A Handy Guide To Help Determine Whether or Not Your Band Tattoo Is Awful (Spoiler: It Is)


Last week the Daily News broke the story about New York Jets coach Rex Ryan’s tattoo, a Lost-like Easter egg pregnant with allegory and symbolism that held all the clues to the mysteries of the Jets woeful season on bungling purgatory island. It was, in case you missed it, an image of his wife wearing the jersey of on-again off-again quarterback Mark Sanchez.

See also:
Brooklyn Metal Bar Saint Vitus Just Launched A New Record Label Because HELL YEAH!
Fool Your Friends with 2013’s Finest Fake Coachella Posters

After spending the entire weekend alternating between tears of laughter and gleeful schadenfreude (go Brady!), the inky taste transgression reminded me of one of the cardinal rules for tattoos in music–aka sports for skinny people–which I like to call the “don’t get high on your own supply” corollary. In other words, just like you don’t get a tattoo of your own professional sports team (because it’s a fickle business and things change quickly) or of your girlfriend’s name (ditto), you definitely don’t get a tattoo of your own band. Why? Because your band is going to break up and you are going to hate everyone in it. This is not up for debate. (“Wino-na Judd Forever” would be a pretty sick tat though, if anyone in Nashville is looking for ideas).

That’s only the tip of the inky iceberg, of course. There are as many ways to be bad at tattoos in music as there are to be bad at music itself. As Tolstoy said, “All good tattoos are good in the same way. All bad band tattoos are stupid. Also, what’s a band tattoo?”

Here are a few of our favorites from bands and fans alike, from the off-centered and the ill-considered, to the horrifyingly demonic, and the confoundedly bone-headed.

The Band Whore

Speaking of football, there’s a saying, which applied perfectly to the Jets this year, that if you have two quarterbacks then you don’t really even have one. Same rules for epic fandom. You’re allowed to have a tattoo of exactly one band, so it’s important to choose wisely. This is why getting tattoos as a teenager is such a bad idea, because odds are you’re not going to be into the same bands you scribbled on your notebook in study hall when you’re a middle-aged landscaper–unless you are, which is a lot worse. Not so fast 35-year-old music writers who still listen to Morrissey every day.

The Photo Realist

Morrissey tattoos are a whole sad genre unto themselves. That’s mostly because, unlike with, say, an AC/DC tattoo, you know the person wearing it did some serious time in the pain cave reflecting on the perfect lyric to express their devotion. And yet still, after all that introspection, they went ahead and did it anyway. That said, I’m not sure which is worse here, getting a portrait that looks nothing like the singer in question, and there are thousands of those to peruse through online, or one that looks exactly like him. Somehow the latter seems more depressing. Maybe that’s the point here?

The Preemptive Canon Introduction

At least there’s a couple of decades worth of rich lyrical content and, you know, actually poignant music to choose from in his case. Not sure what the excuse is here. I get being carried away by a musical style in the heat of the moment, I really do–which explains all those undercut asymmetrical Skrillex haircuts we’ve seen for a couple years now–but how about getting a tattoo of that haircut? That’s next level devotion to shittiness for life. Almost admirable in a way.

The Nightmare Fuel

In his defense, at least homeboy doesn’t have to look at this Guillermo del Toroian monstrosity that often. He might even have convinced himself it doesn’t exist by now. But something tells me (read: the rope necklace and plugs) that he spends a lot of time walking around with his shirt off, which is like punching the entire world in the face with a creepy soul patch fist. Forever. Crust punks with “fuck you” tattooed on their foreheads should take notes on this dude’s hate game.

The Variety Pack Fail

This gem is taken from an Acacia Strain song titled “JFC (Jesus Fucking Christ). That’s funny, because that’s exactly what I was just thinking.

The Ted Bundy

I guess this is supposed to be a tattoo of Avril Lavigne, which, oookaayy. But there’s an outside chance it could also just be a guy who’s a big fan of Schoolgirl Facials Tube which makes me realize all of a sudden that there are, without a doubt, dudes walking around out there in the world with their favorite blow job professional tattooed on their body. brb going to take 1000 showers.

The Dad Jeans

Seems like this comes from another, albeit much more demographically specific, blow job site. If the guy wearing this doesn’t also have a t-shirt tucked into his high-waisted jeans on then I quit writing. Kind of want to anyway though.

We All Die Alone

Something tells me this resolve is going to frequently put to the test.

Risk Versus Reward

Just so that we’re all clear here, what we’re looking at right now is a the lyrics to a Bjork song translated into braille and then tattooed on someone’s body.

Good Band, Bad Choice

OK, I know what you’re thinking: “Getting any Oasis tattoo in the first place.” Fine, I hear that, but how about the entire lyrics to “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?” What song now, you say? Exactly. Don’t out think yourself by trying to stay ahead of the fan curve. I know “Live Forever” probably seemed cliche at the time, mate, but it’s looking pretty good right now in retrospect to the guy with “You’re hangin ’round and climbing trees pretending to fly. D’Yer wanna be a spaceman and live in the sky?” on his body about now, isn’t it?

The Virgin

Paradoxically, sometimes the only thing worse then being the guy in the band with all the tattoos is being the one guy in the band without any tattoos, like this Creed fella here. Let’s call him the drummer because it really doesn’t matter.

The Daily Penance

In the music game it’s important to stay humble, which is why I’ve always admired Fred Durst for investing in a perpetual reminder of how good he didn’t end up being. On a related note, I’m going in for some new ink today, I just need to settle on which two serious journalists who made something of their talents I should get blasted onto my tits.

Fan Mutation

This dude loved Megadeath so much he had an entire third leg tattooed onto his body. That’s dedication.

White Girl Problems

Oh, cute. She got a permanent reminder of the looks on her parents’ faces when she came home with that Radiohead tattoo.

Brand Synergy

This one gets bonus points for thematic consistency, because this is to real tattoos what Atreyu’s music is to real metal.

Taste Anarchy

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Where Were His Friends?


Tasteful But Tasteless

Strangely: Yes.

The Cool Mom

You don’t see many Van Morrison tattoos anymore these days–or any days, really. Something I just found out playing this fun new game “think of any single unlikely musician ever and marvel in awe at the tattoos that exist in their honor.”

The Monsters You Don’t See Are Always Scarier

Hard to say for sure what Gregg Allman’s tattoo actually looks like despite how many time’s he’s offered to show it to us over the years years; as of yet not a single person has taken him up on the offer.

The Precious Artist

I don’t even really have time to get into the actual tattoo here, I’m too busy dying over the caption that accompanies it from the tattoo shop in Connecticut it comes from:

“These are photos of custom tattoos drawn specifically for the customer. DO NOT COPY these tattoo designs. Respect the artist, the wearer, and the concept of custom tattooing. These photos are meant to show you the quality of work possible at Atlantis Body Arts in Milford, CT. Keep in mind not all tattoo artists are capable of quality tattoos, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. You can use these photos for inspiration, but not replication. Dont be lazy, have your custom tattoo artist create a unique custom tattoo designed specifically for you. If they can’t draw it for you, they probably shouldn’t tattoo it for you either. Contact us if you want to talk about traveling to get tattooed us, catching us at a tattoo convention, or to recommend a good custom tattoo artist we know near you.”

Don’t think you have to worry about anyone copying this, but fair point.

The Uplifter

No, but gonna go ahead and guess most people with Saosin tattoos are.

The Overly Specific Fan

More like Operation Mind Blown.


We’re all good here. Not even mad.