There’s a rich history, both within the realms of comedy and drama, of movie plots involving fictional bands and musicians. We get to live out the drug-fueled carnage or laugh as they wade through one stereotypical mess into another. Sometimes, we get to enjoy moments of glory. Others, gape as their life crashes. Here are 10 such examples…
10. The Lone Rangers (Airheads)
Yup, the band with the most ludicrous name because, as their hapless hostages point out, you can’t pluralize “Lone Ranger” — he ceases to be lone. The movie’s plot, of a rock & roll band led by Brendan Fraser, desperately trying to catch a break by forcing the local radio station to play their latest demo, is relatable. There are some great one-liners, and the band is filled out by Steve Buscemi and an annoyingly naive Adam Sandler. As for the music, we can be forgiven for assuming that they’ll be throwing out some typical ‘80s hair metal fare but in fact, the song “Degenerated,” a cover of an old Reagan Youth tune, is punky brilliance. For the actual recording, Fraser was joined by White Zombie’s Jay Yuenger and Sean Yseult.
9. Wyld Stallyns (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and sequels)
No such polish from the Wyld Stallyns. Keanu Reeves (Ted) and Alex Winter (Bill) admit that they can’t play their instruments at all while thrashing around in their parents’ garage. Until the very end of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, that is. But that time, they’ve traveled through time and learned how to play, so they treat a screaming crowd to a song that sounds suspiciously like Kiss’ “God Gave Rock & Roll to You,” complete with the Grim Reaper on standup bass and robot Bill and Ted on backing vocals, while George Carlin looks on appreciatively. You can’t make that sort of thing up.
8. NWH (Fear of a Black Hat)
The hip-hop Spinal Tap, NWH was a clear parody of NWA (the “H” in the name stands for “hats”) and Public Enemy (the movie title obviously referencing the Fear of a Black Planet album). The movie certainly has its moments, not least the song “Fuck the Security Guards,” which features the immortal lines, “NWH says fuck the security guards, he ain’t a cop but still he wanna act hard… Just a slob in an ill-fitting suit, got a little bit of power so you wanna act the fool.” Parody or not, that’s some incisive social commentary.
7. Crucial Taunt (Wayne’s World)
A.k.a the band fronted by Tia Carrere. At one point, she does a decent version of the Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” but it’s the scene which sees her blasting out “Touch Me” and Mike Myers’ Wayne falls head over heels for her that is ‘90s iconic. Remember the fade into Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver?” Rob Lowe and, in the sequel, Christopher Walken, try to pull Carrere’s Cassandra character away from Wayne, to no avail. For some reason, she loves his public TV show-making, convenience store-working, goofy local celebrity ass.
6. Steel Dragon (Rock Star)
It’s pretty much common knowledge that, while they changed the names to protect the innocent, Rock Star was in fact telling the story of Tim “Ripper” Owens, who was in a Judas Priest tribute band called British Steel. When original Priest singer Rob Halford left the band, they hired Owens to replace him, which seemed like a dream come true. But after two albums that were not particularly appreciated by anyone, Owens was out and Halford was back in. So in Rock Star, Mark Wahlberg is the singer in a Steel Dragon tribute called Blood Pollution, before getting hired by ‘da Dragon.
5. Vesuvius / A.D.D. (The Rocker)
In the Rainn Wilson vehicle The Rocker, we get two hilarious bands for our money. A.D.D. is Wilson’s character Fish’s nephew’s band, which he joins in an attempt to get out of a funk. Also featuring Emma Stone and Josh Gad, A.D.D. is an emo-pop band played straight and alarmingly earnest. But the real joy is Vesuvius, the hair metal band that kicks Fish out at the start of the film. Will Arnett, Fred Armisen and Bradley Cooper fill out the frankly hilarious band. Cooper, of course, gets extra points for later playing Jackson Maine alongside Gaga’s Ally in A Star is Born.
4. Conner Friel / The Style Boyz (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping)
Although Andy Samberg is an acquired taste, Popstar doesn’t really get the credit it deserves for hilariously lampooning any number of boy bands and the members’ countless solo careers. Like the great mockumentaries, it works because it hits so close to the truth. “Incredible Thoughts” is one example of a not-at-all-deep, overly earnest song. “What if a garbage man was actually smart,” raps Samberg. “That’s a common misconception that we’re tearing apart.” Brilliant.
3. Sexual Chocolate (Coming to America)
As news comes in that Coming to America 2 has wrapped, it’s worth remembering the overblown, church-loving soul majesty of Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate, while hoping that we get another dose of the band in the sequel. Their take on “The Greatest Love of All” during a Miss Black America pageant is a high spot in a movie full of high spots. Watson was, of course, played by Eddie Murphy who had a total of four roles in the movie (as did his co-star Aresenio Hall). As Watson/Murphy says to the congregation, “They play so fine, don’t you agree?”
2. Dewey Cox (Walk Hard)
John C. Reilly’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story doesn’t get the plaudits that it deserves — because it is a fantastic movie. It has the epic feel of a Walk the Line, one of the biopics that it is parodying, but also a killer cast, hilarious script and incredible songs, including the title track written by Marshall Crenshaw. John C. Reilly genuinely sang and played guitar on the songs, and he sounds fantastic throughout. We get to experience Cox’s whole life, and it’s a trip.
1. Spinal Tap / The Folksmen (This is Spinal Tap / A Mighty Wind)
It’s tough to separate these two, as they’re both vehicles for the magnificent Christopher Guest/Michael McKean/Harry Shearer trio. The Folksmen came later; A Mighty Wind is a great movie about a bunch of old folk bands getting together for a big show, The Folksmen among them. But there’s really no beating Spinal Tap. They aren’t only the best fictional band of all time, they genuinely became a great “real” band, touring extensively and performing at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. And This is Spinal Tap is possibly the funniest film ever made.