Total Recall

Tomatopalooza: Cinema's Greatest Fake Bands

A list of moviedom's greatest hits.

by | August 6, 2015 | Comments

This week, Meryl Streep will attempt to prove she’s hip enough to rock out with the best of them in the musical drama Ricki and the Flash. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a fond look back at some of the greatest fake rockers and rappers to grace the big screen. Sit back and crank that stereo, because it’s time for Total Recall!


The Blues Brothers

Blues-Brothers

As seen in The Blues Brothers (1980) 73%

Other bands on this list may have more interesting backstories, but none of them were on a mission from God — and none of them boast a pedigree as stellar as the Blues Brothers. As Donald Fagen noted in Steely Dan’s 1980 hit, “Hey Nineteen,” “It’s hard times befallen the soul survivors” — and none of them had more soul than Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Willie Hall, Steve Jordan, and Matt Murphy, the Stax veterans who made up the core of Jake and Elwood Blues’ orphanage-saving combo and enjoyed career boosts after the movie was released. It was all too good to last, and soul purists may have taken offense at the band’s very existence, but if they were good enough for Brother Ray, hey, they’re certainly good enough for you.

Watch Trailer


Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers

Buckaroo-Banzai

As seen in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984) 67%

Only in the 1980s would you find Peter Weller playing a world-renowned neurosurgeon and particle physicist who moonlights as the frontman for one of eastern New Jersey’s most popular bar bands — a band consisting of many other part-time hyphenates, including a botanist, a linguist, and an entomologist — but The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension owes its cult classic status, at least in part, to the nightclub performances of the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Family Ties fans and sharp-eyed children of the ’80s will recognize Mr. Billy Vera (of Billy Vera and the Beaters, natch) holding down the bass as Pinky Carruthers.

Watch Trailer


The Carrie Nations

carrie-nations

As seen in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) 76%

The Carrie Nations might have been a fake band, but they rock and roll like the best of them in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. With songs like “Find It,” “Come With the Gentle People,” and “Sweet Talkin’ Candy Man,” the trio conjures shades of Jefferson Airplane and the Mamas and the Papas, psychedelic rock and flower power ballads alike. Watch and delight as redhead singer Kelly (Dolly Read, who married comedian Dick Martin the following year), brunette bassist Casey (Cynthia Meyers), and soulful drummer Petronella (Marcia McBroom) willfully sacrifice innocence, friendship, and true love for the trappings of fame and glory in Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert’s deliciously groovy exploitation satire. It’s a whirlwind rise to rock stardom for the girls, and you have a front row seat to every show, hook-up, betrayal, drug binge, and orgy along the way — as well as the film’s Manson-esque conclusion, in which flamboyant Svengali Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell has a happening, and it freaks him (and us) out.

Watch Trailer


CB4

cb4

As seen in CB4 (1993) 52%

Taking a page from This Is Spinal Tap to lampoon the world of gangsta rap (albeit a few years too late), CB4 follows the meteoric rise of the titular rap group, whose members include Albert “MC Gusto” Brown (Chris Rock), Euripides “Dead Mike” Smalls (Allen Payne), and Otis, a.k.a. Stab Master Arson (Deezer D). Though critics generally compared it unfavorably to Tap, CB4 has enjoyed a cult following in the post-theatrical market — partly because of typically terrific appearances from supporting actors such as Phil Hartman, Chris Elliot, Khandi Alexander, and Charlie Murphy, and partly because of tracks like “Straight Outta Locash.”

Watch Trailer


The Commitments

Commitments

As seen in The Commitments (1991) 89%

If true soul music was scarce in 1980, it was an endangered species in 1991 — which is one reason why audiences flocked to Alan Parker’s adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments, which depicts the formation and rise of a group of soul-loving Irish musicians. The movie’s soundtrack did as well, if not better, than the film, and for good reason — the performers were chosen for their musical ability, not acting skills, and a number of them (including vocalist Andrew Strong, future Once star Glen Hansard, and eventual Fleadh Festival hottie Andrea Corr) went on to real-life careers in music after the movie. In fact, a touring version of the band is still booking dates to this day — how’s that for Commitments?


Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Hedwig-2

As seen in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) 92%

Aping the high-gloss androgyny of the New York Dolls, David Bowie, and the half-forgotten and openly gay glam rock pioneer Jobraith, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a band (and a film) lousy with camp ethos and ultra-literate pop culture references. The music of “The Angry Inch” mixes Lou Reed with Iggy Pop, but the aesthetic is pure Diamond Dog — well, Diamond Dog if you replace Bowie with a Streisand impersonator, which, funny enough, this film includes (she goes by the stage name “Krystal Nacht” and her extended medley is mind-blowing!). What began as an off-Broadway, monologue-motivated production, Hedwig and the Angry Inch had big success in ancillaries (like the soundtrack) and now rotates like an anatomically graphic Rocky Horror Picture Show, with costume attendees in tow.

Watch Trailer


 Josie and the Pussycats

Josie-and-the-Pussycats

As seen in Josie and the Pussycats (2001) 52%

Boy bands and mall punk pop music. The combination sounds worse than a Raffi benefit concert, but we indeed did live through such dark times. In fact, some probably even liked it! Resurrecting the 1970s cartoon curio, Josie and the Pussycats presents itself as a satire of the pop music industry during its height of audience cynicism; the movie’s plot revolves around three girls (Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson) navigating the biz and uncovering their record label’s conspiracy of brainwashing people into enjoying their music. You have to be lobotomized to like the crap on the radio, the movie almost says.

Watch Trailer


N.W.H.

Fear-of-a-Black-Hat

As seen in Fear of a Black Hat (1993) 83%

With the previous year’s CB4 still fresh on the minds of unsuspecting moviegoers, 1994 introduced audiences to another hip-hop satire in Fear of a Black Hat. Unlike its predecessor, Black Hat was filmed documentary-style, and it chronicled the life and times of underground act N.W.H. — we can’t exactly spell out for you what the initials stand for, but if you’re familiar with the legendary Los Angeles crew known as N.W.A., just replace the “Attitude” with “Hats.” Lampooning everything from rapper names (Ice Cold, Tone Def) to song content (the deliriously tasteless “Booty Juice”) to the inevitable group split and solo career paths (one member’s new persona bears a striking resemblance to P.M. Dawn), the film was critically well-received but performed poorly at the box office. It’s become somewhat of a cult classic, however, with its over-the-top script, surprising poignancy, and willingness to take a few powerful and calculated jabs at a still-burgeoning rap industry.

Watch Trailer


PoP!

pop!

As seen in Music and Lyrics (2007) 63%

With everyone these days willing to get history lessons through the Internet, the only way to test the authenticity of Music and Lyrics‘ fake music video for a 1984 song called “PoP! Goes My Heart” is through YouTube. Can it convincingly be put in a video playlist with Rick Astley, Flock of Seagulls, and Talking Heads? Our prognosis: the band’s wardrobe is a bit too 1980s exorbitant, and Scott Porter’s performance as the lead singer plays it a bit too hard for laughs, but the song’s insanely catchy and Hugh Grant hits the right note of idiotic earnestness. Best of all, Music and Lyrics
was only a modest hit, so you can stick this song for your 1980s-themed party. Do it quick, though — everyone’s starting to get nostalgic for acid wash and sweaters wrapped around waists.

Watch Trailer


The Rutles

The-Rutles

As seen in All You Need Is Cash (1978) 92%

The grandpa of mock rock docs, The Rutles: All You Need is Cash should be manna to any Beatlemaniac. This satirical take on the Beatles’ rise and fall from members of Monty Python and the Saturday Night Live cast was so spot on, Ringo Starr allegedly found the later scenes too painful to enjoy. However, this is a comedy, and though it has its share of barbs (the fake John Lennon and Yoko Ono scenes are pretty rough), it’s still a lovingly detailed look at the Fab Four’s history. Real-life stars like Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, and Ron Wood turn up to sing the praises of the Rutles, and even George Harrison makes a cameo. Featuring songs like “Get Up and Go” (“Get Back”), “Ouch!” (“Help!”), and “Love Life” (“All You Need Is Love”), The Rutles was a profound influence on This Is Spinal Tap. Best visual gag: Eric Idle, playing Paul McCartney doppelganger Dirk McQuickly, is profiled in the “where-are-they-now” segment at the end of the movie as the leader of a punk band called the Punk Floyd — with a safety pin through his head.

