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The Absurdest Humour of the Post-Modern Nesting Dolls of Faux Bands: Let's Get It (strapped) On ......

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There are literally hundreds of fake bands concocted since the birth of Rock 'n' Roll. Generally they are part of a plot vehicle in a movie or TV show as a blatant attempt to lure the youth market or to ridicule and deride rock music as a genre. This was more common in the early years, the '50s and up to the mid-60s when The Beatles firmly established rock was not about to go away and there was a great deal of money to be made. Early on, you have Dean Martin doing skits in his variety show wearing a long-hair wig, this always had his audience rolling in the aisles, morphing into The Monkees Show which apes The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, and later appealing to the parents of toddlers by mimicking the music of their youth with warm parodies, Mick Swagger and the Sesame Street Cobble Stones on children's shows. 

The sham band is not the same as a persona. The bogus band is usually played for laughs even though the musicians themselves and the music can be quite serious and accomplished. Still these bands seldom rise above a novelty act with at best, cult followings if they actually play live music. We won't bother delving into the morass of a Milli Vanilli. I suppose the greatest success attained by a mock band  is The Blues Brothers which Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi initially concocted for a short Saturday Night Live skit. They loved blues and soul music so they loved doing it and they backed themselves with the cream of session musicians drawing heavily from the core of the MGs. And they made millions by putting out records, doing tours and making a couple of movies. A persona is quite a different beast and if one forgets they are playing a role, like Frankenstein, the monster can destroy its creator. Think of Jim Morrison and his Lizard King persona or the consequences for Sid Vicious when he forgot he and Johnny Rotten were doing it for laughs.

Many people are familiar with Spinal Tap, the mockumentary by Rob Reiner lampooning a heavy metal band called Spinal Tap. With the success of the soundtrack, This Is Spinal Tap the actors set out on tour and released subsequent albums: Break Like The Wind and Back From The Dead. It's pretty funny stuff  but like so many of these spoofs it wears thin quickly. Stick with the movie.

But here is a short list of lessor know pretend bands that I find both engaging and surprisingly listenable. In no particular order:  

Big Daddy: So here's how the joke runs.... a 50's cover band heads over to Vietnam in 1959 to entertain the troops (the fact America didn't have troops in Vietnam to entertain at this time just expands the joke) and is shot down and captured by Laotian rebels who hold them prisoner for 25 years. They return to the States and continue carrying on as always, covering current pop, the caveat and hook being, they only know how to play 50s style rock.

Here's their cover of Guns & Roses'

Dread Zeppelin This is a fun band. They do covers of Led Zeppelin to a reggae beat and their lead singer, Greg Tortell is an Elvis impersonator who weighs 300 pounds who dubbed himself, Tortelvis. The rest of the band is comprised of guitarists Jah Paul Jo (Joe Ramsey) and Carl Jah (Carl Haasis), bassist Butt-Boy (Gary Putman), percussionist Ed Zeppelin (Bryant Fernandez), and drummer Fresh Cheese (Paul Masselli). Their albums include Un-led-ed, No Quarter Pounder. andthe live

Blotto out of Albany, New York were a nondescript but facetiously humorous band who got hooked into the MTV craze of the early 80s using video to propel them to a pseudo 15 minutes of fame.  They first hit with the novelty video I Wanna Be a Lifeguard. All the members adopted the surname Blotto developing alter-egos as Sergeant Blotto on  vocals, guitarists Broadway Blotto and Bowtie Blotto, bass player Cheese Blotto, and drummer Lee Harvey Blotto. My favourite was a spoof on heavy -metal which I actually prefer to Spinal Tap. 

Blotto Metalhead

My Life With The Kill Thrill Kult Initially Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann, set out to make a movie in the style of Russ Meyer and John Waters. The movie was going to be called "My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult." The movie was aborted but the duo instead formed a band which performed industrial club-rock with a theatrical edge with loads of sex and Satan imagery and a stage show specializing in unusual characters, props, and blood-and-guts visuals.

A Daisy Chain 4 Satan

The Masked Marauders: A fictional super-group made up of  Dylan, Jagger, Harrison, Lennon & McCartney. This is obscure stuff but apparently a small but rabid surreptitious fan base (critics, like Rolling Stone magazine hated this band) has kept them alive all these years on youtube. From 1969 I Can't Get No NookieandSeason Of The Witch.

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention as Ruben & the Jets:  It's no secret growing up in the 50s Zappa loved doo-wop music, still it was a surprise when at the peak of psychedelia he put out an entire album, tongue-in-cheek of course, of  Doo-wop à la Mothers, the 1968 release Crusing With Rubin & the Jets. But then again Zappa wouldn't be Zappa if he'd given a shit about what critics or record executives or sometimes to his extreme detriment, fans thought of his work. If Zappa defined himself as an artist, it's because he was.

Rubin & the Jets: You Didn't Try To Call Me

The Residents:  Founded in 1970 and still going, The Residents epitomize bizarre. The music is deconstructionist, experimental and in a constant state of flux for over 40 years. It's like taking John Zorn, Sun Ra, John Cage, Elvis, The Beach Boys and The Beatles and dropping them in an industrial blender and turning it on high. Add to this their theatrics, the band members have cloaked their identities all these years (we don't even know if any of the original members are still in the band) and they perform in disguise, frequently as tuxedoed eye-balls wearing top hats resembling a Tim Burton nightmare. They have inspired imitators over the decades but there is nothing really like them.

The Residents – Heartbreak Hotel

The best and most inspired Beatles parody ever has to be Eric Idle's The Rutles. Originally cocieved as  a television rock mockumentary (All You Need Is Cash) for BBC in 1978, Idle the ex- Python genius collected some musician and actor friends to portray his vision of “The Pre-Fab Four.” Neil Innes from the brilliant Bozo Dog band played “Ron Nasty" based on John Lennon and wrote much of the music for the parody. Idle was Dirk McQuickly styled after Paul McCartney. Drummer John Halsey depicts the Rigo Starr character Barrington Womble or "Barry Wom.” Halsey was one of the drummers on Lou Reed's Transformer album. Guitarist and multi-intrumentalist and producer (Crowded House, Tim Finn, The Beach Boys) played George Harrison doppelganger Stig O'Hara. The late, great Ollie Halsall also played with The Rutles.

I've saved my two favourites for last. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were by far the funniest and most talented musicians to combine absurdest humour with rock/pop music. Led by aforementioned Neil Innes and the band's resident madman, Viv Stanshall, The Bonzos were inspired by equal parts Goon Show and The Beatles. They even have a short cameo appearance in Magical Myatery Tour and Paul McCartney, a huge fan produced and sang back-up vocals on their top 5, 1968 British single "I'm the Urban Spaceman," under the pseudonym Apollo C. Vermouth. Stanshall is best known as “the narrator” on Mike Oldfield's celebrated "Tubular Bells." For anyone who hasn't heard their album, The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse, you are missing one of the great and monumental albums in pop music. 5 Stars all the way. 

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – My Pink Half of the Drainpipe

For those with 50 minutes to spare, the complete cd:

XTC created The Dukes of Stratosphear as a side project to play with their psychedelic obsessions creating alter-egos for the band: Andy Partridge was Sir John Johns, Colin Moulding was the Red Curtain, and David Gregory was Lord Cornelius Plum, and Gregory's brother Ian joined the band under the name E.I.E.I. Owen. The band became so popular, the one-off ep sold better than many of XTC's previous albums and was expanded into a fun length disc of new material. While meant as a parody the material is so solid it stands on its own merits.

The Dukes of Stratosphear - 25 O'clock


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