Top 10 Fictitious Bands in Movies

by Eric Melin on December 19, 2008

in Top 10s

Sometimes it’s because they need an original band to fit into their fictional story, sometimes it’s for parody, and sometimes it’s just because the filmmakers don’t want to pay to get somebody else’s song on the soundtrack. For whatever reason, there are a ton of made-up bands played by actors in the movies these days. I picked out some of my favorites for this list, but I have to issue dome caveats. Tenacious D did not make this list. Not because they put out an album before they released a movie and because they went on tour, but as a show of protest because their six HBO episodes were so much funnier than their movie, “The Pick of Destiny.” Many of the other bands that were created for movies have also actually played live and/or been on tour as well. Enough of my yappin’, let’s boogie!

Honorable mentions: Josie and the Pussycats (featuring Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo and writing/production by and Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and Matthew Sweet) and DuJour from Josie and the Pussycats (2001), DJay (music by Three 6 Mafia) from Hustle & Flow (2005), Future Villain Band (played by Aerosmith) from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978), The Looters (Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones, The Clash’s Paul Simonon and actor Ray Winstone) from Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981), The Fabulous Baker Boys (Jeff and Beau Bridges, with Michelle Pfieffer) from The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell ) and Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt) from Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2000), The Quadratics (Mark Weiner’s band with cute guy Steve Rodgers) from Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995).

10. Blueshammer from Ghost World (2001)

God, I hate white-boy blues bands. One of the most tragic and funniest scenes in Terry Zwigoff’s underrated outsider-teen flick “Ghost World” is where lonely record geek and old-timey blues fan Steve Buscemi goes to a blues club to check out a grizzled old blues veteran who’s trying to play an opening set at a sports bar while the crowd ignores him. He tries in vain to make conversation with a woman about music, but when she says, “If you like authentic blues, you really gotta check out Blueshammer,” he knows he’s in trouble. Four frat-tastic white boys get onstage, introduce themselves as “authentic, way-down-in-the-delta blues” and start singing about “pickin’ cotton all day long.” It’s bad enough that the woman leaps to her feet and starts shakin’ it, but insult is added to injury when a dancing Blueshammer fan knocks Buscemi’s drink off the table and all over his pants. It’s a brilliant scene that shows the insular world of the record geek who can’t relate to people and the inherent comedy of “authentic blues.”

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9. Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate from Coming to America (1988)

It’s a short scene, to be sure, but an oh-so-memorable one. Remember when Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall were funny? They each play multiple roles in this cable-TV staple, and in this scene, Hall plays an reverend who introduces a local hero you all know as “Joe the policeman from the ‘What’s Goin’ Down’ episode of That’s My Mama.” Murphy comes strolling out as the jerry-curled crooner Randy Watson, singing a perfect parody of half-sung/half-spoken sexy soul with his cheesy band Sexual Chocolate. The song is Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” but it’s Barry White and Michael Jackson that Murphy oughta be paying royalties to with his fey loverman character. The topper? When nobody claps after his stirring rendition, Randy stomps his foot, drops the microphone, and does a Jesus Christ pose in a cheap attempt at applause. “Sexy chocolate!” Classic. I worked at the movie theater in high school, and we used to time our favorite scenes in this movie just right so we could stand in the back and watch them over and over again. I must have seen this a hundred times in one month.

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8. The Carrie Nations from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

Roger Ebert wrote this insane cult classic directed by schlockmeister Russ Meyer about an all-girl rock band that travels to Hollywood with big dreams. Sucked into the dangerous post-Summer of Love, post-Charles Manson rock n’ roll/entertainment scene, their hopes are soon dashed and everything comes crashing down in a spiral of drug addiction, bisexual confusion, attempted suicide, and ultimately, murder. Their music—none of it written or performed by the actresses—falls somewhere in a category between bland and unintentionally funny. But the movie itself is so incredibly wrong and hilarious in so many ways that they have made the list. This is one instance where everything surrounding the band (formerly known as The Kelly Affair) is so bad ass that it makes the derivative music sound a whole helluva lot cooler than it really is. British all-girl band The Pipettes did a shot-by-shot parody of one scene in their music video for “Pull Shapes” (which is a way better song). First, the original performance from The Carrie Nations, backed by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, here:

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7. Curt Wild and the Rats from Velvet Goldmine (1998)

