The Best Fictional Bands You’ve Watched
Issue   |   Wed, 03/07/2012 - 01:53
Image courtesy of robsrecordscdsdvds.com
The Monkees were one of the first relatively successful music group to their success on TV as a fictional band.

On Feb. 29, Davy Jones of the Monkees passed away due to a heart attack. While not many people will know the Monkees by name — though most probably know their biggest hit “I’m a Believer” — their influence can still be felt. Their brand of supremely lighthearted (and light-weight), ridiculously optimistic (to some, cringe-inducing) and exceptionally catchy music struck a sound somewhat between the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and by ultimately dropping any pretense of being a “serious” musical act, they went the route of being as purely pop as possible. With this in some way being the dominant philosophy of the best-selling popular music today, there’s an argument to be made that the Monkees influenced the approach of modern artists to pop music.

However, their influence extends beyond this. You see, the Monkees were not a “real” band, at least originally. They were assembled to write music for and star in a TV show about a Beatles-esque band doing things that a Beatles-esque band would naturally be drawn to, such as driving around in a car with their name on it, enjoying their swinging bachelor pad (although they never actually hint at the swinging; it is a kid’s show after all), helping children overcome their oppressive adult masters and generally reveling in the flowery, hip and probably drug-induced vibe of the 60s. You know, the basics. And of course, at least once an episode, they would break out in a spontaneous song, presented as a music video, because, naturally, that’s how it was during the 60s. The members originally played fictionalized characters bearing their own names for two seasons and sang the music for the show. Only with the success of the show did the once TV-only band begin to actually function as an actual band with creative control over their music, something they were pretty successful at for a couple years after the show ended, before ultimately disbanding in 1970.

As such, the Monkees can be seen as among the earliest popular incarnations of a fictional band, something which has become more and more popular in film and television since then, all the way to the present day. And so, with Davy Jones’ passing, it seems like an appropriate time to look back on some of the more notable bands fitting this trend. Some of them would go on to become actual bands, whereas others (mostly the animated ones) would remain trapped in the medium that spawned them. But all of them, either for their music or their personality, deserve a look.

The Beets from “Doug”
I start off the list with another obvious take on the Beatles, The Beets, titular character Doug Funny’s favorite band. It earns a spot on this list largely because their songs, despite being ridiculous (featured lyrics from their best song “Killer Tofu”: “I didn’t eat it, ow, but it ate you!”), are not only funny but legitimately catchy. Bonus points for the fact that it implied that what is essentially the Beatles would have been the favorite band of a bunch of middle schoolers circa 1991 and the fact that one of the member’s names is “Chap Lipman.”

The Blues Brothers from “Saturday Night Live”
This rhythm and blues revival band, despite not writing any songs, sure knew how to play, all the more impressive when you consider that its two central members were lead vocalist Jake Blues, played by comedian John Belushi, and harmonica player/backing vocalist Elwood Blues, played by comedian Dan Aykroyd. The band, originally created for Saturday Night Live (back when being on Saturday Night Live actually required being funny), served as a musical guest on the show before releasing the awesomely-titled album “Briefcase Full of Blues” and eventually going on to star in “The Blues Brothers,” a Hollywood movie about the duo featuring one of the greatest soundtracks to any film ever.

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem from “The Muppet Show”
I’m a sucker for a great band name, and it doesn’t get much better than Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. The band featured leader, vocalist, and keyboardist Dr. Teeth, bass guitarist Sgt. Floyd Pepper, lead guitarist Janice, Saxophonist Zoot and over-the-top drummer Animal. Featured heavily on The Muppet Show and other Muppets media, this semi-parody semi-homage to rock ‘n’ roll had numerous compositions under its belt (much more so than any other band here, with close to 50 distinct songs performed overall). But it is ultimately their exuberant attitude that places them on this list, as the band itself was the real treat (even though a number of the songs are strong enough in their own right), often bringing the comedy just as much as any other cast member on the show.

Dethklok from “Metalocalypse”
This band, featured on the animated love letter to/parody of death metal TV show “Metalocalypse,” might win the award for funniest band on the list, stiff competition considering how most of the artists featured here have their roots in comedy. Lead guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf (opening theme tune: “taller than a tree”), rhythm guitarist Toki Wartooth (“not a bumblebee”), Bassist William Murderface (“Murderface Murderface”), drummer Pickles (“doodily doo ding dong doodily doodily doo”) and lead singer Nathan Explosion are gut-bustingly and endearingly idiotic both on stage and off, with hilarious song highlights including “The Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle,” “Dethharmonic” and “Hatredcopter.” The band mocks other metal bands, such as poking fun of the difficult-to-hear bass of Metallica by saying that they wipe the bass parts out of the song entirely but still keep the bassist around for appearances. The humor gets much weirder from there, such as when the band releases a metal album for fish only. A special shout-out should also go to Guns ’n’ Roses parody Snakes ’n’ Barrels and glam metal parody Dr. Rockzo, the Rock ’n’ Roll Clown. Dethklok is also their fictional world’s seventh largest economy, which is saying something.

Limozeen from “Homestarrunner.com”
Another metal parody band, this one from internet flash website Homestarrunner.com, Limozeen, like Dethklok, is simply too funny not to mention. Their songs, such as “Because, It’s Midnite,” “Nite Mamas” and “Feed the Childrens” (a benefit song, with the lyrics “hey hey la la la na na doo doo”) parody the stupidity of 80s hair metal to a tee. Even outside their songs, they manage to poke fun at a decade of musicians whose heads were often in their pants, with tour names such as the “Ladies, We’re Staying in Room 203 at the Ramada” and a coloring book with colors such as “lipstick red” and “black leather black.” And all this is without mentioning their Saturday morning cartoon, “Limozeen: ‘but they’re in space.’”

The Rutles from “Rutland Weekend Television”
Another Beatles parody, this time by former-Monty Python member Eric Idle, the Rutles were originally featured on various 70s British television shows before becoming a touring comedy band in their own right. Unlike other Beatles parodies, this one directly took on the Fab Four by essentially rewriting their songs with different lyrics, the most famous of which being “All you Need is Cash,” also the name of the film which made them famous. They’re a lighthearted effort, one which arguably lacks the wit of other parody bands (such as the aforementioned Limozeen and Dethklok), but many of their songs are inoffensively and charmingly goofy none-the-less.

Spinal Tap from “This is Spinal Tap”
If the Monkees were the grandfather of fake bands, then Spinal Tap was the dad. I can’t think of another band more fitting to close out on than the band which headlined one of the funniest movies ever made, 1984’s “This is Spinal Tap.” David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) embody everything lovable and idiotic about rock ‘n’ roll music, with ridiculous songs such as “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight,” “Cups and Cakes” and “Big Bottom,” which might win the award for smartest stupid song of all time. Anchored by three great comic performances and a script filled with acid wit, it’s hard to watch these guys do just about anything and not laugh. Although “These go to eleven” is the classic line that caps off the classic scene, my favorite amidst hefty competition is the scene where the band discusses their past drummers. One died in a freak gardening accident, one spontaneously combusted on stage and one passed out and choked on vomit. Not necessarily his own vomit though, as Nigel is careful to note, because “You can’t really dust for vomit.” Clever stuff. The band would go on to thrive elsewhere, even performing “Big Bottom” at Live Earth, with just about every bass player there on stage playing with them. But they never topped “This is Spinal Tap.”

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