There’s more than enough “real” music out there these days for our ears to chew on, that often we forget about those fictional bands who caught our attention in our favorite films and television shows.
Here is a list of the top ten fictional bands from either television or film, who happen to be some of my personal favorites. Enjoy!
Stillwater is the fictional band from Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film, Almost Famous. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember that Stillwater is the band rock journalist William Miller decided to follow on tour, along with ‘band-aid’ Penny Lane. According to the All Music website, there’s actually a band in real life called Stillwater, who released a couple albums in the late 1970s, but after reading Crowe’s script the band allowed Crowe to use their name in the film. The fictional Stillwater was inspired by groups like Led Zeppelin, King Crimson and the Eagles.
Besides having an excellent soundtrack as-is, the Almost Famous soundtrack features the Stillwater hit “Fever Dog,” which was actually written by Crowe’s musician/wife, Nancy Wilson (although it is credited to fictional musician Russell Hammond in the film). Other songs featured in the film include “Hour of Need” (written by Peter Frampton among others), “Love Thing,” “You Had to Be There,” “Love Comes and Goes,” and “Chance Upon You,” which was only featured in the untitled director’s cut.
In addition, Peter Frampton helped actor Billy Crudup (Russell) learn how to play guitar for the live concert scenes. According to the IMDB website, the actors who played Stillwater rehearsed for six weeks, four hours a day and five nights a week. Marti Frederiksen provided the vocals for Jason Lee’s character Jeff Bebe, while Jason Lee is said to have been inspired by Paul Rodgers of Bad Company when portraying his character. Another interesting fact is that Mike McCready of Pearl Jam fame provided the guitar track for the songs of Stillwater (Crowe would go on to direct the documentary Pearl Jam Twenty).
2. Frozen Embryos
Frozen Embryos is the name of a fictional band from the TV show My So-Called Life. The band was created by the unseen face of character Tino and also Jordan Catalano, played by actor Jared Leto (Leto would later become the musician/front man of real band 30 Seconds to Mars). Later, Frozen Embryos would become known as ‘Residue,’ while in Episode 14 (when character Rayanne auditions at Vertigo), the band is introduced as ‘Between Names.’
Perhaps the most popular song under the name Frozen Embryos is “Red,” a song played during band practice while Rickie an Angela look on. Of course, Angela becomes convinced it’s about her due to her red hair, when in actuality Jordan wrote the song about his car.
3. Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap is the fictional heavy metal band from Rob Reiner’s 1984 mock-umentary called This is Spinal Tap. The three members of Spinal Tap consist of David St. Hubbins (played by Michael McKean,) Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (played by Harry Schearer). Christopher Guest would later direct his own mock-umentary films, including 1996’s Waiting for Guffman.
Rare for a film, both the actors and directors wrote and performed almost all of the songs, a total of sixteen with eleven on the official soundtrack. Songs include “Gimme Some Money,” “Sex Farm,” “Big Bottom,” “Hell Hole” and more.
4. Dingoes Ate My Baby
Dingoes Ate My Baby is the fictional band from the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They were featured in seven episodes, including “Inca Mummy Girl,” “Homecoming,” “Dead Man’s Party” and “The Harsh Light of Day.” Typically the band would perform at the fictional club called The Bronze, and the members consisted of Daniel Osbourne, Devon MacLeish and fictional character Oz (played by Seth Green).
Interestingly, all of the fictional band’s music was performed and composed by real-life band Four Star Mary. Songs include “Run,” “Shadows,” “Violent,” “Pain,” “Fate,” “Nevermind” and “Sway”- all song titles being only one word.
5. Citizen Dick
Citizen Dick is the fictional band from Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film, Singles. The band’s front-man is considered to be character Cliff Poncier, played by Matt Dillon, while the three remaining members of the band were played by Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard and Eddie Vedder, all current members of the band Pearl Jam (At the time, these Pearl Jam members were known by the band name Mookie Blaylock). The film also featured cameos from members of popular grunge bands of the time, including Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
The name Citizen Dick was actually a wordplay on the real-life Seattle band Citizen Sane, which in itself was a wordplay on the 1941 film Citizen Kane. In addition, the Citizen Dick song “Touch Me, I’m Dick” is reflective of the Mudhoney song “Touch Me, I’m Sick,” while the Citizen Dick song “Louder Than Larry” is reflective of the Soundgarden album title, Louder Than Love.