Todd Haynes does the history of glam rock in this ponderous movie, but the music and performances are electrifying. It was a bad move to have the whole thing framed by Christian Bale as a journalist trying to reveal the truth behind Jonathan Rhys-Meyer’s washed-up rocker’s death. But the music has a special air of authenticity because Haynes used actual rock musicians and real tunes from the era, mixed with original songs performed in the very specific styles of each band being referenced. Ewan MacGregor fares best as Iggy Pop doppelganger Curt Wild, covering actual songs by The Stooges (“T.V. Eye,” “Gimme Danger”). The band on the recording features Mark Arm of Mudhoney, Ron Asheton of The Stooges, and Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. Rhys-Meyer’s David Bowie-like character Maxwell Demon sings Brian Eno’s “Baby’s On Fire” with his fictional band The Venus in Furs, and the musicians on that track feature Suede’s Bernard Butler, members of The Verve, and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Add in Placebo as T.Rex stand-ins The Flaming Creatures covering Rex’s “20th Century Boy,” and you’ve got the most authentic “fake” rock band soundtrack ever. You can search any of these on YouTube, but here’s curt Wild doing “T.V. Eye.” Beware: Because of MacGregor’s full monty, this is definitely NOT safe for work.

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6. Three Times One Minus One from Run Ronnie Run (2002)

Take the best (worst) parts of Blueshammer and Randy Watson and put them together and you’ve got Three Times One Minus One. Originally appearing on the brilliant HBO sketch comedy show “Mr. Show,” this freaky soul duo consists of Pootie T (David Cross) and Wolfgang Amadeus Stallonies Von Funkenmeister XIX 3/4 (Bob Odenkirk). “Run Ronnie Run” is a patchy affair, but the video for 3×1-1’s hit “Eww Girl, Eww” is a lesson in extreme soul. It’s about as subtle as the movie’s main character (redneck mullet-haired Ronnie Dobbs) and his non-existent courting skills. These guys don’t just sing in sexual innuendo, they go all the way. Well, at least Pootie T does. His co-hort just holds his cane steady and puts a schmoove exclamation point on each verse. Beware, this clip may have you falling on the floor in laughter, but it is also NOT safe for work.

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5. Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

The only fictitious group on this list to win a Grammy Award, the Soggy Bottom Boys (in Joel and Ethan Coen’s Depression-era retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey”) are played by George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, and Chris Thomas King. They perform “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which won a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals, once in a recording studio for some money and again at a political rally to get themselves out of some hot water. The real Soggy Bottom Boys (a pun off of Lester Flat and Earl Scruggs’ famous ‘50s/’60s bluegrass outfit the Foggy Mountain Boys) are Union Station’s Dan Tyminski , Nashville songwriter Harley Allen, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band’s Pat Enright. Nelson himself actually sings the lead vocals on “In the Jailhouse Now,” another song they perform onstage. The soundtrack to this film is good enough to convince anyone once and for all that what currently passes for popular country music on the radio has way more in common with Britney Spears than it does Hank Williams. I wish I could say similarly good things about the uneven movie. Here’s Clooney and company lip-syncing in the studio:

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4. Stillwater from Almost Famous (2000)

Cameron Crowe’s rock thinly disguised autobiography of his early years reporting for Rolling Stone featured this fictitious band. (Ironically, there actually was a ‘70s band called Stillwater, too!) His real-life on-the-road experiences with the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin informed the entire film, but musically Stillwater is a simpler and more straightforward Southern rock band, keeping in line with their not-so-stellar reputation as a “mid-level” touring act. Jason Lee (“My name is Earl”) plays egotistic lead singer Jeff Bebe, Billy Crudup (the upcoming “Watchmen”) is charismatic guitarist Russel Hammond, and real-life musician (and amazing singer/songwriter) Mark Kozelek plays the bass player. The band’s pitch-perfect ‘70s-appropriate music was actually written by Crowe, his wife Nancy Wilson (of Heart), and Peter Frampton. “Feverdog” is their newest single just when Patrick Fugit (the surrogate Crowe) meets the band and this scene is one of the movie’s most memorable, capturing all the excitement of being backstage at a huge rock ‘n roll event. Here’s Stillwater, whose actors underwent extensive training under Crowe’s supervision, performing the song for the first time in the movie:

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3. The Wonders from That Thing You Do! (1996)

