The View From Here
20 Fictional Bands In The Movies
A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting to a friend about fictional bands in films. Is there a list of the best names, or the worst?
I was reminded the other night that I really should get that list together myself after seeing Spike Island – the fictionalised account of a young Manchester band’s attempt to see the Stone Roses. I don’t really want to get too into talking about the film itself – it’s a bit like an extended episode of Shameless, truth be told – but I should at least mention that the fictional band here are called Shadowcaster, for better or worse. Anyway, here’s my list. Thanks to our illustrious bass-playing picture researcher Phil King, who threw in a couple of suggestions.
Let me know if there’s any glaring omissions…
STILLWATER, Almost Famous
Effectively a composite of a number of bands Cameron Crowe interviewed for Rolling Stone in the early 1970s – Skynyrd, Allmans, maybe the Eagles. The songs played by Stillwater in the film were co-writes between Crowe, his wife Nancy Wilson and Peter Frampton. Jason Lee's singing voice was provided by Aerosmith collaborator, Marty Frederiksen, while Pearl Jam's Mike McCready played lead guitar. On screen, Mark Kozelek played Stillwater's bassist, Larry Fellows.
AUTOBAHN, The Big Lebowski
That’ll be Kraftwerk, of course. Flea, Peter Stormare and Torsten Voges are the German nihilists/would-be kidnappers/electronic pioneers. The Coen brothers even went as far as to get a sleeve designed for Autobahn’s sole album, Nagelbett (roughly translated as ‘bed of nails’).
BLUESHAMMER, Ghost World
Steve Buscemi’s blues aficionado Seymour goes to see Fred Chatham, an 82-year-old blues veteran play a small bar. “If you really like authentic blues, you’ve got to check out Blueshammer,” he is told. As it turns out, Blueshammer’s “authentic, way-down-in-the-delta blues” turns out to be closer to George Thorogood. Poor Seymour!
THE LENINGRAD COWBOYS, various
Ostensibly the creation of film director Aki Kaurismäki and two members of Finnish rock band Sleepy Sleepers, the Leningrad Cowboys and their extraordinary hair have taken on a life of their own beyond the three films directed by Kaurismäki. There are eight studio albums, no less, including last year’s Bueva Vodka Social Club, and they’ve become something of a Finnish institution.
WYLD STALLYNS, Bill & Ted
The only band on our list to feature in their ‘classic’ line-up two medieval princesses, a pair of robots and – on bass – Death himself.
CITIZEN DICK, Singles
More Cameron Crowe. This time, its grunge era shenanigans with assorted members of Pearl Jam as Matt Dillon’s group, Citizen Dick, with lyrics from Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell.
THE ONEDERS, That Thing You Do
Personal project from Tom Hanks – his only film as writer and director – about a one-hit wonder group it in the early Sixties. The band’s one hit – “That Thing You Do” – was written by Adam Schlesinger, bassist for Fountains Of Wayne.
STRAY CATS, Stardust
That’s David Essex, Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds and Paul Nicholas to you and me. Sequel That’ll Be The Day, this ends with Essex’ “British invasion” rock star Jim MacLaine battling drugs, groupies, record company execs and sundry excess.
VENUS IN FURS, Velvet Goldmine
Basically, it’s the Spiders From Mars. On record, however, an intriguing collaboration between Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Bernard Butler and Andy Mackay. Worth pointing out, Greenwood did something similar, hooking up with Jarvis Cocker, Phil Selway, Steve Mackey, All Seeing I’s Jason Buckle and Add N To X’s Steven Claydon as Hogwarths favourites the Weird Sisters in Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire.
FLAME, Slade In Flame
They are Slade, playing Flame.
STRANGE FRUIT, Still Crazy
Brilliant, if largely for the bit where Bill Nighy – as the band’s singer – opens his father-of-the-bride speech at a posh country house with the deathless lines: “Good evening, Wembley.” Worth it, too, for Bruce Robinson’s touching cameo as the band’s reclusive guitarist. Clive Langer provided the songs.
THE FABULOUS STAINS, Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains
Diane Lane, Laura Dern and Marin Kanter are US punkers the Stains; connoisseurs of UK punk will no doubt enjoy Paul Cook and Steve Jones teaming up with Paul Simonon as the Looters, fronted by Ray Winstone.
BREAKING GLASS, Breaking Glass
An unusual convergence, this: Hazel O’Connor’s backing band consists of future Bill star Mark Wingett, former Ant Gary Tibbs alongside Jonathan Pryce and ITV drama stalwart, Peter Hugo-Daly, who was also in real-life band The Cross alongside Breaking Glass co-star Phil Daniels.
SPINAL TAP, This Is Spinal Tap
See also: the Folksmen.
THE KELLY AFFAIR/CARRIE NATIONS, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
First, they were the Kelly Affair, then they changed their name to the Carrie Nations - after a grand old dame of the temperance movement - in Russ Meyer’s comedy. Their songs were written by future composer of the Battlestar Galactica theme, Stu Phillips.
THE BANG BANG, Brothers Of The Head
Odd, Seventies-set mockumentary, from a novel by Brian Aldiss and directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe – who made Lost In La Mancha, about Terry Gilliam’s aborted attempt to film Don Quixote. Brothers Harry and Luke Treadaway play conjoined twins who form a punk rock band.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, Hedwig And The Angry Inch
Colourful, out-there frock opera about a transexual punk rock girl from East Berlin. The songs are by Stephen Trask – who more recently succeeded Randy Newman as composer on the … Fockers movies.
KIPPER, Confessions Of A Pop Performer
Voted “worst British film of 1975” in Sight & Sound, this finds cheeky chappy Robin Askwith copping off with some saucy birds while also trying to make it big in the music scene with his band, Kipper.
THE SNARKS, Smashing Time
Rita Tushingham and Lynn Redgrave wreak havoc on Swinging London in George Melly scripted comedy. Michael York sports a terrific cravat. Psychedelic hipsters Tomorrow turn up as the Snarks: some consolation, perhaps, after Antonioni chose the Yardbirds over them to appear in Blowup.
THE ULTIMATE LOSERS, Slacker
It's 1991, and arguably no film captured Gen X ennui better than Richard Linklater's debut. Even the band - seen playing art-rock to the dysfunctional youth of Austin, Texas - can barely muster up the energy to get out of bed.
Anyway, that's your lot. Let me know if you've got any to add to the list.