I realize that this list is going to be controversial. After all, there are hundreds of bands that could be picked for this list. Me, I’m only picking ten. Yes, I could have picked your favorite. It wasn’t with any bad intent. It may have even been ignorance on my part. Actually, make your own list. Send it to me. I’d be happy to feature it here on the site.
1. The Hong Kong Cavaliers from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: Few movies have made as big an impact on me as this one. There’s such a great scene in this movie where the band is playing and Buckaroo halts their raucous rock and roll to ask, “Is there somebody crying?” That’s a rock star. It’s even better that Perfect Tommy, Rawhide, Reno Nevada, Pecos and New Jersey (he doesn’t perform in the movie, but claims to “play a mean piano”) all double as adventurers.
2. Eddie & The Cruisers from Eddie & The Cruisers and Eddie & The Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!: The movie of Eddie Wilson’s band flopped on release, but found new life on cable and thanks to the success of John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band’s song “On the Dark Side.” It’s a tribute to what director Martin Davidson feelings on the last thirty years of rock and roll. Let’s forget that this late 50’s band sounds like Bruce Springsteen and concentrate on how great this movie — and their music within it — is.
3. Dragon Sound from Miami Connection: Has there ever been a better brand of multiethnic orphans who all do martial arts and then play synth rock? No. There has not.
Friends through eternity, loyalty, honesty.
We’ll stay together, through thick or thin.
Friends forever, we’ll be together.
We’re on top ’cause we play to win.
4. Sing Street from Sing Street: I haven’t seen a movie — nor a band within — that best expresses the 1980’s longing for love and music video fame so perfectly as Sing Street. Of course, Conor starts a band to impress a girl. But he also grows closer to his brother, learns about music beyond just what is on Top of the Pops and finds his own confidence and rebellion. And yeah — he gets the girl.
5. Steel Dragon in Rock Star: Yeah, this retelling of Tim “Ripper” Owens joining Judas Priest is only so-so. But the band — made up of Jeff Pilson from Dokken, Jason Bonham and Zakk Wylde can’t be beat. Oh yeah — McNulty from The Wire is in it too!
6. The Carrie Nations from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Quite literally the very first band I put on this list, the band that Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert batshit insane not-a-legal-sequel revolves around is my favorite movie band of all time. “The oft-times nightmarish world of Show Business” is tough. But it ain’t as tough as The Carrie Nations.
7. The Blues Brothers from The Blues Brothers: Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi went from blues rock dilettantes before they debuted this act on Saturday Night Live. By the time their album, Briefcase Full of Blues, and John Landis directed comedy hit the big screen, they’d formed a legit supergroup with members of Booker T and the MGs, the Bar-Kays and Blood, Sweat and Tears, with guest appearances by Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.
8. The Fabulous Stains from Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains: There are movie punks. And then there are The Fabulous Stains, rising up against the bitter nothingness of their Pennsylvania steel town only to learn that it’s really no fun to be a rock band on the road. Sure the ending is way too bright, but this movie is everything. Oh, and let’s not forget the Looters, with actor Ray Winstone, which is actually the Professionals, featuring guys from the Clash. Oh, and Metal Corpses, which is actually Fee Waybill and the Tubes.
9. DEATHGASM from Deathgasm: Much like Sammi Curr in Trick or Treat, for the members of DETHGASM, Rikki Daggers is the key to the dark powers of Hell. As a metalhead who repeatedly endured torture in grade and middle school, this movie speaks to me on a level that I can’t even convey. This is why you really start a band — to get eldritch abilities.
10. The Juicy Fruits/The Beach Bums/The Undeads in Phantom of the Paradise: Crossing through each decade of pop music, this same band keeps appearing in DePalma’s masterstroke. Their song “Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye” is a savage indictment of the music industry and its stars, like little Eddie Mitty who killed himself to not only save his sister’s life, but to become an angel in the eyes of the record buying public. It’s also catchy as hell.
Also, we couldn’t just keep this to ten bands.
11. Spinal Tap from This Is Spinal Tap: Spinal Tap achieved the impossible. For a movie that so willingly slaughters the reputation of metal bands, it was wholeheartedly embraced by the very bands — and their audiences — that it took the piss on. I’ve watched this movie literally hundreds of times — and listened to their albums many times more — and always discover new joys within.
