No time for love, Dr. Jones. The fakes await! As I mentioned last week, this post is devoted to the cinematic musical alter egos (and some non-cinematic ones as well) and as Jon Cummings mentioned last week, he did it first. Undaunted, I’m sending my posse over to his abode to knock ‘im into shape. Yes, my posse consists of a penguin, a rabbit and a cat that has used up one too many lives.
So Opus, Bill and all the rest never made it to the movies, but they should have, and considering how bankrupt Hollywood is for ideas, they may yet get there someday. In the meantime, we have volumes of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County comic strips and a flexi-disc with two of Billy and the Boingers’ (formerly Deathtongue) “hits.” “I’m a Boinger” is rather hard on the ears, the kind of sledgehammer comedy fans used to send to the Dr. Demento show after listening to too much “Weird Al” Yankovic.Á‚ “U Stink But I Love U,” on the other hand, is obnoxious, but was performed by the very real hardcore band Mucky Pup. They even got the tuba in, so big points for that.
Last week, I gave credit to Bill Nighy for singing his parts in the film Still Crazy. This week, I’m doing the same for Hugh Grant. What an insane world we live in. Having never seen the film Music and Lyrics (2007), all I knew about it was that Grant played a former pop star from a band (loosely modeled on Wham!) called PoP! His forte was the music, but now as a writer for hire, he’s contracted to create a hit tune for rising pop music starlet and he’s in need of a lyricist. Enter Drew Barrymore, a lyricist on the rise. The rest is rom-com history. Now, there was no need for Grant to sing on the soundtrack, as I think an audience would have given him that latitude. I mean, it’s Hugh Grant. He’s not a singer and nobody really expects anything at all from him. To my shock, “PoP Goes My Heart” is a rather faithful approximation of ’80s synth-pop and I have to offer my apologies. What I will not apologize for is a Wiki blurb indicating David Hasselhoff covered the song and had a hit in Germany with it. I’m calling Bravo Sierra on that one…
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Then there’s Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, a cult film from 1981 featuring Diane Lane and Laura Dern as two of a punk trio trying to gain a foothold on celebrity. They luck into an opening slot for the Metal Corpses (fronted in the film by Tubes lead singer Fee Waybill) and befriend British punkers the Looters (comprised of the Clash‘s Paul Simonon and the Sex Pistols‘ Steve Jones and Paul Cook.) While The Stains’ performance falls flat, their look and attitude captures the audience. Soon they’re on the way to bigger things, but have to come to terms with what really got them there. “Waste of Time” pretty much catches the sound of a garage band not ready for the big stage, while the Stains’ version of “Professionals” offers a definite maybe. The fun comes when the Looters rip into their version, as this is as close to a Britpunk summit as one could hope for.
Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains was directed by Lou Adler, a first for him, but as a co-founder of Ode Records, a producer for Carole King, The Mamas and the Papas and even Cheech & Chong (as well as bringing The Rocky Horror Picture Show to the screen as producer) Adler had more than enough insight into the mercurial world of musicians and their fans.
Another outrageous stage production that found its way to the big screen is John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), the story of a young man who goes through a botched sex-change operation, falls in love, feels completely alien to the world around him and becomes a rocker. His love of philosophy fuels his punk/glam songs, such as “The Origin Of Love,” which is based in part on a speech given by Aristophenes in Plato’s Symposium. “Wicked Little Town,” a very catchy piano number, is about Hedwig’s love for Tommy, her first true love who turns around and steals the songs they wrote together and becomes a superstar renamed Tommy Gnosis. Meanwhile, Hedwig struggles to maintain a career of her own, ruminating on the love she lost and the betrayal of that loss. The original stage production was a lightning rod of sorts, not for the frankness of Hedwig’s transgendered limbo (because of the fouled surgery she’s left with disfigured genitalia) but because for the first time, this rock musical was a true rock musical. Some will point to Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar or even Rent as examples, but Hedwig and the Angry Inch was the first to be sung in hard-edged rock voice versus the mannered Broadway style.
The movie, and subsequent promotional appearances, were alternately controversial. Some shows refused to book Mitchell and the band for fear of having to explain the story’s premise. Others balked at Mitchell performing in drag, while still others were concerned about Mitchell removing his costume during these guest spots, revealing himself not as a female. Lost among all the crosstalk was the truth that the songs in the show rocked and were hardly anything to make such a negative stink about. Assisted by Bob Mould and Girls Against Boys’ Eli Janney, the rumors were true: the great white way finally had a knock-down drag-out rock musical but the taboos got in the way.
I know full well that there are dozens more ‘fake bands’ to cover, and even more real bands slipping into alter-egos for the hell of it like Traveling Wilburys, The Swirling Eddies and XTC’s psychedelic side trip The Dukes Of Stratosphear, but there simply isn’t enough time to cover them all. However, feel free to drop your forgotten choices down into the comments section and perhaps we’ll return with Le Fake Trois in the not-too-distant future…
The Traveling Wilburys, “Runaway”
The Swirling Eddies, “Potential”
The Dukes of Stratosphear, “Vanishing Girl”