Fetching Names: Borrowed from the Beatles

by appellationmountain on February 3, 2012

English: The Beatles wave to fans after arrivi...You might not recognize Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, and you’re forgiven if you can’t tell the difference between Coldplay and Franz Ferdinand. But very few of us don’t instantly know a Beatles song. Plenty of the titles are pleasing appellations, and even more names are mentioned in their lyrics.

Abbey – The legendary Abbey Road, one of the most successful in a long string of successful recordings brings to mind the mega-popular Abigail, a Biblical good girl that shortens to Abby. Abbey Road is a real place, pictured on the iconic album cover and home to Abbey Road Studios – hence, the name. There’s no song with Abby in the lyrics, but there’s a Beatles link that might still appeal.

Clarabella – Okay, I take it back. You might not recognize “Clarabella.” Originally written for and recorded by another pop group in the 1960s, the fab four performed this one live on the BBC in 1963. It would be decades before it was released as a recording. If you like frilly valentines like Arabella and Elisabetta, Clarabella has a lot of appeal – plus you get to tell those who ask that you named your girl after an obscure Beatles song.

Desmond - The single “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is tremendous fun, and instantly recognizable, but the writing team quarreled over the lyrics and it was never performed live by the quartet. Desmond, however, has another musical link – it is said that Paul McCartney was referring to reggae great Desmond Dekker.

Eleanor – She’s not a happy figure, dying lonely at the end of the song, but the haunting song is certainly memorable.

Harrison – Name your son John, Paul, or George doesn’t scream Fab Four. (Though Ringo would raise a few eyebrows.) In our age of Jackson and Carson, George’s surname isn’t necessarily a tribute, either – making it a subtle option for a superfan.

Jude – Said to be originally written for John’s son Julian, “Hey Jude” is both a single and an album title. It’s a musical note for the Old Testament Judah, but this is no mere nickname. Thanks to the song and Hollywood A-lister Jude Law, this name stands on its own.

Julia – Like Clarabella, this is a serious rarity, but a meaningful one. A solo composition by John Lennon, it was written in memory of his mother, Julia. She died in an accident when he was just seventeen.

Lennon – Maybe it is a family surname for some, but surely the majority of families who have chosen the name are thinking of the legendary John Lennon. Lennon entered the US Top 1000 for boys in 2008 and now stands at #918. That’s not exactly Landon, but he is catching on. Depending on who you ask, the surname means sweetheart, blackbird, or cape.

Lucy – Despite assumptions that “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was a not-too-veiled drug reference, the official story is that John’s son Julian drew a picture at school with the title, inspired by classmate Lucy O’Donnell. Of course, with Lucy at #75 in 2010, the only sure signal that a little Lucy was named after the song? If her middle name is Sky or Diamond.

Martha – A gentle love song dominated by the piano track, the explanations for Martha are several. One indisputable fact: Paul McCartney had a sheepdog called Martha.

Maxwell – Like Lucy, this name’s popularity isn’t necessarily tied to “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Unlike Lucy, you can’t quite imagine parents being inspired by the lyrics. After all, Max offs his crush, a teacher, and finally the judge who tries to bring him to justice.

Michelle – Now firmly in the mom names camp – and, of course, the White House – Michelle was already popular when The Beatles released their ballad in 1965. “Michelle, ma belle …” had its origins in French bohemian culture, an influence from Lennon and McCartney’s school days. Today parents are more likely to be inspired by Belle.

Molly – Also from “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” but unlike Desmond, we’re not quite certain why that’s the name given to the wife and singer in the band.

Pamela – The poetic Pamela becomes “Polythene Pam” in a 1969 single, inspired by two things: an early fan, and some less-than-G rated exploits John Lennon remembered. Still, “she’s killer diller when she’s dressed to the hilt.” Pam is also mentioned in “Mean Mr. Mustard” on the album.

PenelopePenny Lane is a street in Liverpool, and a bus route, too. It owes nothing to the Greek Penelope – instead, Penny was the surname of an eighteenth century Liverpool merchant and slave trader, a fact that had been forgotten until recent years. Penny has an enduring innocence, thanks not just to the song, but also to characters like the orphan girl in 1977’s animated Disney film The Rescuers. She picked up some serious edge in 2000 when Almost Famous introduced Kate Hudson as rock groupie Penny Lane.

Prudence - With girls answering to Grace and Faith, why not this virtue name? “Dear Prudence” was inspired by a real person – Prudence Farrow, sister of actress Mia, and a fellow yoga student during their time in India. Prudence was so intent on her study that she became a near-recluse. The song was John’s attempt to lure her back to the group.

Rita – Would you name your daughter after a meter maid? Apparently McCartney was inspired to pen “Lovely Rita” after receiving a parking ticket in front of Abbey Road studios. There’s also Hollywood icon Rita Hayworth – born Margarita - making the name a companion for Natalie and Audrey.

Sadie – Originally an affectionate form of Sarah, Sadie has risen fast on her own, inspiring parents to consider other vintage nicknames like Hattie. Unlike many of the names in Beatles’ songs, though, there is apparently no real Sadie – sexy or otherwise.

Sally – “Long Tall Sally” was originally a hit for Little Richard back in the 1956. The Beatles recorded a cover in their early days and it remains popular. Like Sadie, Sally is derived from Sarah – also like Sadie, if there was a real-life Sally, she is lost to the mists of time.

Have I overlooked any great names from Beatles songs? Would you use any of these – and if so, is it a tribute to the song or mere coincidence?

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