So many people jumped in on an initial Facebook post about this topic — 136 comments — that I decided to let them help out. Thanks to everyone for pitching in and I’ve given you credit below. Here are just a few of the bands that they mentioned.
“Asian” Dan Hooven: The Lone Rangers from Airheads (also mentioned by Bill Comer). Allan Stallard also brought up The Sons of Thunder in this same movie, who were played by the band The Galactic Cowboys.
Brian Lengyel: CB4 from CB4.
Rob Brown: Uptown Girl from Stepbrothers.
And DuJour from Josie and The Pussycats (and yes, Adam Cicco, they count as a band too).
And Rob was on a big roll, we so mentioned Dewey Cox from Walk Hard.
Ken Cellupica: Wyld Stallyns from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (also mentioned by Adam Cicco and Dave Sutkowski).
Remy LaVey: Cassandra from One Crazy Summer.
Emily Fear: The Sleez Sisters from Times Square.
She also mentioned Loveburger from Can’t Hardly Wait.
Darryl Grandy: The Oneders from That Thing That You Do!
He also mentioned NWH from Fear of a Black Hat.
Ted Williams (who is a legit rock star and was in Pittsburgh metal legends Eviction): The Mystery from Satisfaction.
He also brought up the band in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is Reeves Nevo & The Cinch. That’s David Brandt, the ex-husband of director Amy Heckerling, as the frontman.
PS – Ted kind of goes above and beyond just writing in — he’s also an actor and has appeared on numerous TV shows like Gotham. Here he is, on the left, on the show The Outsiders as part of the Shay Mountain Band.
Jesse Forney: Stillwater from Almost Famous (also mentioned by Anthony Ruttgaizer).
Anthony Urias: Another band from Stepbrothers, Boats ‘n’ Hoes.
Anthony Ruttgaizer: The Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Ruttles from All You Need Is Cash (also mentioned by Jesse Forney).
Sex Bob-omb from Scott Pilgrim vs The World.
Crucial Taunt from Wayne’s World.
Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate from Coming to America (Bill DeJoseph also mentioned them).
The Barbusters from Light of Day (KenBurch also brought these guys up; look for a young Trent Renzor in the other band The Problems in this film; also Anthony raised the issue of how many fake bands Michael McKean has been in).
And he also mentioned Otis Day and the Knights from Animal House, who went on to be a real band.
Andy Stowell: The Ain’t Rights from Green Room.
He also mentioned Hedwig and the Angry Inch from the film of the same name.
And That’s My Bike from Reality Bites.
Adam Cicco: Marvin Berry & the Starlighters from Back to the Future.
And he also brought up Citizen Dick from Singles.
Dave Sutkowski: Sonic Death Monkey from High Fidelity.
Bill DeJoseph: Jimmie Moore from The Wedding Singer.
Paul Andolina: Easy Action playing Solid Gold in Blood Tracks.
Mike McBeth: Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes from Star Wars.
Patty Panico (Sam’s mom!): The Commitments from The Commitments.
The Sorels in Streets of Fire (you can also mention Ellen Aim and the Attackers).
And speaking of Michael Paré from Streets of Fire, he returns from his work in Eddie and the Cruisers as religious rocker Colin Gramercy in Raging Angels.
Finally, hey — I almost forgot Jesus and the Brides of Dracula from Under the Silver Lake.
And Bogart Peter Stuyvesant (real life musician Jordan Christopher), the faux-Jim Morrison in Angel, Angel Down We Go.
And, we can’t forget the lost Third Dimension from the lost, 1983 rock flick, Rock ‘N’ Roll Hotel featuring Judd Nelson and Rachel Sweet.
Does anyone remember the Banana Convention? It was Greg Brady’s first band — before the Silver Platters and before the Brady Six “broke up” for Greg to “fit the suit” for the new Johnny Bravo. The band never performs in the episode “Where’s There’s Smoke” (January 1971), but we do get to hear Greg’s song “Till I Met You” (yes, the clowns and beanstalks song). From left: that’s Johnny and Phil (actors Robert Jayson Kramer and Gary Marsh on guitar/bass, we think) and Tommy Johnson (drums), and Greg Brady. You need to know more? Then visit the awesome wordpress site, “Every Episode of the Brady Bunch Reviewed,” which provided the photo.
