1980’s Baby Names: Heavy Metal names still rock

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 Dee the 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:

Axel He 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?

Jax Sure, 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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About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.