Top 10 Fake Musical Groups That Actually Sold Records8
By Rebecca Leib
Top 10 Fake Musical Groups That Actually Sold Records
Some musicians get discovered singing in a coffee shop. Some are related to celebrities who help them along. Others still brave national embarrassment on American Idol for the chance to get noticed. How about those who only “pretend” to be musicians and actually sell records? Better yet, how about a parody of a band that is taken seriously – as in Australia’s emo-satire band Forlorn Gaze? Here’s a list of 10 musicians that set out to play the part and did it so well, they became the part.
Forlorn Gaze, Band Rehearsal – Ep.1
1. The Monkees
After the success of the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night, Hollywood decided to create a television series about a fictional shaggy-haired, four-person band… similar, no? Four actors/modest musicians were hired: Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. They became The Monkees. Their talent was not a priority – instruments on the set were unplugged and the songs pre-recorded. As time went on, however, The Monkees wanted more musical involvement. The band started writing their own material and by the third Monkees album, was doing much of the musical work themselves. With songs that still hold up today, they did a pretty good job at turning fake into fabulous.
2. Partridge Family
These five kids and their widowed mom set out on four television seasons of rock, family-style. Shock to us all, their songs became hits, including “I Woke Up in Love This Morning” and “I Think I Love You.” The show was highly promoted by albums that came out before the show aired, and most of the actors in the Partridge Family weren’t actually on those albums. Still, the merchandise, albums, and hot son, David Cassidy, took off and became a part of TV and music history.
3. Hannah Montana
Miley Cyrus originally auditioned for the “best friend” role in a new pilot called Hannah Montana, a show about a girl who lives a double life as rockstar and tween. Eventually, higher ups would make her the lead and have her sing songs written for the show. Hannah Montana became a huge hit inspiring merchandise, albums, a tour and a lucrative career for little Miley Cyrus. The Hannah Montana movie, called appropriately Hannah Montana:The Movie, grossed over $155 million.
Ian Brennan conceived of Glee as a throwback to his old high school glee club days. After years as a film, it was reconceived of as a series and sold to FOX within fifteen hours of being received. The show uses pop songs and theater numbers couched in each episode’s story. Nobody could have anticipated the show’s success, as well as the sale of merchandise, which range from music to clothes to accessories. Though the cast sings their own songs, they do not choose them or accompany them with instruments. Good voices rule, but the ensemble credit really goes to those magical producers and proven song choices!
5. Josie and the Pussycats
Comic book artist Dan Decarlo mixed together his love for his wife and archie comics and came up with Josie and the Pussycats. There’s Josie, the street-wise adventurer and lead vocalist, Melody, the dumb-as-rocks blonde drummer, and Pepper, the bassist nerd. Of course, all three were super hot. In the next permutation, a cartoon series, Pepper became Valerie, and the three were lost in space. To go along with the launch of the first cartoon, Capitol Records recruited three actual musicians to play their music, which included a young Cherie Moor (later known as Cheryl Ladd of Charlie’s Angels fame). The three Pussycat surrogates cut six singles and an album under the franchise name, which did relatively well. In 2001, a live-action movie starring Rosario Dawson as Valerie, Tara Reid as Melody, and Rachael Leigh Cook as Josie, released another album.
6. Spinal Tap
Spinal Tap is a grammy-nominated heavy metal band born from a 1979 sketch comedy pilot entitled “The T.V. Show.” Rob Reiner was involved in the show, and eventually made This is Spinal Tap, a canonical and hilarious mockumentary film. The band has films, albums, concerts, tours and reunion tours, all simply based on their comedic bravado and ridiculous metal song play. This Is Spinal Tap was only a modest success after the initial release, but has received universal acclaim over the years – Empire Magazine called it one of the greatest films of all time.
7. The Carrie Nations
I remember watching the movie, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, featuring the sexy all-girl band, The Carrie Nations, and feeling my head was about to explode into drug-addled, euphoric, mind-bending psychadelia. This film, written by legendary film critic Roger Ebert and directed in 1970 by cult impresario Russ Meyer, was certainly on the crazy side. To be accurate, the band was first called the Kelly Affair, a bunch of sexy, impressionable young band members who get eaten up by success. The soundtrack of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, written by Stu Philips, featured Carrie Nations’ songs but none of the actresses appeared on vocals or instrumentals. For the film, the girls received music lessons for maximum believability, which worked, sort of.
Jem was an 80’s cartoon television series about record producer Jerrica Benton, who flirted with a double life as Jem, the fabulous lead singer of the Holograms (Hannah Montana, eat your heart out). This Hasbro cartoon series, which aired from 1985 to 1988, featured an 80’s color scheme, outrageous fashion and big pink hair. Jerrica turned into Jem with the help of a supercomputer named Synergy and was in love with a beautiful purple-haired boy. Jem sold lots of cassettes despite being fake… and animated. She was truly outrageous.
9. The Rutles
Many people know of The Rutles because of their constant, unabashed parodying of the Fab Four. The Rutles, also known as the “Pre-Fab Four,” were created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes as a fictional band to be promoted by 70’s television programs on the BBC. However, The Rutles accidentally evolved into a band, recording two hits, appeared on Saturday Night Live, and tour.
10. The Soggy Bottom Boys
This fake bluegrass band was featured in the Coen brothers’ 2000 flick, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?. The Soggy Bottom Boys singlehandedly spawned a bluegrass revival through the success of the film. Though George Clooney fronted the band, it was vocalist Dan Tyminski who really got the popularity of the Soggy Bottom Boys and the film’s soundtrack the attention it deserved. The jailbird trio’s hit song, Man of Constant Sorrow, went on to win awards, including a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals and the Country Music Association’s award for Best Single of the Year.
Forlorn Gaze, Street Press – Ep.2
Forlorn Gaze, Photo Shoot – Ep.3
Rebecca Leib received her BFA in Fine Art and MFA in writing and hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a Los Angeles based comedian and writer. Her work can be seen in the pages of many print and online publications, including Beautiful/Decay, Artillery Magazine, Blackbook, Tvgasm, Metrowize and Dailyfill. She has performed at the Second City Studio Theatre, UCB-LA, IOWest and the improv, and can often be seen brooding at sidewalk cafes.