Editor’s note: This post was originally published on January 29, 2008. It was substantially revised and republished on January 26, 2012.
If your muscial inclinations take you lower on the radio dial, you won’t be surprised to learn the following: in 1977, the Ramones released Rocket to Russia, their third LP. Track Six was “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” – an upbeat, surf-rock influenced number that remains one of the band’s better-known anthems. When it was released as a single in the US, it reached #81 on the Billboard charts.
For a brief time, the name did even better.
Girls names from alt rock are a varied bunch. Let’s take a closer look.
After barely cracking the Top 1000, Sheena first dipped a toe in back in 1956, but didn’t stay long. This name would rocket from obscurity to familiarity by 1981 (#357) and cracked the Top 100 in 1984, reaching #80 – a notch higher than the song.
Sheena’s run didn’t last. She was out of the Top 100 by 1986, and vanished from the Top 1000 a decade later.
The Ramones can’t take all of the credit. Instead, Scottish born singer Sheena Easton’s career took off in the early 1980s. In fact, Easton’s success tracks more closely with the rise of the name. The band didn’t know about Ms. Easton when they penned their anthem. It’s suggested that they borrowed the name from 1950s comic book heroine Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, something of a female Tarzan.
And yet it is easy to imagine that some of those 1980s Sheenas were born to parents who met at CBGB.
Sheena is dated today, but are there other girls names from alt rock? More than I can list, actually, but here’s a start.
Rosemary – From Interpol’s 2004 release Antics. Only trouble is that the song is actually called Evil, and thought to reference either a British serial killer of the same name, or possibly Rosemary’s Baby. Rosemary ranked #654 in 2011.
Ruby – The name of a single released by the Kaiser Chiefs in 2007, a #1 hit on the UK charts that year. And let’s not forget Rancid’s 1995 Ruby Soho. Ruby was #109 last year.
Helena – The Misfits recorded a song called “Helena” in 1999. My Chemical Romance also used the name in 2005. In the second case, it was inspired by the name of MCR frontman Gerard Way’s grandmother.
Coco – As in stellastarr*’s 2004 song “My Coco.” She has never appeared in the Top 1000, despite Courtney Cox Arquette’s use of the name for her daughter.
Delilah – The Plain White Tee’s #1 single “Hey There, Delilah” was a chart-topper from a few years ago. She’s been quietly used for years. Now this Biblical bad girl might find that she has many new namesakes in the 21st century. She’s up to #172 in 2011, from #548 in 2006.
Isobel – A 1995 single from Iceland’s most famous singer, Björk. It’s a valid alternative spelling, but it would be forever confused with Isabelle nowadays. Isabelle came in at #114, while Isobel failed to chart
Elise – The Cure’s “Letter to Elise” has inspired quite a few parents. The gentle short form of Elizabeth ranked #162 in 2011.
And a few from the wayback machine:
Caroline – Think back to the Psychedelic Furs’ song “Pretty in Pink.” Remember the first lyric? “Caroline laughs and it’s raining all day.” Molly Ringwald’s character in the John Hughes movies was, of course, Andie. But it’s the name from the song that reached #81 in 2006, and #87 in 2011.
Alison – From Elvis Costello’s very first album, back in 1977. Rolling Stone ranked this song #318 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In the US, the double-L spelling – Allison – has fared better on the charts, currently holding steady at #40. It’s been in the Top 100 since 1974 – well before the song was released. The Pixies recorded a song called “Allison” in 1990 for Bossanova.
Charlotte – As in “Charlotte Sometimes,” a haunting single from the Cure, back in 1981. It’s based on a novel by the same name. And, of course, there’s the band Good Charlotte. (Their frontman is dad to Harlow and Sparrow.) She owes more of her popularity to her classic, graceful style and the character from Sex and the City.
Mary also deserves a mention. If you cut your teeth on the Cure, you might know that frontman Robert Smith is married to a woman named Mary. She appears in at least one of their videos and in the video for Let’s Go to Bed, Robert scrawls her name on a screen. Mary was #112 in 2011 – the least popular it has ever been.
Would you ever consider borrowing a name from song lyrics? Are there others that should be on this list?
Three Delilahs in one class – now that’s wild! I wonder if their moms are all called Jennifer? 🙂
And yes, I think Ruby is that kind of name – it’s not crazy popular, but if you’re the kind of person to choose it, odds are that your friends and neighbors will also be likely to have a Ruby. It’s kind of like Henry, Theodore and Charles in our extended circles – no, they’re not Top Ten, but they might as well be.
I keep running into little Delilahs at the playground with my kids! My daughter Gemma will have THREE Delilahs in her Kindgergarten grade, so they’ve split them into one per class, but I can’t believe we’re in an age where there’ll be Delilah M. and Delilah B. and Delilah G. Amazing!
I absolutely ADORE Ruby, but unfortunately could never use it, it was my husband’s childhood dog’s name! However, on our recent trip to England to visit his sister Nicola, you couldn’t swing a four foot stick without hitting a Ruby! They were EVERYWHERE! I came across the same conversation about the name Ruby twice, as well, as two mothers of Rubys bumped into each other with their girls in tow, and got into a discussion of how they’d chosen the name to be more unique! Marvelous!
Don’t forget The Smiths’ “Sheila Take a Bow” and Elvis’ “Veronica.” I am such the hepster.