Last year, I put together my Ultimate Fake Band Playlist in celebration of April as National Humor Month.
This multi-genre list of “fake bands,” many consisting of genuinely talented musicians, included such acts as The Rutles, Spinal Tap, The Blues Brothers, and even the Canadian teen sensation Robin Sparkles.
As a result, I received a number of suggestions for who else really needed to be on this list via readers’ comments, tweets, Facebook, and emails.
Humor Month has rolled around again, and I’ve decided a Volume 2 of the playlist is in order featuring a few of the suggestions I amassed from last year, as well as a couple of my own.
This volume includes a trip though Fake Band history from mid-twentieth century rock and roll to ’90s grunge, and current day death metal created for movies and televisions, both live action an animated.
Now, music lovers, fill up your iTunes card and hit the vinyl stores, because it is time for the “Ultimate Fake Band Playlist Volume 2: By Request.”
Track 1: Eddie and The Cruisers “On the Dark Side“
This is a case of a “real band” getting some much-needed attention as the result of a movie about a fictional band.
When the movie Eddie and the Cruisers came out in 1983, based on the P.F. Kluge novel of the same name, the film wasn’t the biggest hit of the year by far. It was re-released on HBO in 1984. At this time, the film’s soundtrack, featuring the music by a Rhode Island band, John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band, creating the sound for Eddie and his band, became a bestseller.
The most successful single was “On the Dark Side,” which reached Number One on Billboard’s Mainstream charts that year.
John Cafferty still performs today, and this real hit from a “fake band” remains an audience favorite.
Track 2: Jet Screamer “Eep, Opp, Ork, Ah Ah“
All kids who watched Hanna-Barbera’s The Jetsons in the early 1960s, as well as us later generations who discovered it through reruns, know the story behind this catchy retro-future hit.
This song was featured in the show’s second episode, and is still one of the most famous episodes today.
When Judy Jetson decides to enter her song in a “Win a Date with Jet Screamer” contest, George Jetson tries to sabotage his daughter’s effort by replacing her song with a code language invented by his younger son, Elroy. Of course, the “code” wins and “Eep, Opp, Ork, Ah-Ah” becomes a big hit for the galactic pop idol.
The novelty song has been recorded by a few other quirky artists including The Dickies, on their Killer Klowns from Outer Space soundtrack, and my favorite version by The Violent Femmes for 1995 compilation Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits.
Hop on, baby; I’ll put you in orbit!
Track 3: The Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You“
What better way to kick off the ’70s than with a hit from the family band created for the sit-com of the same name, The Partridge Family?
The Partridge Family actually released eight studio albums from 1970 to 1973, including a number one Christmas album. Their biggest hit is their debut single, “I Think I Love You,” that reached number one status on Billboard’s Hot 100.
However, the only actual Partridge Family members to perform on the single were David Cassidy on lead vocals and Shirley Jones on backups. Studio musicians performed the rest.
This hit also earned some covers, from artists ranging from Perry Como to the alternative rock band Voice of the Beehive, whose version peaked at 25 in the UK pop charts in 1991.
Sorry, Brady Bunch fans; it’s hard to beat The Partridge Family as the cool family sit-com band, especially since the family’s illustrious leader, Shirley Jones, was rocking the Austin Powers look long before Mike Myers.
Track 4: Stillwater “Fever Dog“
The ’70s started out with the cutesy matching suit world of pop rock, but the Woodstock generation was already listening to the heavier sound of trippy prog rock and deep tracks. Stillwater, the fictional band created by the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous, is a perfect example of this sound.
The movie, set in 1973, was about a teen journalist hoping to get published in Rolling Stone magazine for covering the backstage life of Stillwater, featuring Jason Lee as lead singer and Billy Crudup as lead guitarist. Crudup learned his concert guitar skills for the movie from Peter Frampton.
It should be noted there was an actual Southern rock band named Stillwater who performed in the 1970s and early 1980s, and reunited briefly in the 1990s. Their song “Mind Bender” hit the top 50 Billboard charts in 1978.
Their music, however, is not represented in Almost Famous. Instead, “Fever Dog” was composed by Heart’s Nancy Wilson. The film’s soundtrack even won a Grammy in 2001.
“Fever Dog” is one of those songs that, if you didn’t know it was written in 2007 for a movie, you would have sworn you heard it several times before on the ’70s station. It’s that convincing.
Track 5: PoP! “Pop! Goes My Heart“
Hugh Grant was so funny (and spot on) as the front man for the Wham-like ’80s pop band PoP! in the 2007 movie Music and Lyrics, I actual broke my personal rule of not enjoying rom-coms.
