A national landmark is getting a new moniker today, as Chicago's Sears Tower will now be known as Willis Tower. Though it's unlikely that this generation of Chicagoans will actually refer to the building as such, it's still a jarring shift. There's already plenty of backlash against the new name, but if the music world has taught us anything, it's that sometimes a name change is the best thing that can happen (and as Willis Group Holdings chairman Joseph Plumeri points out, it's already working out for the city — the new name brings several hundred jobs with it). Here are five artists who probably wouldn't have been able to break out under their old moniker.
» Pearl Jam: Though they have always recorded as Pearl Jam, the grunge-era quintet originally began its life as Mookie Blaylock. What's a Mookie Blaylock? He was the point guard for the Atlanta Hawks in the early '90s, and most of the bandmembers were big basketball fans. They switched to Pearl Jam in time to sign their recording contract, but they still paid homage to their former name on their first album Ten, which was Blaylock's jersey number. Why It Worked: Though "Pearl Jam" still sounds a little silly 20 years later, it seems unfathomable that the band would have gotten the amount of respect that they've accumulated had they stuck with their original name.
» John Mellencamp: The "Hurts So Good" rocker began his career as Johnny Cougar (though he says he never agreed to that name). He released three albums under that moniker before transitioning to John "Cougar" Mellencamp and finally simply as John Mellencamp. Why It Worked: Had he stuck with "Johnny Cougar," he probably would have been confused with a singer who appeals directly to 40-something women.
» The Beach Boys: Brian Wilson is responsible for some of the most brilliant compositions in pop music history, but one of his earliest contributions to the band was definitely a misstep. When his group first started recording, they were known as the Pendletones (named after a popular type of shirt that the boys would wear during shows). When they produced their first single "Surfin,'" the record label changed their name to the Beach Boys without their knowledge. Why It Worked: Everything that group represents is summed up in the name "The Beach Boys," while "The Pendletones" sounds like a fictional band from "That Thing You Do."
» Maroon 5: The members of Maroon 5 have actually been playing music together since 1994, but they spent their first six years as a group as Kara's Flowers (supposedly named after a girl they all had a crush on). Since Kara's Flowers had a heavier sound than what they became famous for on their breakout album Songs About Jane, they decided they needed a clean start to distance themselves from their former work. Why It Worked: Maroon 5 isn't the greatest name in the world, but Kara's Flowers sounds like a mid-'90s riot grrrl act, not a group of funky white dudes.
» Spinal Tap: Before they were England's loudest band, Spinal Tap started as a skiffle outfit known as the Thamesmen. When they decided to shift their sound to the heavier vibe that made them famous, they ditched the Thamesmen and settled on Spinal Tap. Why It Worked: "The Thamesmen" doesn't sound very hardcore, while "Spinal Tap" sounds downright painful — like good metal should be.