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?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Jade February 9, 2012 at 7:45 PM

Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil, / But everyone knew her as Nancy.

Reply

Lou @ Mer de nomsou February 6, 2012 at 12:50 PM

If you are looking for someone named after Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, hello there :) The LSD reference, whether there or not, doesn`t bother me one bit. I actually embrace it because it makes my name that little bit more interesting.

Reply

Rebekah February 5, 2012 at 8:40 PM

Isn’t the Greek name Persephone, not Penelope? Maybe I’m forgetting a myth…

Reply

Elizabeth W. February 5, 2012 at 1:17 AM

Notonly was Strawberry Fields an orphanage, she was also a Bond girl :)

Reply

Charlotte Vera February 4, 2012 at 11:35 PM

Mmmm, I’ve always loved Jude. I’m also a Desmond fan, although it’s not exactly my personal style.

Reply

Saoirse February 4, 2012 at 12:37 PM

What about:

Anna (“Anna, Go to Him”)
For people who like cutesy names: Strawberry (“Strawberry Fields Forever”-keep in mind that this was an orphanage, however)
Loretta and JoJo (could be a nickname for Joseph, Joshua, Josiah, etc.), from “Get Back”
Bill/William (“The Continuing Adventures of Bungalow Bill”)

Reply

appellationmountain February 4, 2012 at 4:33 PM

How could I forget Get Back? Loretta is a great addition, as are the others – thanks!

Reply

waltzingmorethanmatilda February 3, 2012 at 10:56 PM

Desmond and Eleanor are cool, although I do like the idea of a Lucy Diamond!

Reply

Fruitfulvinewife February 3, 2012 at 7:59 PM

What about Pepper (as in Sgt. Pepper)?

Reply

appellationmountain February 3, 2012 at 8:45 PM

Brilliant!

Reply

Sally February 3, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Sally for the win! Haha. :) My favorites from the list are Desmond and Penelope, although if you’re a LOST fan they probably wouldn’t be ideal for siblings. Lovely names, though.

Reply

British American February 3, 2012 at 3:47 PM

I know a British family (from Merseyside) who named their daughters Eleanor and Lucy based on the Beatles songs. The girls are teenagers now. They have a brother named Sam – I don’t think his name is a Beatles reference?

Then I know a 4 year old locally (USA) who is Lennon, named in honor of John Lennon.

I was born in Liverpool, but am not particularly big into the Beatles. Though being an expat I already get a lot of “Where are you from?” “Near Liverpool.” “Oh, the Beatles!” So it’s probably best I stayed away from Beatles names. Hmm, though I do have a George, like George Harrison, though not named after him.

Reply

Julie February 3, 2012 at 10:18 PM

I had an old co-worker who is OBSESSED with John Lennon and the whole British Invasion. His daughter is named Mersey and before you mentioned Merseyside (I had to Google it) I had never caught that Mersey is a reference to Liverpool.

Reply

Sarah A February 3, 2012 at 3:29 PM

I’m actually not a Beatles fan. Their music is okay but I prefer more fiddle and more banjo ;) So my list of musical honor names includes Hank and Emmylou.

Anyway, the only name I like from this list is Prudence, but DH refuses as he thinks it’s “too much” virtue name.

Reply

Bryony February 3, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Don’t forget “Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery”!

Reply

appellationmountain February 4, 2012 at 6:47 AM

Good additions, Bryony – thanks!

Reply

Kristi February 3, 2012 at 10:32 AM

So….I have an Arabella (with Clara still a strong contender for future girls), a Jude, and Eleanor is one of my top 5 for girls. Penelope and Lucy aren’t far behind. I think I have an obsession that I never realized is there :).

Reply

Amy3 February 3, 2012 at 9:01 AM

It’s not from a song, but my daughter’s name, Astrid, is a Beatles reference via Astrid Kirchherr. It wasn’t the only reason my husband liked the name, but it had a lot to do with it.

I know school-age Judes, Julias, Maxwells, Lucys, and Sadies, but I don’t know if any of them were named with the Beatles in mind.

Reply

kburgan220 February 3, 2012 at 8:19 AM

My sister’s name is Sally, I always liked the name Sadie and thought it would be a cool way to honor her…but I find it is a bit too similar sounding to my name.

I LOVE Molly, Jude and Lucy (my neice is named Luci). Penny has been steadily growing on me.

I have a friend with a 1 yr old named Jude, full name is August Jude!

Reply

appellationmountain February 3, 2012 at 9:22 AM

That would be a great way to honor a Sally! I have Sara on my family tree, so Sadie has been on and off our lists over the years, but I think I’m more attracted to Sarai.

Reply

countrylizb February 3, 2012 at 2:29 AM

I love Desmond. And it was the song that made me like it.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: