Tuesday Ten: 228: Fake Bands In Film and TV

It’s a rather different Tuesday Ten this week. In honour of the twentieth anniversary of the still-brilliant Empire Records – and that it’s Rex Manning Day tomorrow (08-April), the day the film is set on – I’m looking at bands that don’t exist. Or, at least, were made up for each film in question…

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083: Soundtracks

Also, I should note that each band here was checked on fakebands.com to ensure that they are/were fake, and there were many other suggestions that came up for this, too. Needless to say, by the way, this Ten goes to Eleven.

Empire Records
Rex Manning

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Where else to start? One of the main sub-plots of Empire Records (a day in the life of a group of young employees of the eponymous business) is the in-store appearance of the 80s pop-star Rex Manning, a horrifying amalgam of the kind of one-hit wonder you’d get in that decade, complete with dancing girls, perma-tans, awful outfits and pseudo-intellectual french lyrics interspersed in the english lyrics (which were bad enough anyway). The one song featured in the film, Say No More (Mon Amour) – that they ended up doing a whole video for, is hilarious and has just the right level of naffness to make it believable.

Big Fun

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“If I get one more request for that Big Fun song, I’m gonna commit suicide!”

So says the radio DJ in the town Heathers is set in, as one eerily apt song (Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)) floods the airwaves while a spate of “suicides” are investigated in the town. Once again, a one-off song that fitted the narrative and the time of the film brilliantly, it didn’t actually get released until a few years later by it’s writer Don Dixon – who remarkably co-produced some of R.E.M.’s early albums!

Ghost World

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Ghost World was a film that was more than anything a springboard for Scarlett Johansson’s move into much bigger films, as it turned out, but all told was a whip-smart film that deserves to be better remembered than it is. Particularly for the glorious moment when poor old Seymour (Steve Buscemi – a character that has his fair share of bad luck in the film), and a man who loves the blues, is disgusted by the “authentic delta blues” of the blues-rock band Blueshammer, who are actually anything but.

The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers’ Show Band and Revue

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Talking of blues, did you really think I’d miss these guys out? Originally a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live, it of course became a much-loved film (not to mention a touring and recording band), starring the original pairing of Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, and their takes on soul and R’n’B classics were done with awesome style (and no little skill, seeing as the band was a fair number of the greatest session men going), and just enough humour to make the whole damned thing worthwhile. Let us never talk of Blues Brothers 2000, mind.

The Commitments
The Commitments

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On similiar lines – certainly in terms of “authenticity” of the music and commitment (ahem) to the cause, anyway – Alan Parker’s wonderfully funny film of a band coming up from the suburbs of Dublin – to play soul – has since spawned a hit musical, but I’m sticking with the original film. Most of the actors in the film were local people who were musicians, which certainly means that the music played is absolutely on the money, but it is also an exceptionally believable film, at least for the most part. Not only did it become a musical, though, the band also toured and recorded after the film.

The Winners

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Not Winners by any stretch, in fact a crappy, small-town band who get turned into vampires and, needless to say, hit the big time. A film that frankly should have been trash, but was enormous fun (particularly thanks to a supporting cast that includes Henry Rollins, Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper hamming it up, among others…). The song featured is, well, not so good…

Also not great – and not the only made-up band in this film, either – but the main protagonist’s band so they will count here. The point is, of course, that they aren’t really that good, but it’s the kind of film where the underdog triumphs and is quite a lot of fun along the way. Incidentally, this band’s songs were written by Beck, and if you listen carefully his influence in the music for the film is very clear indeed.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Soggy Bottom Boys

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Actually sung by Dan Tyminski in the film, the song itself has a long (and apparently disputed) history that interest was rekindled in, thanks to The Coen Brothers quite wonderful film loosely based on The Odyssey and set in the Depression-era Deep South. Music plays a core part of the plot, too, with The Soggy Bottom Boys scoring an unexpected hit with this song and various other folk/bluegrass songs featuring along the way too. The original musicians used for the film ended up with considerable success touring the material, too.

Now here’s a weird one. Daft Punk’s multi-million selling, retro-house-disco monster Discovery got re-imagined by legendary anime/manga artist Leiji Matsumoto as a soundtrack to the film Interstella 5555, with the music “performed” by extra-terrestrial pop band The Crescendolls, and frankly the whole concept works so brilliantly that it is kinda amazing to think that the album was written well before the film (although the videos for the first singles were elements of what became it).

A lead singer dead for a year for “tax reasons” (and called Hotblack Desiato, named after the North London estate agents!), a band so loud that “Regular concert goers judged that the best sound balance was usually to be heard from within large concrete bunkers some thirty-seven miles away from the stage, whilst the musicians themselves played their instruments by remote control from within a heavily insulated spaceship which stayed in orbit around the planet – or more frequently around a completely different planet” (http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Disaster_Area), and one that had re-written the rules of economics while doing so. Douglas Adams came up with an idea for a band so far-out I’m not sure reality could ever top it, although I guess Sunn O))) might come close in the volume stakes.

This is Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap

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“There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.”

There wasn’t any way that the daddy of all fake bands could be ignored. A film so bang-on with the jokes, events and general rock craziness (and mundanity) that some bands at the time believed it was true, not to mention that a number of the events going down in rock legend – being better remembered than actual events that occurred with real bands. Still, they did cross over into the real rock world (most brilliantly with Metallica), and eventually released actual albums and toured. Thankfully, though, no drummers really died in the making of it.

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