Film: "School of Rock" (2003)
Who were they? Dewey Finn (Jack Black), vocals and guitar; Zack Mooneyham (Joey Gaydos Jr.), lead guitar; Katie (Rebecca Brown), bass guitar, Lawrence (Robert Tsai), keyboards; and Fred (Kevin Clarke), drums.
Best Track: “School of Rock” aka “Zack’s Song”
How hard do they rock? Rock can change the world -- there is no doubt -- but this band does something way more difficult; they change their parents’ minds. By the end, Zack’s need for his dad’s acceptance, Fred’s rebellion, Lawrence’s shyness (we love Lawrence), the self-confidence of the entire class and, of course, Dewey’s salvation, all hang on one song, one performance, one shot. And they kill it. So the song itself is a wee bit paint-by-numbers (to be fair, it was supposedly written by an 11-year-old) and we might wish there were just one more notch they could crank when they hit their second chorus, but really, that’s nitpicking when you’re grinning and humming along with the audience. These kids don’t just rock hard, they rock cute.
Extra rock credit: Summer, the band’s pint-sized manager, was played by Miranda Cosgrove, who’s come to fame more recently as the star of the Disney Channel’s “iCarly.” Despite her “School of Rock” character not being able to sing a note, she released a solo album in 2010.
Film: "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (2010)
Who were they? Stephen 'The Talent' Stills (Mark Webber) on lead vocals and guitar, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) on bass and backing vocals, and the deadpan genius of Kim Pine (Alison Pill) on drums and backing vocals. A line-up change saw Scott replaced with 'Young' Neil Nordegraf (Johnny Simmons) on the bass.
Best Song: "Garbage Truck"
How hard do they rock? Pretty damn hard. Music is central to Edgar Wright's pop culture fever dream adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels, with a number of fake bands cropping up, including The Clash At Demonhead, fronted by Brie Larson's Envy Adams, and the ill-fated Crash & The Boys. But it's Sex Bob-Omb who are the center; the closest thing the hero has to a job is playing in this three-piece garage rock band with friends Stephen and Kim. And while some of the other characters are a bit sniffy about the band, they're actually fairly decent, thanks to fuzzy, catchy two-minute numbers penned by Beck, and the band's nervous but charismatic stage presence. And they rightfully end up getting some attention. While they only win the first round of the Battle of the Bands contest when the competition are accidentally incinerated by a fireball, later on they're rocking out to the extent that their musically-conjured yeti is able to crush the Katayanagi Twin's techno dragons (yeah, it makes more sense when you've seen it...).
Extra rock credit: After the film came out, Michael Cera went on to play bass for Mister Heavenly, a side project by Islands frontman Nick Thorburn, also featuring members of Modest Mouse and Man Man.
Film: "This is Spinal Tap" (1984)
Who were they? David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), lead vocals and guitar; Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest), lead vocals, guitar, mandolin, etc.; Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer), bass guitar; Vic Savage (David Kaff), keyboards; and Mick Shrimpton (R.J. Parnell), drums.
Best Track: Tough call, but “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” wins out because of its disturbingly pedo lyrics, catchy riffs and redundant second ‘Tonight.’
How hard do they rock? [Tries valiantly to resist the obvious ‘they go to 11’ line.] You knew they’d be here, and they are. While the troupe behind the film went on to parody folk music, dog shows, amateur theater and the Oscar race, nowhere else was it so obvious that they just adored the thing they were sending up: the music is a piss-take, yes, but one done with such absolute love, craftsmanship and commitment to rocking that it never feels snide. An integral part of one of the most hilarious films ever made, the songs are both parodies and perfect examples of the cock-rock genre. Spinal Tap were so great as a fictional band they became a real one... oh fuck it, they went to 11.
Extra Rock Credit: The band have toured in real life several times, last playing in 2009 in support of studio album Back From The Dead. The band were supported on the tour by The Folksmen (also played by Guest, Shearer and McKean).
