In my 6 years of writing this blog, I never did an April Fools special. Maybe because I didn’t like April Fools much because I fell for way too many pranks when I was younger. But anyway I decided to make this April Fools a fun, wholesome rock and roll one. Let’s talk about fake bands from movies and TV shows. Ever find yourself watching a show and liking the music from a band within the show and being disappointed that the band aren’t real? Me too. Even if they are a parody of a real life rock band, I still love hearing parody songs and remakes. Anyway I’m going to share 15 of my favourite fake music groups from TV and movies. Not an exhaustive list, but a fun one anyway and feel free to share any of your favourites I missed in the comments!
1. Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap are easily the best fake band and everyone knows about them. If you’re a rock fan and you haven’t seen This is Spinal Tap, what are you doing? Stop reading and go watch the movie! Are they really a fake band though? The actors did get together and play concerts as Spinal Tap. Their inspiration is an amalgamation of various rock bands throughout history. They played skiffle, beat music, psychedelic rock, prog rock, and then finally heavy metal, as seen in the movie. Classic rock fans love the references and rock bands themselves have said hey, Spinal Tap got that idea from us! For example, things that happened to them in the movie happened to Yes, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Status Quo, The Troggs, U2, Van Halen, you name it. Lots of things that happened were universal classic rock band experiences. Don’t all rock bands go through the same things? You see one episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, you’ve seen them all. How do you break up a friendship? Start a rock band and get famous!
Spinal Tap as a franchise started in 1979 as part of a sketch comedy show called The TV Show. They made a music video for “Rock n Roll Nightmare” as a parody of The Midnight Special. Two of the actors, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean were members of another fake TV rock band, Larry and the Squigtones, who were on Laverne and Shirley. Best yet, the whole band actually all play their own instruments and McKean, Guest, and Harry Shearer wrote songs for the movie.
Here’s their debut:
2. Sex Bob-Omb
Recently I decided to rewatch Scott Pilgrim because it was on Netflix and I was so bored and needed something to watch. I remember seeing this movie in the cinema when it came out and it influenced my decision to move to Toronto after I graduated from secondary school. You wonder how an awkward starving artist like Scott pulls all these girls in the movie…. Well basically girls go out with him because he plays bass in a rock band. Rock stars may or may not admit it, but attracting girls or guys is a big reason they wanted to be in a rock band. A guitar can substantially increase your position on the 1-10 scale. They’re not the best band, but it’s still an entertaining movie.
In the movie, there are a bunch of fake bands and their music was written by real musicians and all their names are references to video games: Beck wrote the music for Sex Bob-Omb, Metric performed as The Clash at Demonhead (the lead singer Envy’s image was based on Emily Haines), and Broken Social Scene performed as Crash and the Boys. Classic rock fans will get a kick out of a couple characters being named after classic rockers: Stephen Stills and Young Neil. The soundtrack includes two classic rock songs: T Rex’s “Teenage Dream” and The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”.
3. Lifted Riffs and Shire of Frodo
Why does Netflix always prematurely cancel the best shows? Seriously though, if another network can pick up this show I’d love it. I fell in love with the Bill Burr show F is For Family because it shows another side of the 70s: not the glamorous rose tinted side with the disco and the rock music, but the real 70s about real people going through real problems: financial, personal, and a bit about social justice issues. It’s relatable and realistic. It’s like King of the Hill, but more gritty, they don’t pull punches on this show. The show is about a working class family, The Murphys, who live in the Rust Belt, Pennsylvania. The Korean War veteran father works at the airport and hates his life and the mother “works” as an MLM hun selling Tupperware and is struggling because MLMs are a scam that only steal your money and time. The three kids are Kevin, a stoner secondary schooler who wants to be a rock guitarist; Bill the shy middle child; and Maureen the smart, curious girl who has dreams of working in a STEM field. Definitely a show that any of my readers would enjoy.
There are two fake rock bands that I got a kick out of: Shire of Frodo, who are based on King Crimson (with a bit of Genesis, especially in that live concert scene). “The Castle of the Elfin King” is basically “The Court of the Crimson King”. Lifted Riffs are based on Led Zeppelin, but with a bassist that looks like Lemmy. “Lick My Pickle” is basically “The Lemon Song”. I cracked up the first time I saw this episode and every time I rewatched it.
Shows use fake rock bands usually to save money because licensing music is expensive and the band might even say no to that or as an extra element of comedy to parody.