Drummer Tommy Johnson, aka actor Craig Huxley, became a go-to keyboardist and synth player whose film score work includes Rocky (1976), Battlestar Galactica (1978) and Planet of the Apes (2001). Huxley’s IMDb bio makes for a fascinating read. Remember the “sound” of V’ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture? That’s Craig . . . and his invention, known as “The Blaster Beam” (You Tube). Speaking of Star Trek: that’s Huxley acting in the third season of ST: TOS “And the Children Shall Lead.”
And it all began with the Banana Convention. Rock, on Tommy Johnson. Rock on. And Greg Brady is still rockin’ in 2021 with the Barry Williams and the Traveliers with “My Home Town.”
The BIG ONE is . . . the infamous Sacrifyx who perished after completing their album, The Dark Book, that, when played backwards, can open the gates of hell, in The Gate.
And our thanks to Malcolm Frank Thompson of Melbourne, Australia’s 98.7 RPP FM (be sure to check out his ’60s progressive rock retro-show “Under a Paisley Sky”), after reading our list, reminded us we forgot Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx fronting Arsenal in Rock of Ages.
And, one of the best-written faux bands — with one of the best original soundtracks — comes courtesy of one of the first reviews R.D Francis came to write for the site: The Relentless from American Satan.
Then, in the mother of all lists of fake bands from movies, I turned to my friend R.D Francis, who has written all manner of articles on metal bands in movies and 70’s soft-mainstream rock. His lists kick some major ass and are presented in their entirety:
Films and TV Series
- Rocktober Blood — Billy Eye Harper and Head Mistress
- Trick or Treat — Sammi Curr
- Black Roses — Black Roses (really Lizzy Borden and King Kobra)
- Terror on Tour — The Clowns (really The Names)
- Hard Rock Zombies — Holy Moses (really Silent Rage)
- Still Crazy — Strange Fruit
- Prey for Rock & Roll — Clam Dandy (with Gina Gershon!)
- Get Crazy — Reggie Wankers (Malcolm McDowell does Elton John!)
- Danny Collins — Danny Collins (Pacino does Neil Diamond? Yes, please!)
- Not Fade Away — The Twylight Zones (from The Soprano‘s team!)
- Velvet Goldmine — The Wylde Rattz
- Breaking Glass — Hazel O’Connor and Breaking Glass
- Tapeheads –– The Swanky Modes
- The Suburbans — The Suburbans (The Romantics in blue leather)
- Hard Core Logo — Hard Core Logo (Actor Hugh Dillon fronting Canada’s Swamp Baby)
- The Rocker – Vesuvius
- The Dead Pool – Johnny Squares
- Splitz — Splitz (featuring Robin Johnson of The Sleez Sisters from Times Square)
- Hail Caesar — Hail Caesar (actual Anthony Michael Hall’s band Hall of Mirrors)
- Rockin’ Road Trip — Cherry Suicide
Films That Are Going Deeper:
- Linda, Linda, Linda — Paranmaum (actually Jap-punk band The Blue Hearts)
- Bandwagon — Circus Monkey (indie rock comedy)
- I’ll Be There — The Love Rats (Craig Ferguson lip-syncs The Only Ones)
- Concrete Angels — Concrete Angels (Beatles fantasy flick)
- Coming to America — Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate
- Ghost World — Blues Hammer
- Blame It on the Night — Chris Dalton (faux Mick Jagger, in a story written by Mick Jagger!)
- Lovelines — Racer and the Firecats (T&A “Battle of the Band” romp)
- Hard to Hold — Jamie Roberts (which is actually Rick Springfield, both on screen and musically)
- The Loveless – Vance (aka Willem Dafoe, which is actually Robert Gordon of the Tuff Darts, but Gordon also acts in the film; Dafoe was also musician-rocker Johnny Harte in Roadhouse 66)
More TV Bands:
- WKPR in Cincinnati — Scum of the Earth
- Happy Days — Leather and the Suedes (Suzi Quatro!)
- The Incredible Hulk — Lisa Swan (MacKenzie Phillips)
- Wonder Woman — Hamlin Rule (Martin Mull)
- Wonder Woman — AntiMatter (Rick Springfield)
- Happy Days — Johnny Fish and the Fins (Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids)
- Lavern and Shirley — Lenny and the Squigtones (Nigel Tuffnel from Spinal Tap and Peter Criss from Kiss!!)