I’m only rating The Wonders higher than Stillwater because I like their song(s) better. (Well, that and the fact that Tom Hanks’ directorial debut turns on the premise that a good drummer can make an OK band a great one, which is so true.) “That Thing You Do” was written by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne and Mike Viola of The Candy Butchers provided the lead vocals. How it didn’t win the Best Song award at the Grammys that year, I’ll never understand, but it was a pretty significant hit on the Billboard Pop charts. Anyway, The Wonders (originally The One-ders, but changed because that could be mistakenly pronounced “oh-need-ers”) were a one-hit wonder band from Erie, Penn. who were heavily influenced by the British Invasion. In this affecting picture—a nice snapshot of a more innocent moment in time—the unlikely teenagers-turned-rock stars get put through the industry wringer, and all the band’s struggles and their fleeting moments of fame are expertly rendered by writer/director Hanks. And that song, that perfect song! It’s so catchy, it won’t leave your head for days. Here’s a music video for it, with lots of clips from the movie:

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2. The Rutles from All You Need Is Cash (1978)

Am I cheating by including this one? A little bit. Although it first appeared on NBC (and was the lowest-rated show that week) in 1978, the feature-length Beatles parody “All You Need is Cash” could really be considered a movie. Written and co-directed by Eric Idle of Monty Python, it traced the rise of The Rutles, a fictional band whose career just happened to mirror every single highlight of The Beatles. The band’s songs were written by Idle and Neil Innes, and not only mimicked the subject matter and style of the Fab Four, but it seemed like some of the Beatles’ melodies were actually turned inside out—the parodies are that familiar. Of course, it was all done in good fun, since there are cameos by Mick Jagger and even George Harrison, a longtime Python supporter. The Rutles began as a sketch on Idle’s BBC television series “Rutland Weekend Television,” and when the comedian brought clips with him to America when he hosted Saturday Night Live, producer Lorne Michaels suggested they turn it into a movie. The songs are great fun even if you aren’t that familiar with the Beatles, but if you are a huge fan like myself, you may believe they border on genius. Here’s just one of many brilliant tracks, a parody of “Help!” called “Ouch!”:

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1. Spinal Tap from This is Spinal Tap (1984)

Duh. The greatest movie of all time is Rob Reiner’s groundbreaking mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap,” which offers a brief and fictional history of “England’s loudest band” (parodying every rock genre along the way), then follows them through a disastrous American tour in support of their newest album of heavy-metal cock rock titled “Smell the Glove.” As Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer (who play their own instruments and also wrote all the band’s songs with director Reiner) poke fun at every kind of stadium rock excess, they also manage to make a truly touching film. Taking inspiration from The Rutles, Spinal Tap went one step further and actually made the audience care about them. They were so true-to-life and the mockumentary format was so new (see “All You Need is Cash” and Albert Brooks’ 1979 “Real Life”) that many people thought the band actually existed. The actors helped that idea along by performing on Saturday Night Live and appearing on a Ronnie James Dio-organized heavy-metal hunger relief single called “Stars.” Hard rock bands everywhere were petrified to see their lives up onscreen in all of their ridiculous glory, as some of the movies’ most famous scenes were inspired by actual events (Black Sabbath had a dwarf crawling across a 30-foot fiberglass replica of Stonehenge, and one night, he fell backwards off of it!). I’ve seen it a million times and it never gets old. Witness a young Anjelica Huston in a clip that recounts the years before “the dawn of history”:

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Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeff350zorro December 9, 2008 at 2:29 pm

If you are talking about fake bands from a movie, then Eddie And the Cruisers has to be atleast mentioned.

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2 whitney December 9, 2008 at 2:51 pm

I must publicly protest that Wyld Stallyns didn’t make the cut. The changed the future, Eric. Jesus.

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3 Rich Yarges December 9, 2008 at 3:04 pm

What are saying? TSL would have been an OK and not a Great band without you?

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4 Nathan December 9, 2008 at 3:55 pm

I think you pretty much nailed this list. Of course Spinal Tap has to be number 1! Big Bottom, Give Me Some Money, etc. Great songs all around.

But what about the band “Crucial Taunt” from the Wayne’s World movie? I know Tia Carrere actually did sing the songs when they recorded it but I always thought that those songs totally rocked.

And whenever you hear the songs from that movie, you just can’t help but think of her in her hot outfit being sexy. awesome.

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5 crash December 9, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Dear scene stealers, first off id like to say that im a big fan and you are very lucky to have met someone from the flaming lips. know id like to make my point. Wheres school of rock or Alvin and the chipmunks.
just kidding about the last one seriously school of rock was actully preformed by the kids and they were 10. otherwise perfect list.

p.s that guy stole my idea about idiocracy on the top 10 movies that prove the futer will stink. I posted it first so i just want credit were credit is due

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6 Phil December 9, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Eric, I love your reviews and blogs and top 10′s, but you really need to get off Spinal Tap’s cinematic dick. I imagine you getting drunk at parties and ranting about it to unhappy listeners.

