You wouldn’t be able to see them in concert. You couldn’t necessarily find an old favorite of theirs on vinyl or hear their new single on the radio, or download their latest EP as a new discovery. But for the fictional bands of cinema, their music still matters in a deep, powerful way.
With the announcement that one of the most famous fictional bands of all time, Jem and the Holograms, is getting the movie adaptation treatment, it’s about time to look at the other fake bands that stepped onto the silver screen before them.
Their existence may not be true, but their music is.
10. The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers are one of the rare comedy acts that transcended the barrier between fake act and legitimate band. Starting as a skit on Saturday Night Live and graduating to their own movie, the traveling act of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi and their incomparable blues band was on a mission from God to save the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up from foreclosure.
The formation of the Blues Brothers started a movement that has grown and lasted to this day; is there anything that incites more encouragement to get up and get moving than seeing two dudes in their black suits and hats enter the room? With Jake (Belushi) on lead vocals and Elwood (Aykroyd) on harmonica, they were an unstoppable force, a smooth-talking and fast-moving R&B team that brought magic to every stage – and inspired an endless stream of collaborations, like with James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. It’s just their energy and enthusiasm that make it real; the neck snapping, footwork and duel grooving onstage that they milked to the last drop. Try not to hear their “Soul Man” without getting inspired to move.
9. Spinal Tap
Is there any way to avoid saying that Spinal Tap rocked all the way to 11? There’s not, right? The hardest rocking band in metal may be a joke, but their songs, like the fabulous “Tonight We’re Going to Rock You Tonight” were anything but straight parodies; they were finely crafted labors of love, which yes, were hilarious, but were also truly catchy entries in the annals of metal.
Spinal Tap, which included the likes of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, knew they were great, and continued to assert their dominance even when the world seemed to be conspiring against their sprawling, theatrical stage antics. You can’t blame the guys for trying though; Stonehenge wasn’t built in a day.
8. The Oneders
They may have been a one-hit wonder, but The Oneders (one-ders) left a lasting impression on pop that made them legendary. Not unlike The Beatles, the Tom Hanks-managed Oneders find themselves in the middle of a meteoric rise to fame after their first single makes it big – “That Thing You Do” – causing the loss of band members and a truly fantastic self-implosion.
Even the coolness of having a drummer named Shades couldn’t save the boys. Though they embraced their one-hit status after realizing that the music industry just threw them a bone and left them to fight over it, The Wonders (name changed after everyone kept pronouncing it oh-needers) were never able to top their most famous song. That might be okay, though; “That Thing You Do” is a catchy enough accomplishment for a lifetime.
You know your band is hard rocking when a writer for Rolling Stone calls your guitarist’s work incendiary. The booming bluesy rock of Stillwater’s soulful riffs, courtesy of band members like Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) was the stuff of legends. From the moments that the band walked on stage at each of their tour stops, it was if the rock gods had blessed the very arena with their presence. Why else would an eager young journalist want to spend his days following them on the road? They embodied the prime of a classic rock band’s career – that moment where the fans are loyal, the stage is hot and fame is just starting to become a real thing. “Fever Dog” could give the Black Keys a run for their money.
6. Josie and the Pussycats
The redhead, blonde and brunette from Riverdale who rocked the most liked to do it while dressed as cats. And while they were fixtures in the Archie comics and in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons for years, the 2001 live-action film really brought the girls to life as bonafide rock stars who did more than just jam out on the drums while wearing whiskers. They fought villains, brought down a corrupt record label and wore an impressive wardrobe’s worth of metallic cat-printed outfits and platform sandals while doing so.
Their pop hits like “3 Small Words” and “Pretend to be Nice” were Letters to Cleo-powered pop punk anthems that blurred the lines between rock and bubblegum. But their music made everything that much sweeter – even the death of boy band Du Jour. RIP those frosted tips.