In addition to Grant, the other half of PoP! is played by Scott Porter (Scorpion), who has done a great deal of geeky voice actor work on animated hits and video games like Ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men.
This song’s video, harkening to the early years of MTV, opens the film and calls on every 1980s cliché. There’s black-and-white checkerboard print, puffy shirts, shoulder pads and skinny ties, and really, really bad Video Toaster era effects.
The rest of the movie is about a “used-to-be-a-big-deal” pop star getting another chance at fame by writing a song for a Britney Spears-like diva. It admittedly is pretty funny, but it’s the opening segment you’ll remember most.
That may or may not be a good thing.
Track 6: Citizen Dick “Touch Me I’m Dick”
From the pop of the ’80s to ’90s grunge, Cameron Crowe’s Singles showed the emerging Seattle sound to a tee, especially since Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament were the members backing up actor Matt Damon as Citizen Dick frontman Cliff Poncier. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell also did a cameo in the film.
“Touch Me I’m Dick” became the band’s big hit, and is featured on the Singles Soundtrack as well as on a special translucent red 7″ vinyl released in 2015 for Record Store Day. A 25th anniversary deluxe version of the soundtrack is set for release May 19th.
What is the song actually about? Poncier summed it up in the film in solid grunge eloquence:
“I think a lot of people might think it’s actually about, you know, ‘My name is Dick, and, you know, you can touch me,’ but, I think, you know, it can be seen either way.”
Okay, sure, dude.
Either way, it’s a cool song
Track 7: Dethklok “The Galaxy“
Death metal isn’t my thing, but if there was ever a perfect “fake band” example, it’s Dethklok from the Adult Swim animated series, Metalocalypse. The dark comedy was created by Brendon Small who also wrote the music for the band.
Although the show is a parody of the metal world, it is also a celebration of the genre, and several metal legends and other musicians made voice cameos including Ace Frehley, Slash, James Hetfield, Jack Black, and more.
This over-the-top metal epic is from the band’s 2012 release, Dethalbum III, pretty much sums up the dark, seizure-inducing, reverberating devil-loving essence of the band and the genre.
Get ready to bang your head, either with the music or against the wall.
Track 8: Sex Bob-Omb “Threshold“
Yeah! We’re Sex Bob-Omb!
This geeky pop-punk garage band is from the 2010 comic-based movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The video game-like movie follows the epic struggle of a geeky rocker Pilgrim (Michael Cera) as he tries to woo Ramona Flowers, but learns he has to battle her “Evil Exes.”
Even Pilgrim himself admits to Flowers that “Yeah, we’re terrible,” when she asks “You have a band?” No matter–we still want to see them and him succeed.
The song “Threshold” is an adequate symbol of the “Boss Battle” level of Pilgrim’s quest for love.
Are you ready to geek out? They want you to geek out.
Track 9: Flight of the Conchords “Inner City Pressure“
I saved my personal pick for the final track, by “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.”
Long before Jermaine Clement was “Shiny” in Moana, he and the duo’s other half, Bret McKenzie, created the parody folk band Flight of the Conchords in 1998 while they were flat-mates and film students in Wellington.
To be honest, the only reason I would include this very talented twosome on the “fake band” list is because of their self-titled, and self-parodying HBO series of the same name, in which they come to New York to build up and American fan base.
As a “real band,” they’ve preformed at music festivals like South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and Bonnaroo in Tennessee. They were still touring in 2016, and hopefully again in the near future.
I had some trouble deciding which song to pick for this group, but the “first world problems” of “Inner City Pressure,” with its Pet Shop Boys-style tune, is a great starting place. A close second, is the oh, so awkward love ballad “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room).”
If you don’t crack up on at least one of their songs, you might want to get your funny bone checked. These boys are brilliant!
Finally, there’s one last band that almost made the cut:
The Silicon Valets, from the British dark comedy about a small-time drug dealer, Ideal.
This is a drug-addled pop duo who hasn’t quite pin-pointed their look, sound, or level of success. The duo, whose career ups and downs are described through their drug-purchasing visit to the show’s main character, Moz, achieved some level of success with their hit “Living in a Metal Thing,” which reached number 12 in the charts. The song is based on the life-altering experience of band member Lee (Andrew Lee Potts) when he was trapped inside Moz’s hot water tank for some time. After his release, he begins to believe himself to be the Messiah.
Since there is no actual, full-length version of any of their hits (other than snippets sung on the show) and some fan-made remixes, they can’t be included in this list.
Who knows, though, maybe these two can hook up as the “nostalgia” act for an EDM music tour and in time for next year.