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7 Ryan December 9, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Don’t forget that Spinal Tap also appeared on one of the greatest Simpsons episodes of all time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ended a song on Guitar Hero/Rock Band by exclaiming “Good night Springding, there will be no encore”

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8 Rachelle December 9, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Awesome to see Velvet Goldmine on this list, and was totally did not expect to see Run Ronnie Run. Run Ronnie Run is 10 times funnier with the music videos. I probably would have had The Color Green (from Girl) on my list somewhere. It has Sean Patrick Flanery as the front man.

As much as I love the Sweet, Crucial Taunt’s version of “Ballroom Blitz” will always have a place in my heart.

I own the Rocklopedia Fakebandica, it is entertaining, but not complete. http://www.fakebands.com.

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9 Reed December 9, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Dear crash – first of all that was like, eight months ago. Second of all, Eric’s list was up before J.D.’s and that’s the place where I left my Idiocracy comment. You can go ahead and check the dates if you want confirmation. March 19th comes before May 29th in most conventional calendars. But I’m not going to sit here and claim that you “stole my idea.” We can both have the same idea, and I’m happy to share the credit with you.

Re: This list – Gotta put Stillwater over The Oneders, but mainly because I find that movie borderline intolerable.

You forgot a really big one that should be #2 – The Blues Brothers. Are they not fictional enough? Four fried chickens?!? No man can eat that. Besides, Spinal Tap toured plenty after the movie came out.

Others that coulda made the cut, too:
–CB4
–The Monkees (hey, they made a movie – bizarre one, sure)
–Bob Roberts
–A Mighty Wind (music was actually even better than the film, IMO)
–That episode from Just The Ten Of Us where the four older daughters snuck out the window and sang Steppenwolf covers at a bar. Two of them weren’t bad looking!

Great list, even if I’m still wondering how Jake and Elwood aren’t on it. They went to see the Penguin and everything.

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10 Eric Melin December 10, 2008 at 12:37 am

Yeah, The Blues Brothers were left off cuz I didn’t have anything fun or new to write about ‘em. Simple as that.
Whitney- Saving the world is pretty badass, but from what I remember their music suuuuucked!
Jeff- “Eddie & the Cruisers”? No real excuse, except its a personal list, y’know? Just not my favorite movie and I kinda hate that Springsteen-ripoff Cafferty Beaver Brown Band stuff.
Rich – Yes. (Just kiddin’.)
Phil- At what party did I corner you lately? Guilty as charged. You said “cinematic dick.” Huhuh huhu huh huhuh uuuh.
Ryan- Very true. Further proof of their awesomeness.
Nathan & Rachelle- 2 Crucial Taunt fans? Wow. I gotta go with Sweet on that one, but I don’t have any “Wayne’s World” nostalgia (even though people still say I look like Mike Myers all the freaking time).
A lot of the ones I picked I picked because I thought a. I truly love the band/songs, b. They are hilarious parodies, or c. Their clips were REAL entertaining.
If you didn’t watch any of them, you’re missing out!
So technically, I didn’t forget anything, although I should probably have used Spinal Tap as an opportunity to mention The Folksmen’s hilarious cover of “Start Me Up” by the Stones. Everything is ranked that way for a reason. Now, pardon me, I’ve got to go listen to some stanky “authentic” blues.

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11 Jon Sholly December 10, 2008 at 4:43 pm

I dunno why everyone is complaining. This list totally rules! Good show my man!!!

Oh, and the reason the Blues Brothers had to be left off is because they don’t really hold up all that well. Ain’t I a stinker?

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12 blackpage December 11, 2008 at 1:22 pm

I nominate Thor and the Tritonz! “U give me energy! En-er-geeee…”

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13 blackpage December 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm
14 k.g. December 12, 2008 at 12:22 am

I think that if I could see Grievo from The Kids the Hall’s BRAIN CANDY IRL it would be the happiest moment of my life. And yes, I’ve seen Danzig many times so there’s no need to draw the comparison.

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15 Che December 13, 2008 at 6:40 pm

What??

Sorely missing one band:

Ellen Aim and the Attackers

c’mon!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALTVaxjMANA

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16 trustthedust December 14, 2008 at 12:04 am
17 alphamonkey December 14, 2008 at 11:32 am

I’m okay with the Blues Brothers being left off the list if for no other reason than they’re a TV to Film band (Though that rule goes out the window with Three Times One Minus One.