Watch Trailer


The Soggy Bottom Boys

Soggy-Bottom-Boys

As seen in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) 78%

The music in O Brother, Where Art Thou? was so extraordinary that it almost eclipsed the film itself. The Coen Brothers’ twisted take on Homer’s The Odyssey was something of a musical journey itself into the roots of American country, gospel, and blues. The the SBBs (played by George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson) are based (albeit very loosely) upon the musical stylings of such old timey groups as the Foggy Mountain Boys, and the O Brother soundtrack featured such roots stars as Ralph Stanley, Allison Krauss, and Emmylou Harris. But the group’s secret weapon is an itinerant bluesman named Tommy (Chris Thomas King, singing for himself), who, like the real-life Tommy Johnson (famous for “Canned Heat Blues,” about the pleasures of getting drunk on Sterno), has sold his soul to the devil in order to acquire his mind-blowing guitar skills.

Watch Trailer


Sonic Death Monkey/ Kathleen Turner Overdrive/ Barry Jive and the Uptown Five

Jack-Black-Singing

As seen in High Fidelity (2000) 91%

Jack Black spends much of High Fidelity stealing scenes; his turn as an obnoxiously opinionated (but strangely endearing) record snob was a breakout performance. Still, he saves his coup de grace for the film’s penultimate scene, in which he and his band of metalheads (with more band names than songs) lay down a convincing version of Marvin Gaye’s come-hither anthem “Let’s Get It On.” Black had been doing the comedy/rock thing for years with Kyle Gass as Tenacious D, and he would later lend his irreverent rockist persona to Richard Linklater’s School of Rock.

Watch Trailer


Spinal Tap

Spinal-Tap

As seen in This Is Spinal Tap (1984) 95%

They’ve done everything from flower power folk to the lewdest of heavy metal, played for sold-out arenas and opened for puppet shows, and blurred the lines between fact and fiction for nearly a quarter of a century. Spinal Tap — made up of guitarists Nigel Tufnel (a.k.a. Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), and bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), plus whichever drummer happens to be foolhardy enough to be sitting behind the kit — has parlayed its appearance in the original mockumentary, 1984’s “This Is Spinal Tap,” into a series of concerts (including the Hear ‘n Aid benefit), albums (such as 1992’s Break Like the Wind), and, of course, a guest spot on The Simpsons. We love all the bands on this list, but only the Tap goes to 11.

Watch Trailer


Stillwater

Stillwater

As seen in Almost Famous (2000) 89%

A composite of the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and many, many more, Stillwater is a distillation of the rock monsters that roamed the earth in the 1970s — and that were profiled by a teenaged Cameron Crowe in Creem and Rolling Stone. Crowe wrote,  directed, and co-composed some of the songs (with his wife, Heart singer Nancy Wilson, and Peter Frampton), and Almost Famous oozes period detail, serving as a reminder that rock in the 1970s was still a seat-of-the-pants enterprise. Stillwater lays down some convincing stoner rock that recalls the heyday of AM radio — with help from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready on guitar, Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon on bass, and impressive vocals from star Jason Lee.

Watch Trailer


The Wonders

The-Wonders

As seen in That Thing You Do! (1996) 93%

Writer-director Tom Hanks makes his influences clear. See The Oneders have a Monkees-style clown-around on a map of the U.S.! Hear as The Oneders ape the lesser-known British pop invaders the Dave Clark Five (a fave of Hanks’)! The band’s name, “The Oneders,” is a cute reach to U.S. Beatlemania, but that little stab at cleverness goes south when the MC of the band’s first show hollers “The Oh-Nee-Ders!” Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne), Howard Shore (composer for Lord of the Rings) and Tom Hanks are three of the songwriting contributors to the film’s sassy 1960s pop soundtrack. Though their contributions were all stellar, Schlesinger earned an Oscar nom for the film’s title track.