- CHiPs — Moloch (Donny “Ralph” Malph from Happy Days goes “Kiss”)
- Song of the Succubus and Rock-a-Die Baby — Moon (Kim Milford from the Jeff Beck Group!)
- Cotton Candy — Cotton Candy (TV movie; Ron Howard)
- This is Bad News — Bad News (British “Spinal Tap”)
- Full House — Jesse (Katsopolis) and the Rippers
- The Monkees (obviously)
- The Jolly Green Giants from The Monkees
- Gilligan’s Island — The Mosquitos
- I Dream of Jeannie — Jeannie, Boyce and Hart (who wrote Monkees’ tunes)
- Pop Rocks — Gary Cole from The Brady Bunch movies as “Dagger” fronting the Kiss-esque Rock Toxin
- Law & Order: TOS — Wutan, featuring John Doe of X; faux-Nirvana dupe Krisis; Tommy Vega (Gary Busey/washed up new wave rocker); No Bozo Jam (punk rockers); faux Billy Idol knockoff Clarence “C Square” Carmichael (Sebastian Roché from CW’s Batwoman)
- Law & Order: SVU — Derek Lord (Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead); Vampyre Sacrifyce; ’80s hair metaler Jared Black and Black Plague, the husband of the Pat Benatar knockoff Ricki Austin
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent — A faux Dee Snider and Twister Sister knockoff with Jordie Black and Twisted Strands (Joan Jett is his ex-wife, and “MTV jock,” Sylvia Rhodes) — none of the Law & Order franchise rockers are heard in the episodes
- Josie and the Pussycats
- The Archies
- The Groovie Ghoulies
- Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels
- Rock Roll from The Flintstones
- Jet Screamer from The Jetsons
- The Banana Splits
- The Bugaloos
- The Simpsons — B-Sharps and Sadgasm
- The Muppet Show — Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
P.S: Sam’s Notes: Here are still more . . .
All of the bands from A Mighty Wind
Autobahn from The Big Lebowski
Hangman’s Joke from The Crow
Big Fun from Heathers
The Tim Capello Band from The Lost Boys
Conner4Real and The Stylez Boyz from Popstar
Gown in Hot Rod
The Outlaw Boys in Neon Maniacs
The Vicious Lips from Vicious Lips
Tony Coca Cola and the Roosters from Driller Killer
The Horndogs and The Sapphire Sisters in Summer Camp Nightmare (scene on You Tube)
Ivan and the Terribles in Motel Hell
Electric Haze from More American Graffiti (actually Doug Sahm of Texas’ Sir Douglas Quintet)
Whew! Thanks everybody for your help! Want more bands in movies? Then check out our list of ten band cameos in movies. For tons of info on bands such as all of the above, we always use Rocklopedia Fakebandica.
Hey, don’t forget about our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week I” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” round-ups overflowing with links to rock n’ roll flicks of all sounds and sizes. Oops. We’ve since done a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week III,” wee rocker.
UPDATE (February 15, 2022): Thanks to a recent Facebook and Twitter post, there are some great updates to this list.
Eric Wrazenadded Electric Apricot from Quest for Festeroo and Crisis of Conformity from Saturday Night Live.
Aaron Hudakshared Camel Lips from Serial Mom.
Bradley Steele Harding gave us Diaper Rash from Hardbodies.
Gigi Graham added Desperate Teenage Lovedolls from Desperate Teenage Lovedolls.
Christopher Bickel, who directed The Theta Girl and Bad Girls told us “I’m a huge fan of fake movie bands which is why I put fake bands in all of my movies.” The Theta Girl has the Truth Foundation and Terrycloth Stiletto and Bad Girls has Christmas Tits and Poltergasm.
Terry Thorne sent these bands: The Phynx from The Phynx, Oscar Drill and the Bits from Shock Treatment, Mystery from Detroit Rock City, Harold and the Hangups from Hello Down There and Flame from Slade in Flame. He also let us know that The Blue Hearts aren’t actually in Linda Linda Linda, but the girl group in the film named themselves Paranmaum, which is Korean for The Blue Hearts. (I’m a huge Blue Hearts fan).