Top 12 Movie Bands

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm
By Shane Rivers

Bandslam, a story about a teenage rock act, debuts in theaters this week. While I’m confident that both the movie and the music will underwhelm audiences, a number of more appealing movie bands exist for those who know where to look. For that reason, I’ve put together this list of the top 12 movie bands for your musical enjoyment. Rock on!

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1. Spinal Tap from This is Spinal Tap

David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) began playing music as The Originals, but soon changed it to The New Originals when they found another group already had that name. Spinal Tap from This is Spinal TapFrom there, they became The Thamesmen before finally settling on the heavy metal stylings of Spinal Tap. The picture of rock ‘n roll excess, Spinal Tap soldiers on despite the death of numerous drummers (including one lost to a “bizarre gardening accident“), opening for a puppet show, and increasing tension within the band. Many of the band’s antics hit close to home when the film was released, and rockers ranging from Eddie Van Halen to Steven Tyler didn’t even believe it to be a comedy.

Favorite Song: “Big Bottom,” an ode to women with large asses. With a great bass line and lyrics like “My baby fits me like a flesh tuxedo, I’d like to sink her with my pink torpedo,” how could you possibly go wrong?

2. The Commitments from The Commitments

Music manager Jimmy Rabbits is sick of the Dublin music scene, so he decides to put together the greatest soul band of all time. Besides the veteran trumpeter, Joey “The Lips” Fagan, the resulting group is comprised of inexperienced musicians, but that doesn’t stop The Commitments from injecting some much-needed rhythm into the Irish landscape. Led by the Cockeresque Declan “Deco” Cuffe on vocals and some rather attractive backup singers, the group manages to renew interest in soul music until clashing egos tear the band apart.

Favorite Song: “The Dark End of the Street,” a song about adultery which has been covered by everyone from Elvis Costello to The Afghan Whigs. This version is just as good (or better) than any of the others.

3. Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!

Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong CavaliersBesides being an accomplished neurosurgeon, particle physicist and race car driver, Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) also heads up one of the hottest bar bands in eastern New Jersey. As for The Hong Kong Cavaliers, they’re made up of linguists, botanists, entomologists and numerous other experts in various scientific fields. And in between gigs, the whole gang busies themselves with stopping the devious Red Lectoids from the 8th dimension. I bet you’ll never see The Jonas Brothers stopping an alien invasion.

Favorite Song: We only glimpse bits and pieces of their nightclub performances, so there’s no real song to choose from. Still, when one of the band members is named Perfect Tommy–and everyone agrees that he’s indeed perfect–you can bet that every song is a classic.

4. The Wonders from That Thing You Do!

The film tells the story of a group of musical one-hit wonders known, not-so-coincidentally, as The Wonders. With a drummer who wears shades on stage and is found of saying “I am Spartacus,” Steve Zahn on guitar, and Liv Tyler as the girlfriend of the band’s “talent,” The Wonders have plenty of things going for them. Heck, they’ve even got Tom Hanks as their manager. While their success doesn’t last long, it’s immense fun watching these youngsters enjoy their brief brush with stardom.

Favorite Song: What else? “That Thing You Do,” which reached #41 on the real-life Billboard Hot 100 and was written by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters would be green with envy.

5. Stillwater from Almost Famous

Stillwater from Almost FamousIn this semi-autobiographical film by Cameron Crowe, a teenager goes on tour with the legendary rock group Stillwater and puts together a story for Rolling Stone. A strange amalgam of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles, Stillwater features Billy Crudup on guitar and Jason Lee on vocals. But perhaps most impressive is their circle of groupies, also known as “Band-Aides,” played by Kate Hudson, Fairuza Balk, Bijou Phillips and Anna Paquin.

Favorite Song: “Feverdog,” a throwback to the music of the ‘70s, with a boisterous drum part which sounds identical to that of Led Zeppelin. And, no, that’s not really Jason Lee tearing it up on vocals.

6. Strange Fruit from Still Crazy

When your movie band has Bill Nighy on lead vocals, Stephen Rea on keyboards, and Billy Connolly as a roadie, they’re destined to make the list. After being apart for 20 years, the members of Strange Fruit are convinced to have a reunion. Can they overcome old feuds and insecurities, or will the ghosts of the past once again tear them apart? Lots of boisterous rock music for fans of British acts such as Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.

Favorite Song: “All Over the World,” a loving tribute to 70’s hard rock. Features such lines as “To slay the dragon, it has to happen.” I don’t know why dragons seem to show up in hard rock lyrics all the time, but their popularity simply can’t be denied.

