The story of a group of friends getting together to start a band is almost as old as film itself, and some of the bands here did so well they even put out albums in real life.
So pour yourself a Jack Daniels while we reel off the ten greatest fictional bands of all time. Anyone else that makes you bang your head? Let us know in the comments…
10. The Ultimate Losers – Slacker
If there was ever a film to sum up the early 90s’ sordid alienation, it was Slacker. It involves groups of bored twenty-somethings wandering around talking early-90s sordid alienation. And with The Ultimate Losers performing trippy art-rock sounds in a seedy Texas bar, it definitely fits the tone. The scene is filmed on a Pixelvision camera which makes the music sound almost haunting.
9. Mystik Spiral – Daria
“Hi, we’re Mystik Spiral, but we’re on the verge of being called something else” seems to be how every Mystik Spiral gig starts in classic outsider-comedy Daria. The music is pretty terrible, and the lyrics are worse, but the suggestion that if they change their name it might earn them a big break is undoubtedly familiar to many a bedroom guitarist.
The feeling with Mystik Spiral is that if they actually ever bothered to practice, then maybe they would sound alright. Like a teenager with rock and roll dreams and a beat up electric guitar, it always sounds great to you but never to anyone else.
8. Sonic Death Monkey – High Fidelity
Like Mystik Spiral, Sonic Death Monkey are always on the verge of a name change. By the end of the film they’re calling themselves Kathleen Turner Overdrive – a real shame because Sonic Death Monkey would surely be in my all time top five band names.
Regardless of name, Jack Black’s unbridled enthusiasm for rock music is incredibly contagious, even if when we finally get to hear them it sounds completely different. With references to the GBH, Primal Scream and the Jesus And Mary Chain, it would be easy to expect a drug-addled rock extravaganza. Instead we get a soulful rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Lets Get It On. Which is nice.
7. Jocks Wa-Hey – The Young Person’s Guide To Becoming A Rock Star
Once upon a time, Channel 4 made great original programmes. This may seem hard to believe, given its current output. The Young Person’s Guide To Becoming A Rock Star was easily up with its best, riding the highway to rock and roll stardom with Scottish indie-rock types, Jocks Wa-Hey.
The programme worked fantastically with a Britpop backdrop of the late 90s and was a fantastic satirical take on the music of the era. The songs were pretty good, they all sounded a bit like Ash, and had fantastic titles like Why Won’t You Shag Me. If only we could convince Channel 4 to give it a DVD release.
6. Marvin Berry and The Starlighters – Back To The Future
Marty McFly plays with Chuck’s Cousin and his band, The Starlighters, here in the 1950s but the wild guitar solos are all 1980s. Marty begins a rendition of the then-unheard (until one of the band plays it to Chuck Berry down the phone) Johnny B Goode before playing his guitar behind his head, doing some Van Halen-style shredding, and then kicking his amp. Looking onto the aghast 1950s crowd, he utters that the audience must not be ready for it, but their kids will love it. He’s right there…
5. Dewey Cox – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
From the early gospel songs, to the cast repeating the film’s name in the title ad nauseam, to the Bob Dylan obsession, Walk Hard is such a blatant pastiche of the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line, it may as well be a National Lampoon film.
Walk Hard manages to be consistently funny, without being cruel to the source material, with the songs all managing to be good to the ears, and kind to the funnybone.
4. Wyld Stallyns – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
Just as The Young Person’s Guide To Becoming A Rockstar was absolutely of its time, so were the Bill & Ted films. With cameos from Faith No More and ZZ Top, Bill & Ted were all about the hard rock.
Going from barely being able to play their instruments (and swearing that Eddie Van Halen will be their ticket to the big league) in the first film, they reach the heady heights of winning battle of the bands in the second (with a cover of the Kiss track (God Gave Rock And Roll To You), with the help of a medieval princess, the Grim Reaper and some demi-gods.
3. School Of Rock – The School Of Rock
This may be the third film on the list that Jack Black has appeared in, but what can I say? That man knows how to rock. In this film he leads a group of children to rock and roll stardom after his own dreams collapse.
The songs all reflect his own bitterness – most of his bile is focused at his former bandmates, and his friends who are concentrating on starting families or furthering their careers, and it’s really funny to hear them sung by children. Although I get the feeling if this were attempted in real life, you would end up with only a restraining order to show for it.
2. Stillwater – Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe’s love letter to his early forays into rock and roll journalism make for an interesting tale, particularly when they are blatantly based on real bands from the 1970s. Taking the best parts of The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stillwater are clearly burning on all cylinders, and more interested in taking drugs and having sex than they are music.
The film focuses more on the burnouts and drug freakouts (Billy Crudup’s Russell Hammond shouting ‘I am a golden god’ on a rooftop being the best one). It’s certainly a case of he who rocks hardest, rocks most, but behind all of this there are also some fantastic roots rock tunes with a real Creedence Clearwater Revival vibe. 1. Spinal Tap – This Is Spinal Tap
The band that started it all. Who else could it be? Spinal Tap became so big that they actually released albums and played gigs, even playing Glastonbury last year. From the constantly dying drummers, the insane stage props and incredibly moronic lyrics, Spinal Tap were the ultimate homage to the heavy metal scene of the late 70s and early 80s.
Despite the film being quoted to death over the last 25 years, it is still genuinely funny and in terms of comedy songwriting, and even Weird Al can’t beat them.
Leave your thoughts in the comments below…