asked that all the time.

karateleshi80 Says:

June 6th, 2012 at 6:48 am

I was listening to the radio and a while back and they were doing a show on names. A lady said her said is named Halen after Van Halen. My cousin named his son Marley after Bob Marley. There is a singer/actor in Australia named Axel Whitehead, I am not sure how old he is so can’t guess if his parents named him after anymore in particular.

karateleshi80 Says:

June 6th, 2012 at 6:49 am

A lady said her sister is named Halen was what I meant to type.

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