Watch Trailer


Wyld Stallyns

Bill-and-Ted

As seen in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) 81%

Few movies with bands actually let their bands end up sucking; even the jokiest of them of all, Spinal Tap, in reality possesses the power to bring sold-out stadiums to their knees. Bill Preston and Ted Logan (Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves) of the Wyld Stallyns have no such power. They rarely ever get to play more than a few sloppy seconds before something divine intervenes, like an amp blowing out or the credits rolling. It’s all part of the joke in their legendarily excellent adventure involving time travel, referring to Napoleon as a dick, and the late, great George Carlin. But all is not lost! In their further travels as chronicled in Bogus Journey, Bill and Ted do indeed rock the world, fulfilling their destiny as depicted in Excellent Adventure.

Watch Trailer

Tag Cloud

jurassic park dogs Alien Red Carpet Travel Channel Pirates Pop TV space films Elton John dragons cartoon prank disaster superhero Nickelodeon french boxoffice USA debate streamig fresh Fox Searchlight spanish Thanksgiving game of thrones A&E docuseries Television Critics Association Image Comics Song of Ice and Fire black book adaptation Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt justice league Cartoon Network Best and Worst king arthur TCA Awards ESPN king kong broadcast monster movies cancelled television TBS Winter TV Pet Sematary HBO Max RT History 2017 anime IMDb TV YouTube Red Interview summer TV Black Mirror reviews cancelled lord of the rings Pacific Islander Sundance TV NYCC thriller social media National Geographic Mudbound IFC Films AMC Plus Horror renewed TV shows Crackle canceled 45 Lifetime X-Men asian-american adenture Rock new star wars movies Character Guide dreamworks wonder woman best Video Games japan The Purge venice obi wan toy story werewolf Television Academy kids genre aapi sports ABC Signature 99% WarnerMedia Netflix Christmas movies Rom-Com TCA Film Festival BET TCA 2017 cancelled TV shows psycho name the review Apple high school Action harry potter Sony Pictures Ovation GLAAD gangster book period drama GIFs Tubi Starz Comedy Central HFPA pirates of the caribbean Universal hidden camera 4/20 Best Actor live event 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards singing competition crossover posters Star Trek TIFF mob police drama Paramount Network action-comedy child's play football cops laika Awards Apple TV Plus LGBTQ Tumblr Avengers Pride Month Lucasfilm PaleyFest feel good binge cats tv talk Superheroes RT21 WGN comic book movie toronto BBC Box Office new zealand OneApp APB revenge doctor who History Captain marvel war Musicals Endgame Legendary rt labs nbcuniversal classics Hear Us Out BAFTA medical drama series Amazon Studios SXSW 2022 BBC One hispanic south america Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Arrowverse Tarantino crime Broadway stoner 94th Oscars Premiere Dates Family quibi cinemax zero dark thirty Black History Month marvel comics comic book movies Netflix scary movies Star Wars VOD Shondaland scorecard Biopics The Witch Freeform Vudu Polls and Games Spectrum Originals Infographic cancelled TV series batman travel discovery Certified Fresh Marathons SDCC reboot politics comics canceled TV shows GoT Hallmark Esquire Podcast Musical The CW First Look sitcom Spring TV suspense witnail science fiction golden globe awards vampires miniseries DC Universe Sundance Focus Features OWN royal family television worst joker NBA PlayStation Disney+ Disney Plus 73rd Emmy Awards deadpool streaming slasher E3 spain boxing Valentine's Day historical drama Trophy Talk DirecTV anthology DGA critics rt archives TNT Amazon Prime Video christmas movies diversity DC Comics AMC Ellie Kemper Oscars Comics on TV DC