What’s in a name? If you’re a multi-platinum, arena-filling rock band, the answer is often “enough to go to court over.”
Plenty of rockers have gone through ugly, years-long litigation in order to wrest control of their band name back from their ex-bandmates, with both sides feeling equally entitled to the moniker. Sometimes it’s a cut-and-dry case, with three-quarters of an original lineup triumphing over a former drummer or bassist who played on one lesser-known album or ill-fated tour. Other times it’s more complicated, as co-leaders of a band — typically a singer and guitarist — have gone their separate ways and launched multiple versions of their old group.
Take, for example, L.A. Guns, whose co-founding guitarist and namesake Tracii Guns left the band in 2002, only to launch a second version of the group in 2006 that competed with the “original” lineup until Guns dissolved his band in 2012. Guns rebooted L.A. Guns again in 2016 and recruited classic-era singer Phil Lewis from the other lineup, leaving drummer Steve Riley as the only classic-era member of his L.A. Guns. Riley finally agreed to change his band name to Riley’s L.A. Guns in 2021.
Often, these band battles result in one lineup that’s far more “legitimate” than the other in the eyes of fans. But sometimes both lineups have credible claims to the name, such as prog-rock legends Yes. One lineup is led by guitarist Steve Howe and drummer Alan White, both of whom joined the band in the ’70s, while co-founding singer Jon Anderson fronted a second version, backed by longtime guitarist Trevor Rabin and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. (They previously performed under the named Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman, or ARW for short.) Both versions of Yes mounted successful tours, probably because they both have enough classic-era ties to satisfy fans.
Sometimes, though, even fans can struggle to tell lineups apart in the fallout from these band battles. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the dueling lineups of ’80s post-punk group Gene Loves Jezebel. Jay Aston fronts one current version of the group, while his brother Michael leads the other. Sounds simple enough, right? There’s just one hiccup: Jay and Michael are identical twins.
Whether the court rules that only one party owns the rights to a band name or multiple entities can perform under it, one thing is certain: These band battles are guaranteed to be deliciously chaotic — much like rock ‘n’ roll itself.
Band Battles: Artists Who Used the Same Name at the Same Time
Here are some of the biggest band name battles from artists who used the same moniker at the same time.