You can buy some of their records in the real world but, unfortunately, these music artists don’t actually exist. Still, through the magic of perfect song construction or character development, they make us want them to be real. Whether they’re in a mockumentary like This is Spinal Tap or A Mighty Windor in a fake biopic like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, you can’t tell the story of a band without some fantastic music. You might find yourself humming along to their very real fake songs, but you’ll never get the real thing.
Here are nine music acts that live on only in our hearts.
The Wonders / The Oneders (That Thing You Do!)
Tom Hanks had long wanted to tell the story of a band who was one-and-done, and went literal with it, calling his one-hit-wonders “The Wonders.” starring Tom Everett Scott as Skitch, steve zahn as Lenny, Ethan Embry as the Bass Player and Johnathon Schaech as Jimmy, aka the Oneders/Wonders, That Thing You Do! has a soundtrack replete with would-be hits from an alternate timeline. Jimmy’s singing voice on the title track is actually that of singer mike viola, who makes another appearance on this list. They released a real-life vinyl 45 of the title track in the UK, which you can still find for a pretty penny.
The Lone Rangers (Airheads)
The most overtly criminal of these fake bands is The Lone Rangers, portrayed by Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemiand lead singer brendan fraser, who hijack a radio station so that they will play their demo. The soundtrack is a mix of metal tracks, and only one song with Brendan Fraser on lead vocals. The song “Degenerated,” is backed by Reagan Youngwho re-recorded their song specifically for Airheads with Fraser singing. It’s not bad, but it also has the quality of a well-produced demo, which sells the reality a bit more.
Rex Manning (Empire Records)
Maxwell Caulfieldbest known before this as Michael in grease 2plays the sleazy Rex Manning in Empire Records. Manning’s hit song “Say No More, Mon Amour” was recorded long enough before principal photography on the film began. This was so that they could shoot an entire music video for it, even though the film’s director had intended for them to only shoot a few seconds of dancing. The Lone Rangers may be the biggest criminals on this list, but the Empire Records soundtrack commits the most egregious crime of them all — “Say No More, Mon Amour” is nowhere on the original soundtrack.
Mouse Rat / Jet Black Pope (Parks and Recreation)
Historically, most TV shows only showcase a cast member’s musical ability as a contractual obligation one episode a season, but Parks and Recreation is a huge exception, especially since Mouse Rat / Jet Black Pope / Scarecrow Boat / etc. first appear in Season 1, when Chris Pratt‘s Andy Dwyer was only intended to be a guest star. When Andy worked out, the band’s appearances were more and more frequent, giving us hits like “Sex Hair” and “Catch Your Dream.” “The Awesome Album,” a collection of Mouse Rat songs and others from the show, was released recently on vinyl.
Spinal Tap (This is Spinal Tap)
Michael McKean, harry shearer, Christopher Guest and a host of drummers who keep dying make up perhaps the most famous fake musical group on this list, from the original “rockumentary,” This is Spinal Tap. They are, of course, the exception that proves the rule — they have performed in public over the years as Spinal Tap, making them, effectively, a real band. The film and the soundtrack cover all the changing eras of Tap, from psychedelia all the way to metal. The cover of the soundtrack to the film is entirely black, like the revised cover of “Smell the Glove” from the plot of the film.
Stillwater (Almost Famous)
Patrick Fugit stars as William Miller in Cameron Crowe‘s semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous, following the fictional composite band Stillwater around on their tour. The film’s soundtrack is a mix of real hits from the ’70s, as well as tracks recorded for the film by the musicians who performed as Stillwater. The songs are good enough to not detract from a greatest hits collection from the ’70s, which says a lot.
The Folksmen (A Mighty Wind)
Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest are, as the Folksmen in A Mighty Wind, the other exception that proves the rule. They started out as the Spinal Tap “opening act” in concert, and even performed on SNL. One of the best visual gags from the film is all of their album covers, from “Hitchin’,” “Pickin’,” “Ramblin’,” “Singin’,” and “Wishin’” to the ever-serious attempt at an image change, “Saying Something.” No apostrophes means you mean business. Every group in A Mighty Wind could be on this list, but the soundtrack is filled with music from them all.
Dewey Cox (Walk Hard)
John C Reilly stars as Dewey Cox in this send-up of musical biopics, but especially of walk the line and Ray. Mike Viola, singer for That Thing You Do! wrote a bunch of songs on this soundtrack. All the songs on the record were purportedly recorded using period-accurate equipment, lending a little truth to the sound. Like That Thing You Do!there was also a promotional 45 issued of the title track, and the soundtrack is dense, especially if you get the extended iTunes exclusive edition.
The Rutles (All You Need is Cash)
neil innes composed and co-performed some of the best Beatles pastiches ever for All You Need is Cash, a mockumentary about the history of fictional English band The Rutles. One song was so good, they were purportedly sued over its similarity to a real Beatles song. The soundtrack is as wide-ranging as the Beatles’ current back catalogue, as is the later-issued “Rutles: Archeology,” a parody of “The Beatles: Anthology.” The film also features a triangular vinyl record, “The Triangular Album,” which was unfortunately never actually released for sale.
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