Film: “Almost Famous” (2000)
Who were they? Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee), vocals and guitar; Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup), guitar; Larry Fellows (Mark Kozelek of the Red House Painters), bass guitar; and Ed Vallencourt (John Fedevich), drums.
Best Song: "Fever Dog"
How hard do they rock? When Rolling Stone writer William Miller calls your guitar incendiary you know you have accomplished something. Stillwater's arena blues rock, with Jeff Bebe's soulful swagger and Russell Hammond's undeniable presence as an emerging guitar God, encompassed the greatness of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles, amping it up with a solo of cool that few bands of the era could touch. The scene where Russell Hammond walks onto the stage before Fever Dog can only be described as electric. Their fans are as hungry as the song's subject, knowing that they are tasting a rare moment. The Stillwater performance we see brings us the best part of being a music fan. They are on the cusp of greatness but still are small enough to be your little secret.
Extra Rock Credit: The Stillwater songs were written by Nancy Wilson of Heart (also director Cameron Crowe's then wife), Crowe, and Peter Frampton.
Film: "Velvet Goldmine" (1998)
Who were they? Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a Bowie/Bolan mash-up) leads the Furs, and Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor as a Iggy Pop/Lou Reed surrogate) fronted the Wylde Ratttz. But in reality, the musical members of The Venus In Furs (itself a Velvet Underground reference) were a supergroup that included Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, David Gray, Suede's Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music's Andy Mackay. The musicians behind The Wylde Ratttz were a complimentary American supergroup that featured Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Minutemen's Mike Watt, Gumball's Don Fleming, The Stooges' Ron Asheton, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney (anyone remember when they tore the roof off the MTV Video Music Awards in 1998?).
Best Song: Best is relative, as covers can't compete with these originals, but "Venus in Furs" as sung by Thom Yorke doing his best Bryan Ferry imitation is... interesting, and Jonathan Rhys Myers singing Brian Eno's "Baby's On Fire" with the Wylde Ratttz was surreal enough that it's worth taking another listen to.
How hard do they rock? Anyone who thinks Dylan's riff in "I'm Not Here," was Todd Haynes' first foray into movie-rock meta-textualness needs to go back and revisit his glam-rock paean "Velvet Goldmine," which did a lot of rock-star character compositing to create new figures (while McGregor's character is clearly physically based on Iggy Pop, the electroshock therapy to "cure" his homosexuality reference is ripped straight out of the Lou Reed biography). The film is littered with rock and cinema references: The Slade character has a persona named "Maxwell Demon" who is named after one of Brian Eno's early bands, the members of Placebo all appear as the fictional band Flaming Creatures, which is named after a graphically sexual 1962 experimental film by filmmaker Jack Smith, The Wylde Ratttz are a reference to Ziggy Stardust guitarist Mick Ronson's early band (The Rats), and the list goes on and on. The bands were fine, but really its an excuse to delve into the Roxy Music, Stooges, Brian Eno, Lou Reed, T-Rex, Slade, New York Dolls, etc. bands that were referenced in the film. Pulp, Shudder to Think and Grant Lee Buffalo also wrote original music for the film.
Extra Rock Credit: Curiously enough, there are zero David Bowie songs in the film, even though his character and music were obviously integral to the story and musical scene at the time. This is because Bowie was shepherding his own film project and didn't want the competing film to get all his songs. Of course that film has never materialized.
Honorable Mentions: Others that didn't quite make the cut this time around included the title bands in "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains," "Hedwig & The Angry Inch," "Eddie and the Cruisers" and "CB4," Barry Jive and the Uptown 5 in "High Fidelity," Bad Blake in "Crazy Heart" and the Soggy Bottom Boys in "O Brother Where Art Thou." Any others we've missed? Let us know in the comments section.
- Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez, Diana Drumm, Kristen Lopez, Kieran McMahon