Pop music is an interesting business. Some bands are painfully authentic. Others are incredibly fake. And some are intentionally fake – like the ones that wind up in movies or TV shows.
Now, some of those are downright entertaining. Others are delicious in their satire of the music scene. And then sometimes, those fake cinematic bands end up with hit records, which confuse reality even more.
Here’s a look at 12 of the biggest head-scratchers ever:
The aim was to create TV musical comedy that would copy the surreal atmosphere of the Beatles film “Help.” With two comedians and two musicians in their lineup, the Monkees’ TV show lasted only two seasons but six of their first seven singles – overseen by recording mogul Don Kirshner – were Top-5 hits.
“The Archie Show” debuted on CBS-TV in 1968 and lasted only 17 episodes, but those were rerun for years. But Archie’s band – with lead vocals by Ron Dante, who’d produce Barry Manilow’s first nine albums – would go on to chart four singles in the Billboard Top 40, including “Sugar, Sugar,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 in the fall of 1969.
A spinoff from the Archie comic books, this all-girl trio lasted for just 32 episodes over two seasons. The group issued six singles in 1970 and 1971. Singing the part of Melody, the drummer: Cherie Moor, who’d later be known as Cheryl Ladd. The group would be rebooted as a live-action movie in 2001.
“The Partridge Family” was based on a real-life late ’60s/early ’70s musical family, the Cowsills. Real-life son and stepmother David Cassidy and Shirley Jones sang their songs but the rest of the “family” pretended to play their instruments. The show lasted four seasons but their first single spent four weeks at No. 1 and their first five singles were Top-20 hits.
Created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes for a BBC comedy series, the Rutles – a biting satire of the Beatles – took a life of their own when they were featured in a 1978 parody documentary “All You Need is Cash.” Actual Beatle George Harrison made a cameo appearance in the film. The soundtrack album was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Another “mockumentary” satire – this one of heavy metal – featured Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer and was the first film directed by Rob Reiner. The band billed itself as “one of England’s loudest bands” and bragged about amplifiers that dialed all the way up to 11. The same trio would later form a folk parody group, “The Folksmen.”
A supercomputer and a pair of high-tech earrings transformed mild-mannered record producer Jerrica Benton into pop superstar Jem. The show featured elaborate (animated) rock videos in hopes of capitalizing on the popularity of MTV. The singing voice of Jem was provided by Britta Phillips.
Slacker pals Bill and Ted create a rock duo that is so incredibly good that it inspires mankind to create a utopian society. In the future. In the meantime, they’re downright awful. The song Bill and Ted play to win the climatic battle of the bands in their 1991 film “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” was, in fact, played by master studio guitarist Steve Vai.
The comedy “That Thing You Do!” – written and directed by Tom Hanks – told the story of the one hit wonder band, The Wonders. The band originally calls itself the One-ders, but everyone finds that too confusing. The (extremely catchy) hit title song – written by Adam Schlesinger and sung by Mike Viola – was nominated for an Academy Award.
Songs “played” by the band featured in Cameron Crowe’s rock-band-on-the-road film “Almost Famous” were written by Peter Frampton and Crowe’s ex-wife Nancy Wilson of Heart. Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready played guitar on the soundtrack. Frampton even gave actor Billy Crudup lessons on how to fake playing lead guitar for the concert scenes.
Three escaped convicts become unintentional recording stars in the Cohen Brothers movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Nashville pros Dan Tyminski (of Union Station), Harley Allen and Pat Enright sang the music, including the song “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow.” The soundtrack won three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
The struggling garage band at the heart of the film “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” featured only one actor who knew how to play his instrument: Michael Cera, on bass. The rest learned how to play, coached by Chris Murphy of the Toronto-based band Sloan. Sex Bob-omb’s music was written by Beck and his longtime keyboardist, Brian LeBarton.
Sources: Internet Movie Database, Time magazine, Rolling Stone, ConsequenceOfSound.net, MeTV.com