The release of the critically-acclaimed indie movie Frank starring Michael Fassbender as the troubled leader of a rock band who lives inside a fiberglass head has introduced a new, great fictional band in film. Fassbender’s Syd Barrett-esque character fronts the group composed of an angry theremin player played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a bassist/guitarist who refuses to speak anything other than French played by actor Francois Civil, real-life musician Carla Azar of Autolux and Jack White’s backing band, and a drummer reminiscent of the Velvet Underground’s Moe Tucker. The wannabe musician Jon, played by Domhnall Gleeson, escapes his boring job to join the bizarre band in need of a keyboard player. The group is called Soronprfbs and the actor/musicians have done some performances to promote the film, but they really only exist in the world of the movie.
Inspired by Frank, here is a list of ten other awesome fictional bands from movies that are so good you wish you could catch them on tour.
The Weird Sisters, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
One benefit of going to Hogwarts is the school is so prestigious they can get big rock bands to play what’s basically a high school dance. The Weird Sisters are a glam-rock band with a bagpipe that make all the teenage witches and wizards go crazy. It certainly helps that the group contains two members of the real-life British alternative bands Pulp (Jarvis Cocker on vocals, Steve Mackey on bass) and Radiohead (Jonny Greenwood on lead guitar and Phil Selway on drums), making them not only a great fictional band, but also a kind of fantasy supergroup.
The Soggy Bottom Boys, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Boasting one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, this Coen brothers movie is an ode to the American south and the music of the region in particular. The incomparable T-Bone Burnett pulled together the best musicians working in traditional country, blues, and bluegrass to record standard Americana songs for the soundtrack. The Soggy Bottom Boys are composed of Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) and his ragtag group of fellow prison escapees in order to make a couple quick bucks from a man who’ll pay you “ten dollars to sing into his can.” They play the folk standard “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which turns into a Depression-era hit without their knowledge while they’re on the lam.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This musical-turned-movie has been getting renewed attention lately due to Neil Patrick Harris’ portrayal of Hedwig on Broadway gaining rave reviews. In the musical, the band goes through many members, but is fronted by the transgender Eastern German woman Hedwig who has been repeatedly screwed over by life in so many ways it’s both tragic and comic. The “angry inch” refers to what’s left of Hedwig’s genitals after a botched sex change operation she undergoes in order to marry an American soldier both for love and to escape Communist rule. The soldier eventually leaves Hedwig and she returns to post-Communist Berlin and forms the band. Hedwig uses her music a way to find love and get back at her former protege Tommy, who she taught everything only to be left in the dust once he became a famous rock star. Hedwig’s various misfortunes are told through the group’s part-glam, part-punk, philosophy-infused songs.
The Blues Brothers
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd play Jake and Elwood Blues, two brothers on a desperate mission to get the band back together. While the two comedians get by more on charm than on singing ability, the band assembled for the film includes members of Booker T and the MGs and The Movement, plus guest appearances from the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin. Any fictional band that can get musicians the caliber of those three to sit in with them deserves a spot on this list. The message of The Blues Brothers is that going against the odds to get the band back together is all worth it for the music, and they pulled off making the music good enough to carry that message.
Autobahn, The Big Lebowski
Featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea as one of the members, this electronic German group of nihilists are fronted by the sometimes-porn-star Karl Hungus and pay obvious homage to German electronic band Kraftwerk. With the future of their recording career not looking so bright, the band members decide they can get rich by pretending to have kidnapped a millionaire’s wife. They decide to make the kidnapping look more convincing by cutting off the toe of one of their lackies. They never perform live in the film, but their weird synth-pop song in the background adds the perfect bizarre touch to the stoner classic. The Coen brothers might be the greatest creators of fictional musicians in film, having made this list twice and also created the solo artist Llewyn Davis for the movie Inside Llewyn Davis about the 1960s folk scene in New York City.
Stillwater, Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous is famously based on his own experiences as a teenage rock journalist following various bands in the 1970s while on tour and writing about it for a young Rolling Stone magazine. Heart’s Nancy Wilson, who was married to Cameron Crowe at the time the movie was being made, wrote the music for Stillwater and the band is a kind of hybrid between Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, and the Eagles. Billy Crudup shines as the up-and-coming guitar God Russell Hammond, nailing the cool charisma and passion necessary for the role.
Josie and the Pussycats
This fictional all-girl rock band sprung from the mind of Archie cartoonist Dan DeCarlo back in the 1960s and has taken a variety of forms since the Josie and the Pussycats comics. There was a Saturday morning cartoon from Hanna-Barbera in the early 1970s and a real-life band created to record the songs for the show, plus a live-action reboot in 2001 starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson. That movie isn’t exactly a work of genius, but it is an occasionally funny critique of the music industry. They remain a popular Halloween costume and continue to spawn cartoons and comics. Josie and the Pussycats earn a spot on the list for having remained probably the most well-known completely fictional band and inspiring so many incarnations.
The Rutles, All You Need Is Cash
The Rutles are one of the best parody bands ever created. A Beatles send-up from the minds of members of Monty Python and Saturday Night Live circa 1978, the Rutles mock every aspect of the Beatles’ rise to fame. From the chance encounter between Ron Nasty (Neil Innes) and Dirk McQuickly (Eric Idle) in Liverpool, to the rise of “the pre-Fab Four,” to Ron saying the Rutles are bigger than God, to the outfits, to the band’s breakup, the Rutles have the Beatles’ career down pat. Their parody of “Help!” titled “Ouch!” is particularly hilarious. The movie also includes cameos from a bevvy of musicians, including a Beatle himself — George Harrison — plus Mick and Bianca Jagger, Ronnie Wood, and Paul Simon.
Dr. Funke’s 100 Percent Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution, Arrested Development
Being forced to participate in her parent’s desperate, weird attempt to rekindle their relationship via a folk band used to promote pharmaceuticals is just fuel on the fire for Maeby Funke’s hatred of her immediate family. The folk group saw Lindsay playing autoharp while the young family harmonized long lists of side effects for medications including Teamocil and Zanotab. Tobias at one point decides that getting the band back together years later will fix his and Lindsay’s marriage, so they set out to promote Euphorazine at a Wellness Convention, but Lindsay finds herself unable to perform without the assistance of the medication.
Spinal Tap, This Is Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap was obviously going to be on this list, and it’s the first band that comes to mind when thinking of fake bands from movies. This Is Spinal Tap is a hilarious parody of rock and roll while simultaneously being a love-letter to the genre. The members of the group are idiotic and despicable, and they get into outrageous situations that are all the more funny when remembering that many real rock stars find the movie hits a little too close to home. From the amp that goes to 11 to getting lost backstage to the poorly sized Stonehenge replica to the series of bizarre deaths that befall the band’s drummers, this movie smashes the godly aura surrounding the world’s biggest rock stars without ever even naming them. Songs like “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” are both parodies and shining examples of the cock rock Spinal Tap is parodying.
Is your favorite fake band missing from this list? Fill the comments with the fictional bands that may have been passed over here.
[Editor’s note: this post was edited to correct an error related to the plot of The Big Lebowski.]
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