4. School of Rock
This movie was definitely a gateway to classic rock for so many millennials. I didn’t realise it at the time, but that movie is a reason I am who I am. One half of Tenacious D, Jack Black stars as Dewey Finn, a broke wannabe rock guitarist without a band who needs to come up with rent money or else his roommate kicks him out. One day, while at home he gets a call looking for a substitute teacher. The call was meant to be for his roommate Ned Schneebly, but he decides to impersonate him because he’s desperate for a job. He goes in and teaching isn’t what he expected. These are a bunch of rich prep school kids. He sees them playing musical instruments and thinks these kids have potential to be his band for a Battle of the Bands contest and he comes up with an unconventional class project: Rock Band. Each student plays a role whether as a performer or behind the scenes – a real education that shows that rock and roll isn’t just about the musicians – let’s talk about the other important team players: roadies, security, managers, and yeah superfans too! You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore!
Almost Famous is another gateway movie for millennial classic rock fans. The movie is based on the true story of Cameron Crowe’s life as a teenage music journalist for Rolling Stone and his time following rock bands on tour and interviewing them. While there was a real band called Stillwater, an obscure Southern Rock band, so they had to get permission from the band to use the name, Almost Famous Stillwater were a fictional band based on Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and The Allman Brothers Band. The movie has some classic rock names behind it. Nancy Wilson co-wrote 3 out of the 5 Stillwater songs in the film, Peter Frampton did technical consulting work for the movie, and Mike McCready played lead guitar on the Stillwater songs.
6. The Rutles
You can’t have a fake band list without mentioning The Rutles, the famous Beatles parody band from the 70s created by Neil Innes and Eric Idle for BBC series Rutland Weekend Television. It all started with Neil Innes writing a parody song called “I Must Be In Love”, that sounded to Beatle like and he wanted to keep writing more to turn it into a Beatles parody series. Later, they starred in a mockumentary called The Rutles: All You Need is Cash.
The Rutles actually knew The Beatles with Innes being in the Bonzo Dog Band, a band that the band really liked and invited them to be in Magical Mystery Tour. George Harrison even appeared as a pirate in Rutland Weekend Television‘s 1975 Boxing Day Special. The band members themselves mostly loved The Rutles. George himself was involved in the project and found it liberating to work on The Rutles and felt the parody was done out of love. Ringo liked the happy scenes, but felt the sad scenes hit too close to home. John loved it and didn’t want to return the advance copy tape he got. Paul said no comment when asked, but Eric Idle claimed that because Linda liked it, Paul opened his mind.
7. Marvin Berry & The Starlighters
Everyone loves Back to the Future and I’m sure you’ve seen it and there’s no point in me hiding the ending, but anyway… Marty McFly ends up time travelling back 30 years and accidentally prevents his parents from meeting, which means he wouldn’t exist anymore so he has to get them back together. There’s a school dance and he needs to get them back together there. The band that are playing at the school dance are Marvin Berry & The Starlighters, who played a few songs in the movie: “Earth Angel”, “Night Train”, and of course “Johnny B Goode”. If you want to hear about some more classic rock connections: Eddie Van Halen played the guitar riff Marty plays to wake up his dad. The movie’s choreographer taught Michael J. Fox how to imitate Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, and Chuck Berry’s trademark moves. It was only last minute that Chuck Berry decided to allow his song to be used in the movie. In reality, that song didn’t come out until 1958. Marty you were 3 years early with that song. “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love it.”
8. Sing Street
My friend Amanda and I love this movie. Basically it takes place in the 80s and this kid decides to start a band so he can impress this girl who is an aspiring model. His family are financially struggling so he moves from his posh private school to a state school, but it’s not a good environment for him because he’s being bullied and the school are giving him a hard time for not having the right colour shoes for the uniform. The movie follows the band’s journey and evolution from a cover band to polished rock band. The music video below is inspired by Back to the Future:
9. The Blues Brothers
Another classic movie band and for sure they revived the popularity of a lot of soul and R&B musicians of the 50s and 60s. They actually were kind of a real band of sorts too and actually played shows. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi started the band in 1978 as an SNL sketch. That year, they released their debut album Briefcase Full of Blues, full of 50s and 60s R&B covers, and opened for The Grateful Dead at the closing of the Winterland Arena in San Francisco. You know them best for the 1980 movie of the same name.
My dad’s favourite Blues Brothers song is “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”. You can’t be sad when that song plays. He’d always play this one in the car.
10. The Commitments
Like Sing Street, this movie takes place in Ireland, but instead of starting an 80s rock band, they start a soul band. If you like The Blues Brothers, you’ll like this movie too! In the movie, they sing songs by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Martha & The Vandellas, and more!