streaming service aliens Schedule festival spy thriller TV One technology finale docudrama adventure Cosplay international Trivia video on demand green book kong rotten movies we love Nominations Comic Book Sundance Now Holidays Peacock Animation spinoff 71st Emmy Awards Drama Toys scene in color facebook 90s theme song Dark Horse Comics TV movies Disney archives elevated horror italian james bond political drama Trailer talk show TLC art house indiana jones Turner Nat Geo The Academy 2018 Turner Classic Movies robots all-time Awards Tour 2019 summer preview Sneak Peek Quiz Teen Best Actress Comedy Amazon Prime IFC Mary Tyler Moore summer TV preview Year in Review halloween tv Women's History Month Ghostbusters Fox News Kids & Family Epix a nightmare on elm street rom-coms crime thriller Neflix Bravo comiccon Spike Discovery Channel adaptation sequels nature First Reviews dexter what to watch Tomatazos dc TV ABC kaiju See It Skip It unscripted trailers comedies TCM CNN comic SundanceTV rt labs critics edition live action 20th Century Fox Film crime drama sequel Fantasy 21st Century Fox A24 Adult Swim teaser dark HBO Go Paramount Pictures animated Stephen King nfl Christmas marvel cinematic universe emmy awards foreign CBS Anna Paquin documentaries award winner stop motion ABC Family latino Fall TV MSNBC blockbuster spider-verse Holiday Extras Pop MTV Country YouTube Premium Crunchyroll Opinion Amazon Best Director golden globes Best Picture documentary worst movies Marvel Martial Arts ID cults based on movie mutant New York Comic Con Hallmark Christmas movies biopic Columbia Pictures Walt Disney Pictures E! franchise LGBT 2015 biography NBC independent rotten Wes Anderson Apple TV+ zombies Paramount Plus target Winners Reality Competition halloween twilight zombie screenings obituary slashers The Walt Disney Company natural history Brie Larson Hollywood Foreign Press Association 24 frames Shudder The Walking Dead Photos leaderboard 93rd Oscars YouTube TV Land Mindy Kaling Set visit Academy Awards Emmys Heroines screen actors guild concert Food Network hispanic heritage month die hard jamie lee curtis Creative Arts Emmys popular telelvision Writers Guild of America godzilla Paramount Cannes President Marvel Television Fargo blockbusters Western Super Bowl Hulu scary parents universal monsters ghosts black comedy Baby Yoda Lifetime Christmas movies Countdown 72 Emmy Awards American Society of Cinematographers 79th Golden Globes Awards hollywood Pixar mockumentary Tokyo Olympics streaming movies women Disney Plus Binge Guide ITV Music dramedy young adult Superheroe transformers FXX romance supernatural composers MGM VICE australia criterion sag awards basketball BBC America spanish language TruTV Lionsgate blaxploitation MCU Mystery Rocketman SXSW FOX legend satire strong female leads richard e. Grant Logo children's TV festivals cooking romantic comedy Calendar Syfy The Arrangement serial killer japanese game show stand-up comedy spider-man Comic-Con@Home 2021 2016 Mary poppins superman BET Awards TV renewals Mary Poppins Returns USA Network El Rey Summer Chernobyl ViacomCBS indie movies Classic Film Showtime Exclusive Video PBS fast and furious 1990s Acorn TV Emmy Nominations Reality YA Grammys FX on Hulu remakes trophy CBS All Access razzies true crime vs. mission: impossible new york VH1 Instagram Live directors psychological thriller Disney streaming service sopranos Funimation CMT Masterpiece 2021 Oscar olympics comic books ratings CW Seed know your critic Universal Pictures breaking bad Warner Bros. dceu FX South by Southwest Film Festival versus Marvel Studios San Diego Comic-Con Britbox Watching Series Sci-Fi video chucky Disney Channel 007 Prime Video Election cars Rocky Tags: Comedy saw critic resources TCA Winter 2020 HBO news heist movie movie casting hist mcc free movies 2020