Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who Needs Real Bands When You Have Fake Bands?

Everyone wants to be in a band. As someone who has zero musical talent, this is a special dream for me--the cheering crowds, the hit songs, the adoring fans! But as film and television tell us, being in a band is harder than it looks. There are always power struggles between bandmates; struggles with fame; love triangles; wacky hijinks; long stretches on the road; trouble with the law. It's not a life for the faint of heart.

So maybe for now, it's better for me to just admire these fictional bands instead of starting my own. Here is my Top 12 Favorite Fake Bands:

#12 The Archies:
Don't tell me you've never sung along to the classic hit, "Sugar, Sugar." It's adorably infectious--just the kind of song a '60's cartoon band would sing. (For that reason, the Archies beat Josie and the Pussycats. Plus they made the Josie movie with Tara Reid. Ugh.) They're a group of cartoon friends who made it big in a band, even though I don't think any of the other comics are about their musical talent. It's like that episode of Saved by the Bell in which they all end up in a famous band--except it was Zack's dream. And not only are the Archies a cartoon band (ie--not even fictional real people), their "vocals" are mostly done by Ron Dante. So it's a fictional sound you hear. The Archies have this unreal this all wrapped up.

#11 Mystik Spiral
Another cartoon band and this one, from the classic Daria, was insanely hip to the middle school viewer I was. Led by Trent, secret love of Daria and brother of her best friend, Lane, it was the epitomy of angtsy 90s teen grunge garage band. And the writers knew it. Mystik Spiral was never meant for musical glory. It's all you think is cool when you're 14.

#10 Dingoes Ate My Baby
This one is a little selfish on my part, because it's the band that spawned Oz, beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer character. When they first appeared in the Inca Mummy Girl episode, Oz fell for Willow, and one of television's most adorable relationships was born. Most of the music was composed/performed by real-life band Four Star Mary. And their name, Dingoes at My Baby, was inspired by the Azaria Chamberlain disappearance, when a dingo (you guessed it) ran off with a woman's baby.

#9 The Monkees
They ride that line between real and fake. They're real people (unlike #12 and #11), but they had a TV show about their fake wacky hijinks. They started off just providing the faces and vocals, but eventually got to play their own music, too. They toured and released records. They made movies. Who cares if they're real or fake? Because I love them. By five, I knew all the words to "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer." With their catchy lyrics and bouncy tunes, the Monkees made me believe in them. (Also, Davey Jones is like an elf.)

#8 Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators
You're in trouble with the mob and need to get out of town, fast. Better yet, you need to get undercover. What do you do? Dress in drag and join an all-girl band, of course. That's what Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon do in the classic Some Like it Hot. But this isn't some prissy all-girl band. These girls dance, smoke, and drink on the sly. Who wouldn't want to be in a band with Marilyn Monroe and a bunch of other fun chicks in Florida? Plus, it's just a hysterical movie in general. I might just run away to join an all-girl band, mafia or no.

#7 The Beets
If the Beatles were cartoon characters in the early-mid 90s, this is what they'd look like. And fortunately, the Beets have just the catchy sound that you'd expect from that combination. From the classic Nicktoon Doug, the Beets were Doug Funnie's favorite band. With songs like "Killer Tofu" and "You Gotta Shout Your Lungs Out," it was easy to see why all the multicolored kids in Bluffington went nuts over them.

#6 Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
Few things are cooler than the Muppets. Everyone loves them. And as such, no band is cooler than Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Muppet band extraordinaire. Although Muppets like Kermit and Miss Piggy have some great songs, the Electric Mayhem add a nice, rock edge to the usually folksy Muppet movies. (Okay, rock for a bunch of foam puppets, but still, it introduces kids to the craziness of fake bands.) Plus, it has Animal, one of the most memorable/wildest Muppets ever. Usually drummers fade into the background of the band, but Animal makes his presence known.

#5 The Wonders
Maybe the best combination of honesty and adorableness when it comes to stardom. The Wonders (or rather, the Oneders at first) are just a group of guys with a nice ballad, until drummer Guy Patterson comes along and spices up the beat. The band is then launched into fictional 60's stardom--except they only have one great song and there are issues between bandmates. Add some romantic tension between Guy and the adorable Liv Tyler, and you have one of the most charming band movies ever. Fun footnote: the song "That Thing You Do," which is totally catchy, was actually written by Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger.

#4 Stillwater
From Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, this is the band that makes me want to leave home and follow around a 70's rock group for a while. Sure, there's some bandmate drama--Jason Lee is fantastic as self-centered lead singer Jeff--and girl drama--Band Aids are people, too!--but at the end of the day, the music is what brings everybody back together. One of my favorite scenes is when they're all on the bus, all mad at each other, and "Tiny Dancer" starts playing. They may not love each other, but they can still sing along. Plus, Patrick Fugit is one of the most adorable, coolest guys on screen.

#3 Spinal Tap
From one of the first mockumentaries, This Is Spinal Tap, this fictional hair-metal band takes the comedy all the way to 11. With jokes about midgets and dead drummers, and songs like "Sex Farm," it's impossible not to laugh at some point during This Is Spinal Tap. Plus, Christopher Guest and his group (see Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind) do the mockumentary better than anyone else. They get whatever genre they're working with and then go crazy. And with Spinal Tap, the actors are actually the musicians, too. Hysterical and musical? So not fair.

#2 The Blues Brothers
Without a doubt, the Blues Brothers are the best thing to leave SNL for the big screen. Who'd have thought John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd could rock so much? (Another case of "hysterical and musical = unfair.") With their dark suits and constant sunglasses, they're the coolest guys in fake band history. They stand up to old blues classics, even though they're a couple of white comedians. And in the movie, they get to hold their own against Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and Aretha Franklin. Who else could do that? Plus, The Blues Brothers movie is insanely funny on its own. Add a totally kick-ass soundtrack to that and you've got one of the best fake band movies ever made.

#1 The Commitments
I've got to admit, the Blues Brothers came close to claiming the number one spot; but in the end, the Commitments won out. The book is awesome. The movie is awesome. The soundtrack is awesome. The band is awesome. Made in 1991, the movie details the creation of a Dublin soul band bringing some life back to the Irish during the Troubles. Manager Jimmy Rabbitte is the inspiration for the group, and he's one of the most engaging characters in fake band-film. (I love his family and his imagined interviews with himself.) And the rest of the band is just as phenomenal. When auditioning for the movie, performers had to showcase their musical abilities before they could even read for a given part, and it shows. These guys know how to rock! With amazing motown songs, there is not one missed step in the film. Check out a couple of my favorite songs--"I Never Loved a Man" and (hell yeah) "Try a Little Tenderness":

Another amazing fact? The lead singer here, Andrew Strong, was a teenager when he played the role of Deco. How in the world did he get a voice like that?!

Plus, the movie itself is just awesome. It's not just an excuse to hear fun songs. The band has its own drama and, of course, things get complicated when egos and sex drives come into play. At every step, the Commitments are the best fake band in the history of the world.

Also, the movie is on Hulu until April 23! Watch now!

So there you go--my Top Twelve Fake Bands. Have you own favorites? Post in the comments!


Maria said...

Remember The Beets from Doug? Killer Tofu 4eva.

Maria said...

Damn! You already mentioned them. I got overly excited and posted a comment before I'd finished reading the list...Well, enjoy the Killer Tofu link anyway :)