11. Brian Slade/Curt Wild/Jack Fairy
David Bowie never wanted a biopic made and that new one that came out called Stardust isn’t one worth your time since his family don’t approve of it and his music isn’t even in it. Instead, watch Velvet Goldmine, a movie that’s based on the glam/glitter rock scene of England in the 70s. The movie centres around a journalist named Arthur Stuart trying to track down Brian Slade, who faked his death. The journalist himself is gay and found that glam rock helped him come to terms with his identity. In the end, he finds Brian Slade who completely reinvented himself.
Brian Slade is heavily based on David Bowie, with a little bit of Jobriath and possibly Marc Bolan. American glam rocker Curt Wild is based on Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. Jack Fairy is hard to say: possibly Little Richard because he never performs but basically inspired glam rock, but some suggest it could be Bryan Ferry because of the name or Brian Eno because of his appearance. Maybe he’s Marc Bolan? Who knows?
Here’s Brian Slade singing Roxy Music’s “2HB”
Here’s the trailer:
13. The Be Sharps
Homer Simpson was in a few bands in The Simpsons and the show does have a lot of guest starring musicians, but my favourite episode of all of these is Homer’s Barbershop Quartet. While at a flea market, Lisa finds a Be Sharps album and sees that her dad is on the cover and shows it to Bart, then Homer comes over and tells the story of how in the 80s, he was in a barbershop quartet with Apu, Principal Skinner, and Chief Wiggum and would perform at Moe’s, the church, and even the prison. Chief Wiggum is kicked out of the band for being too Village People, so he’s replaced with Barney, who surprisingly has a good singing voice. Apu came up with the name, The Be Sharps, because they needed a name that sounds witty at first, but sounds less funny every time you hear it. The Be Sharps become successful and they make it to the Grammys where they meet David Crosby and George Harrison. They win a Grammy, but Homer misses his family and the band declines in popularity and they come home and go back to their day jobs. As Homer Simpson said the iron law of show business is “What goes up, must come down”. Lots of Beatles references in this episode.
The scene with George:
One of my favourite South Park episodes is the Christian rock band one. I always quote this episode. There’s way too many funny scenes like the one where the cop shows Kyle, Stan, and Kenny the impacts of piracy and how rock stars will “only” live in “semi-luxury” if they pirate music. The Christian parody music makes me laugh every time and of course in the end it all blows up in Cartman’s face when he loses his bet because he didn’t technically get a platinum album, but a myrrh album.
The effects of piracy:
Here are their songs:
14. Squidward’s marching band
Spongebob had a couple fake bands and it was hard deciding which one to talk about, but I think it’s only right to talk about the best episode of Spongebob, “Band Geeks”. What is the appeal of that episode? Everyone’s favourite relatable octopus is the star of the episode and you’re rooting for him, there are so many memorable funny lines, and it all culminates in an epic 80s hard rock ballad performance at the end. Squidward comes out victorious and the band put on an incredible show. This episode is relatable to any theatre kid or band kid. I remember always seeing the cast and crew fighting constantly at rehearsals, but once the show is on, we get our acts together and everyone’s like we’re besties, we did this! And we’re all hugging each other afterwards.
Here’s the best halftime show ever:
15. Chip Skylark
We’ll end this one with another childhood favourite, The Fairly Odd Parents. Not a band, but a fictitious pop idol by the name of Chip Skylark. He’s taken Dimmsdale by storm and Timmy’s dad is a stan. Chris Kirkpatrick of NSYNC voices him too. In the first episode he shows up in, there’s a Chip Skylark concert on Timmy’s birthday and his parents are going to the concert and leaving him with his mean babysitter, Vicky. Vicky wants to go to the Chip Skylark concert, but she’s stuck babysitting Timmy. Timmy resents Chip and wishes something bad would happen to him, and he ends up getting into a car crash near Timmy’s house. Vicky is infatuated with Chip and holds him hostage and wants to force him into marrying her. Timmy feels like that’s going too far and wants to free Chip because he feels bad for him, especially after he confessed to Chip that he’s mad that his birthday is ruined and Chip gives him an action figure as a birthday gift. Turns out that Chip isn’t a snobby rich rock star, but in fact he’s being ripped off by the record label. Isn’t that a familiar tale in rock and roll?
He didn’t just appear in one episode, but multiple episodes. Another memorable episode he was in was the Shiny Teeth one where his teeth are stolen and he needs to get them back since he’s known for his beautiful smile. So they have to find the Tooth Fairy.
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