(And 5 That Became Real Bands)
What’s your favorite made-up band? Do you rock along with The Rutles, bang your head to Dethklok, or inhale helium to harmonize with The Chipmunks? There are almost as many fictional rock groups as there are real ones—and sometimes the fake bands are better. I’d trade a Nickelback or a Justin Bieber for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem any day.
Later this year, ‘80s cartoon group Jem and The Holograms will grace the silver screen in their first live action adventure. If the movie is a hit, we might see a new wave of mock bands getting the Hollywood treatment—and that could be awesome or it could be terrible. Some fictional bands are better left as one-hit wonders (sorry, Jesse and The Rippers), but there are a few that could really be developed into something fun. Here are five of them that are on my playlist:
1. The Clash at Demonhead,
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I wish all of the bands from Scott Pilgrim were real, but if there’s one that we didn’t see enough of in the film, it’s The Clash at Demonhead. From the sultry purr of Envy Adams’ (Brie Larson’s) vocals to the thumping bass line, their only song “Black Sheep” is pure ear candy. I try to fill the void by listening to Metric, who wrote the song, but it just isn’t the same.
2. Wyld Stallyns,
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
The name Wyld Stallyns should fill you with the irresistible urge to play an air guitar solo. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Bill S. Preston, Esquire and “Ted” Theodore Logan started their band with zero musical talent, but they never let that slow them down. Although we never hear it in the films, the music of Wyld Stallyns eventually becomes the basis of future society, so I think we can assume it is most excellent. Maybe we’ll find out in the much-anticipated Bill & Ted 3!
3. Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good Time Family Band Solution, Arrested Development
As Tobias might say, it’s a mouthful, but Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good Time Family Band Solution’s pharmaceutical jingles are strangely addictive. The Fünke family really puts the “i” in Teamocil, and nobody lists side effects like Maeby. If you find yourself listening to them for more than four hours, however, you should call your doctor.
Homestar Runner is primarily known for producing farcical Flash animations, not ‘80s hair metal bands, so Limozeen came as something of a surprise. What began as a joke band name evolved into a recurring gag and a series of “hit” singles like “Nite Mamas” and “Feed The Childrens.” One of their more authentic songs, “Because, It’s Midnite,” even achieved real mainstream success when it was included in the video game Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s.
5. Dingoes Ate My Baby,
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
If you’re a Joss Whedon fan, then no doubt you’re familiar with Dingoes Ate My Baby, Oz’s band in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Their dark, atmospheric club rock set the tone for many a monster mash at The Bronze. Couldn’t get enough of them in the TV show? Check out their real-world counterpart, Four Star Mary, who are still alive and kicking. None of their members are confirmed werewolves (as far as I know), but they’re still making music to brood by!
The Pinocchio Effect
Every once in a while, a fictional band has a Pinocchio moment: a chance to become a real, live band. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, an unusual case of life imitating art imitating life.
Last year, two bands from my childhood were brought to life for the first time—over 20 years after their inception. First, Fred Newman and Dan Sawyer reprised their role as The Beets from Nickelodeon’s Doug. Then Polaris kicked off their very first tour with songs from The Adventures of Pete & Pete. I saw both of them perform in New York on the same night, and I can’t tell you how surreal it was.
The following are 5 bands who escaped the bonds of fiction and made fans’ dreams come true:
1. The Monkees,
There’s no better example of the Pinocchio Effect than The Monkees. Formed as a television spoof of The Beatles, the Prefab Four came into their own with radio hits penned by the likes of Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, and Carole King. Drummer Micky Dolenz famously said, “The Monkees really becoming a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.”
2. Spin̈al Tap,
This is Spin̈al Tap
Follow the trail of mysteriously deceased drummers and you’ll find Spin̈al Tap, the British psychedelic metal band who turned their amps up to 11. No list of fiction-to-reality bands would be complete without them. Not only have the “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” rockers toured in real life…they’ve also opened for themselves as their other fictional band, The Folksmen from A Mighty Wind. After seeing Spin̈al Tap live, you’ll never again be certain which bands are real and which ones are Christopher Guest in a wig.
3. The Beets,
Invented as a not-so-subtle knockoff of The Beatles, The Beets rocked Bluffington with yodels and tuba solos, producing bizarre catchy hits like “Killer Tofu,” “I Need Mo’ Allowance,” and “Shout Your Lungs Out.” Actually, that’s their entire recorded discography. What really set Doug apart from other cartoons was its oddball soundtrack, which mostly consisted of voice actor Fred Newman scatting and making noises with his mouth.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete
The pretend band Polaris was culled from members of the real band Miracle Legion to record songs for Nickelodeon’s Pete & Pete. Looking back, their lovelorn lyrics and melancholy tunes might seem like an unusual choice for a children’s show, but they were a perfect fit. In one memorable episode, Polaris cameos as a garage band that, appropriately, vanishes and leaves Little Pete (picture a miniature, PG version of Joe Pesci) with only the memory of their song. The garage band was never found, but Polaris reunited 20 years later to play their first live show and subsequent tour.
Nathan Explosion. Skwisgaar Skwigelf. Toki Wartooth. William Murderface. Pickles. These names all translate to the same thing: metal. Over the top, stabbing your ears metal. Dethklok is both a parody and a tribute, like an insulting love letter to the bands and fans of the heavy metal genre. Songs like “Briefcase Full of Guts” made such a stir that they quickly took the act on the road and have been touring off and on ever since.