Monday, September 28, 2009

Soundtrack September: 10 Favorite Fake Film Bands

As a concluding piece for Soundtrack September here's another patented Film Babble Blog list. Despite that this is something that's been covered a lot on the internets (see fakebands.com for example), I decided to put my own personal spin on it. Now, I tried to avoid bands that began on television, like, say, The Blues Brothers or Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, but #1 on this list itself originated on a TV special so that was difficult to do. For the most part though these are fictional groups introduced to us on the silver screen. So here they are:

Film Babble Blog's 10 Favorite Fake Film Bands

1. Spinal Tap from THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984)

I know, it's an incredibly obvious choice but this list wouldn't exist without David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) as one of England's loudest bands and stars of Rob Reiner's cult classic rockumentary. Their soundtrack set the template for music parodies while the film's faux documentary style is still a vital formula today (see The Office). Now celebrating their 25th anniversary Tap still tours, usually with the Folksman (also consisting of the same folks) from A MIGHTY WIND opening and have just released a new album: "Back From The Dead" so the line fine between fantasy and reality gets more and more blurred as time goes on, or is it the fine line between stupid and clever I'm thinking of?

2. Max Frost and the Troopers from WILD IN THE STREETS (1968) James Dean lookalike Christopher Jones fronts this great group of rowdy rebels (including future Ohio Senator Kevin Coughlin and future famous funnyman Richard Pryor) in this teen exploitation flick that's as ridiculous as it is fun. Here's a clip of Jones, Jim Morrison style, lip synching "Shape Of Things To Come" which was actually a #22 hit on the US Billboard charts:

Incidentally songs credited to Max Frost and the Troopers were on the soundtracks to the Dennis Hopper film THE GLORY STOMPERS and Jones' AIP film followup THREE IN THE ATTIC.

3. Circus Monkey from BANDWAGON (1996) As the focus of a funny and touching portrait of a indie band just starting out, Circus Monkey (Kevin Corrigan, Steve Parlavecchio, Lee Holmes, and Matthew Hennessey is an endearing quartet of indie underdogs. I'm biased about their inclusion because the movie was filmed in my area by NC native John Schultz (formerly a member of the Connells) with a gig set at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro as well as a climatic concert filmed at the Rialto theatre in Raleigh, but I still strongly stand by the choice - their songs (especially "It Couldn't Be Ann") are catchy and their story a heartfelt one. Sadly it has never been released on DVD but here's the trailer to tide you over until it is:

4. The Fabulous Stains in LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (1981)

A great girl group shoo-in from one of my favorite could be cult films that came up in another recent list. Again in the interest of space check out my original review.

5. Eddie and the Cruisers in EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS (1983)

My pal "Pinball" put it best in his essay for Soundtrack September in the previous post. Read it here.

6. The Wonders in THAT THING YOU DO! (1996) Tom Hanks directorial debut features the fab fascimile of The Wonders - literal one hit wonders (like you couldn't figure that out) that had one catchy ditty that actually became a real life hit (# 41 on the Billboard Top 100). The band consisted of Tom Everett Scott ("the smart one"), Johnathon Schaech ("the talent"), Steve Zahn ("the fool"), and Ethan Embrey (uh, the unremarked upon one). The film is a guilty pleasure I usually stop on when changing channels - the title song is so damn catchy!

7. The Five Heartbeats in THE FIVE HEARTBEATS (1991) Robert Townshend's homage to the heyday of Motown, with obviously the Four Tops and Temptations as template, is another film that wore its way into my heart through multiple cable airings. The music and merit within definitely give DREAMGIRLS a run for its money - "A Heart Is A House For Love" recorded by the Dells (another obvious influence) is a Helluva song.

8. Stillwater in ALMOST FAMOUS (2000) This 70's arena rock band was concocted out of stories about interaction with such bands as the Eagles, the Allman Brothers, and Lynyrd Skynard (among others) during Cameron Crowe's days as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone magazine, but they still seem like a real living breathing entity mainly because of his angsty autobiographical angle. Stillwater, which features Jason Lee and Billy Crudup as its Plant/Page or Glimmer Twins or what have you, only had one song on the official soundtrack: "Fever Dog" written by Heart's Nancy Wilson (also Crowe's wife).

9. Citizen Dick from SINGLES (1991) Matt Dillon's Cliff Poncier is definitely in the right place at the right time - in a grunge band in Seattle in the early 90's. With a wardrobe and songs written by Green River/Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament as well as all of Pearl Jam as fellow band members, Dillon has more than a little help from his friends. None of Citizen Dick's songs are on the soundtrack but "Spooner" written by Soundgarden's Chris Cornell can be heard in an acoustic version can be heard in the background at one point.

10. Otis Day and the Knights in ANIMAL HOUSE (1978)

Another seminal band that started out fake but got real after the fact. The Delta's toga party favorites, fronted by Dewayne Jessie, put out an album produced by George Clinton called "Shout" in 1989 and have been touring as "the number one party band in America" to this day.

Okay! One last special mention: Autobahn in THE BIG LEBOWSKI. The nihilist Kraftwerkian band consisted of Flea, Peter Stormare, and Torsten Voges. Sure we never hear a note of them * but damn that album cover ought to count for something!

* Correction: We do actually hear "Wie Glauben" - supposedly an Autobahn tune in the movie and the soundtrack album. From composer Carter Burwell's notes at carterburwell.com: "The story also involves a band of nihilist Germans, and in their final scene their music is playing on a boombox. For this I wrote "Wie Glauben" ("We Believe" in German) a techopop tune."

More later...

4 comments:

Ceri said...

Spinal Tap's such an obvious choice for number one but nothing could beat it! :-D

Jonman said...

It's funny that you say that Stillwater seems like a real band, because there actually was a band called Stillwater in the 70's(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stillwater_%28band%29) but they were not related.

Adam said...

This might seem like an odd suggestion, but what about PoP! from Music and Lyrics? I know, I know, to even mention the name of such a mediocre movie approaches the dangerous threshold of cinematic blasphemy, but the music video that opens the film is fantastic in a totally 80's way.

Just a thought.

Thesonicbrew said...

I can't believe that you left out The Lone Rangers from Airheads! I still hum that song from time to time.