6. Steel Dragon
Steel Dragon is the fictional rock band from Stephen Herek’s 2001 film, Rock Star. The plot of the film surrounds character Chris Cole, a huge Steel Dragon fan who gets to be the band’s front-man when the other lead singer drops out. The film was inspired by Tim Owens, a Judas Priest tribute band singer, who replaced front-man Rob Halford when he exited the band. Steel Dragon performs eight songs in the film with six on the soundtrack, including “Livin’ the Life,” “We All Die Young,” “Blood Pollution” and “Stand Up.”
Steel Dragon’s band members are for the most part played by actual musicians, including Jason Bonham (Black Country Communion), Jeff Pilson (Foreigner), Dominic West (an actor) and Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society). The character of Chris Cole, played by Mark Wahlberg, had his vocals done by Miljenko Matijevic, front-man of band Steelheart. Even Blood Pollution, the film’s Steel Dragon tribute band, is composed of musicians from bands like Black Label Society, The Verve Pipe, Slaughter and Third Eye Blind.
Mystery is the fictional band from Adam Rifkin’s 1999 film, Detroit Rock City. It features Giuseppe Andrews as Lex, James DeBello as Trip, Edward Furlong as Hawk, and Sam Huntington as Jam. If you’ve seen the film, you know it surrounds the KISS tribute/garage band Mystery as they attempt to score tickets to their favorite band’s concert in Detroit.
The actors performed all instruments and vocals for their KISS cover songs, which include “Rock and Roll all Night,” while the ‘S’ in Mystery is a lightning bolt, replicating the KISS lightning bolt logo. Even the girls the Mystery band members hook up with resemble the girls the real KISS members have been with.
Finn is the fictional band from Erica Dunton’s 2008 film, The 27 Club. The film is a sort-of road trip movie, surrounding character Elliot, who is dealing with the recent death of his band-mate Tom. Finn is the name of their two-man band, and through flashbacks the film shows Tom and Elliot’s rise to stardom.
The movie features a wonderful song, simply titled “Finn Song,” with acoustic and regular versions available for download here.
9. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the fictional band from John Cameron Mitchell’s 2001 film of the same name. The film surrounds Hedwig, a transsexual punk rocker, who with her band tours the US and explains why she isn’t as famous as she should be. The film was released after the theater/musical version was released in 1998, which was written by Mitchell, with music and lyrics done by Stephen Trask (Mitchell also stars as Hedwig in the movie).
For the film, all Hedwig songs were written by Stephen Trask and performed by John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Trask, Miriam Shor, Bob Mould, Ted Liscinski, Perry James, Alexis Fleisig, Johnny Temple and Eli Janney. Nine of Hedwig’s songs (not including the Tommy Gnosis versions) were featured in the film, while there’s also an official soundtrack. Songs include “Tear Me Down,” “The Origin of Love,” “Angry Inch” and “Midnite Radio.”
10. The Wonders The Wonders is the fictional band from Tom Hanks’ 1996 film, That Thing You Do!. The film surrounds the 1964 fictional band The Wonders, who rise and fall amid their one hit wonder called “That Thing You Do.” The band consists of Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott,) Lenny Haise (Steve Zahn), T.B. Player (Ethan Embry) and Jimmy Mattingly (Johnathon Schaech). The film’s soundtrack features six songs by The Wonders, including “Dance with me Tonight,” “Little Wild One,” “All My Only Dreams” and the title track.
The film features music done originally by director Tom Hanks, Rick Elias, Gary Goetzman, Mike Piccirillo, Scott Rogness, Adam Schlesinger and Howard Shore. The popular hit “That Thing You Do” was composed by Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) for the film an actually became a real-life hit in 1996, peaking at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100, among other charts. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1996 for Best Original song. The lead vocals were actually song by Mike Viola (The Candy Butchers).