I do believe there’s a ‘best TV based fake bands’ list that needs doin’ and I’ve got two words for you:

WYCKYD SCEPTRE

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18 Eric Melin December 14, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) from “Streets of Fire” was certainly considered, as was Diane Lane in The Stains (from “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains”), but alas, only 10 spots! Thanks for posting the links…that and Thor & the Tritonz was pretty awesome! I even had to leave off “Trick or Treat”‘s Sammi Curr, which pained me. Anyone know the name of the band from “Rock n Roll Nightmare”?

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19 Angie James December 23, 2008 at 12:13 am

The band from Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare was The Tritons.

What about Steel Dragon from Rock Star (2001)? I might be the only one who actually saw that movie though. ;)

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20 Eric Melin December 23, 2008 at 10:19 am

Angie- I did see that movie, and I kinda hated it. Steel Dragon was pretty funny I guess, but they way the handled the whole “gay lead singer” thing was childish and I hated how Wahlberg had to become sensitive grunge guy to escape the typical sex/drugs routine. Ugh. Now…Wyckyd Sceptre? THAT’S how you handle the touchy subject of gays in metal.

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21 will December 29, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Timmy Cappello. Beach Scene. Lost Boys. One scorching Saxophone. One Man glistening in the moonlight.

Can “Greasy Horn Blowing Muscle Man” be a fictitious band?

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22 Beatles Fan January 2, 2009 at 12:10 am

And yes, I’ve seen Danzig many times so there’s no need to draw the comparison.

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23 Matt Toplikar February 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm

I love this list! Here’s a few runners up:

Sonic Deathmonkey a.k.a. Barry Jive and The Uptown Five from “High Fidelity.”

The Quadratics from “Welcome to the Dollhouse.”

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24 bill February 7, 2009 at 9:54 am

ah, someone beat me to it, “The Lone Rangers” from airheads. brendan fraser, adam sandler, and steve buscemi! “how can they be lone rangers if theres three of you?” haha i would add that to the list not because of how good they were, but for its parody qualities

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25 S February 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Hard Core Logo (from the film of the same name) – Hugh Dillon, Callum Keith Rennie, John Pyper-Ferguson, Bernie Coulson.

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26 ben grimes March 11, 2009 at 5:41 pm

how about Weird Sisters from Goblet of Fire? pulp and radiohead unite to write and perform songs about wizards.. brilliant! the best thing about the movie, actually.

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27 Martin Z. March 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Great list, but how ’bout Cap’n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters?

Now, how about a list of the best movie impersonations of REAL bands? I’d vote the Beatles in “Back Beat” as No. 1. Lord, those boys rocked.

(BTW, I think that early ’70s band you’re thinking of was Sweetwater, not Stillwater.)

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28 Eric Melin March 19, 2009 at 12:25 am
29 Martin Z. March 20, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Oh, you meant THAT Stillwater . . . .

OK, so here’s another candidate: Paran Maum, the all-girl band from the Japanese movie “Linda, Linda, Linda.” They rock the mid-80s punk by the Japanese band the Blue Hearts (Paran Maum means “blue hearts” in Korean — it’s complicated; you have to see the movie).

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30 CowboyJim-Brad December 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I’d like to create a fictional garage-rock band of telegenic older dudes from their early 50′s to their mid-60′s.(I’m 56 and said to be a classically handsome
black dude.)Could some of my fellow posters advise me about creating believable characters and upon the “boys’” selection,on how to pitch this idea to TV pro-
ducers,ala late 60′s-early 70′s fake TV bands such as the Archies and others?

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31 sean June 8, 2010 at 9:28 am

Great list, can’t believe I haven’t seen it before today. How about an honorable mention for Hardbodies (formerly known as Diaper Rash) from the 80′s cult classic Hardbodies. Perfectly performed by the great all girl band Vixen. Who can forget such great hits as “Computer Madness”. it was like they knew the internet was coming. That computers would one day rule the world. Even better song, “Mr. Cool”, that is one of the best jet ski scenes in 80′s movie history.

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32 Eric Melin June 9, 2010 at 10:09 am

Vixen!!!
Yes!
I totally forgot about that one–great call, Sean. Got any links for videos of these scenes?

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33 sean June 9, 2010 at 11:42 am
34 Eric Melin June 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I like this version of the band better than Vixen.

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35 Derek Denton June 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I didn’t see Steel Dragon from “Rock Star” on the list….

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