7. Alice Bowie from Up in Smoke

Alice Bowie from Up in SmokeCheech Marin wears a tutu, mask, and Mickey Mouse ears while portraying a robotically-strutting mixture of David Bowie and Alice Cooper. The band boasts a badass horn section, and Tommy Chong plays the drums with comically oversized sticks. As massive amounts of marijuana smoke filter through the audience, the band gets an increasingly enthusiastic reaction. Outside, a cop played by Stacey Keach gives in to the munchies.

Favorite Song: “Earache My Eye,” a legendary novelty song which has been covered by everyone from Soundgarden to the Rollins Band. Released as a single in 1974, it managed to climb all the way to #9 on the Billboard charts.

8. The Rutles from All You Need is Cash

Take Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, throw in a number of spot-on Beatles’ parody songs, and you’ll wind up with The Rutles, a mockumentary band which would later inspire the creation of Spinal Tap. The four lads from Liverpool (Ron Nasty, Dirk McQuickly, Stig O’Hara and Barry Wom) take the music business by storm after being discovered by a retail chemist drawn to their tight trousers. Later, after discovering tea (which Bob Dylan introduced them to), they release the masterpiece known as Sgt. Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band. It’s interesting to note that real-life Beatle George Harrison was involved in the production from the beginning.

Favorite Song: “Cheese and Onions,” a parody of “A Day in the Life.”

9. N.W.H. from Fear of a Black Hat

N.W.H. from Fear of a Black HatShort for “Niggaz With Hats,” N.W.H. is a walking, crotch-grabbing parody of the American hip hop scene. Comprised of members Ice Cold, Tasty Taste and Tone Def, the gangsta rap trio releases such socially relevant songs as “Grab Yo Stuff,” “Booty Juice,” and “Kill Whitey.” And don’t forget to check out their Christmas album, Ho Ho Ho’s. N.W.H. is to rap what Spinal Tap is to heavy metal.

Favorite Song: “Granny Says Kick Yo Ass.” After the band breaks up, militant member Tasty Taste (primarily a parody of N.W.A.’s Eazy-E) releases this solo single which manages to perfectly skewer L.L. Cool J’s “Momma Said Knock You Out” right down to the black-and-white music video.

10. The Louisiana Gator Boys from Blues Brothers 2000

I was quite prepared to include The Blues Brothers on this list, but then I remembered The Louisiana Gator Boys from the awful sequel, Blues Brothers 2000. The opponent for the Blues Brothers during a battle of the bands, the Louisiana Gator Boys are a blues supergroup with an out-of-this-world roster. Just check out a few of their members: B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Clarence Clemons, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Dr. John, Lou Rawls, Steve Winwood, Jimmie Vaughan, Paul Shaffer and Travis Tritt. Forget that the movie is terrible beyond belief; this band makes it in on pure musical firepower.

Favorite Song: “How Blue Can You Get?”, a classic B.B. King blues song bolstered by a stellar group of legends in their own right.

11. The Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother, Where art Thou?After recording a song to make some quick cash, The Soggy Bottom Boys (George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson) become a sensation in Depression-era Mississippi. This all culminates with a surprise concert during a campaign dinner for gubernatorial candidate (and Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan), Homer Stokes. Donning fake beards, the recently-escaped-from-prison trio bring down the house, discredit Stokes, and earn themselves a pardon.

Favorite Song: “Man of Constant Sorrow,” an infectious bluegrass tune which helped generate real-life interest in the genre.

12. The Folksmen from A Mighty Wind

The boys from Spinal Tap are back, but this time they’re taking on the personas of a folk trio known as The Folksmen. With albums such as Singin’, Pickin’, Wishin’, and Ramblin’ under their belts, the group reforms for a tribute concert to honor their recently-deceased producer. While Jerry Palter (Michael McKean) wants to stick to their signature sound, Alan Barrows (Christopher Guest) tries to push the envelope with a depressing socially-conscious song entitled “Skeletons of Quinto.” Meanwhile, bassist Mark Schubb considers living life dressed as a woman, despite his incredibly deep bass voice. But make no mistake, The Folksmen can really deliver the musical goods once it’s showtime.

Favorite Song: “Old Joe’s Place,” which also happened to be the group’s lone hit song. Most notable for its nonsensical lyrics and Christopher Guest’s distinctive “Wellllll” and banjo pickin’.