In the film This Must Be The Place, Sean Penn plays an aging rocker along the lines of The Cure’s Robert Smith. With original music by David Byrne and images that scream 80’s new wave, we have yet to see whether the music is a thinly veiled take on The Cure or just on new wave in general. But this isn’t the first movie that bases its sound around real life bands.
1. Dewey Cox as Johnny Cash (Walk Hard). Dewey Cox’s music is straight-up Spinal Tap grade satire. He’s got the trademark Cash boast, tails of hardship, and the I-do-what-I-want attitude. Each song is like a bizarro version of a real song, and you could be fooled if you didn’t listened to the lyrics. Even Cox’s take on Bob Dylan is flawless with the song “Royal Jelly”, a play on “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” He’s got every musician down cold, and even delves into punk rock (coincidentally when he tries out cocaine), but brings it home with the Cash sound. Where Johnny Cash will shoot a man to see him die, Dewey Cox will call out your woman and beat you up after.
PINNACLE LYRICS: “I ain’t ever lost a fight in my life, I’ll send you home crying to your fat and ugly wife. If you don’t believe me when I tell you this, well, let me introduce you to my rock hard fist.” – Guilty As Charged
2. The Rutles as The Beatles (All You Need Is Cash). The Rutles spans the entire history of the Beatles, each song catering to their vast stylistic change and signature musical trademarks. They cover the care-free lovey-dovey pop stylings with “Baby Let Me Be” and go all out weird and psychedelic, mirroring their India phase with “Piggy In The Middle.” The Beatles long and arduous timeline is touched upon and cloned to perfection. The Rutles have the accents and catch names (Nasty, Stig, Dirk, and Barry). It’s their thoroughness to detail that sets them apart other faux-Beatles bands. The Rutles recorded over thirty songs — there are some real bands that don’t even have thirty songs down.
PINNACLE LYRICS: “Bible punching heavyweight/ Evangelistic boxing kangaroo/ Orangutang and anaconda/ Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse/ Even Pluto too.” – Piggy In The Middle
3. Grivo as Danzig (Brain Candy). Making fun of Danzig is like shooting fish in a barrel. There’s so much to work off of: the over-toned muscles, the deep wailing voice, and the black locks. Grivo looks like Danzig, but has a voice that falls short. While the hard-ass guitar riffs are spot on, he loses points by not touching upon Danzig’s trademark baritone-werewolf-Buddy-Holly-howl. Both characters appear tough, but crumble like cake under outside influence; Grivo when he takes the anti-depressant GLeeMONEX and starts singing about puppies and Glenn Danzig when he got his ass kicked by Danny Marianinho. Both singers sing about the depressing and morose, Grivo’s lyrics are reminiscent of Danzig’s Samhain days… being alone… walking in the dark… walking in the dark alone…
PINNACLE LYRICS: “Some days it’s dark/ Some days I work/ I work alone/ I walk alone.” – Some Days Are Dark
4. CB4 as N.W.A. (CB4). If you take every N.W.A. song, drop every major identifier and replace it with parody, you get CB4. CB4’s songs morph the daily, real life struggles NWA rapped about and amps it up by a million points on the insanity scale. NWA’s “…smother yo’ mother and make ya sister think I love her.” turns into “I’ll fuck ya wife, cuz the bitch is a big ho. I’ll fuck ya sista, I’ll fuck ya cat.” CB4 makes fun (a lot of fun) of overly gangsta, misogynistic rap to the point of insanity, especially with their song “Sweat of my Balls,” where they repeat the line “sweat of my balls” literally 20 times. Obviously, with this type of parody, the over-the-top nature distracts from the story, as all you can focus on is how ridiculous and over-the-top CB4 can make themselves seem.
PINNACLE LYRICS: “Float like cannonball, sting like a shark. I’m the nigga waitin’ for ya in the dark. Waitin’ to rob you, waitin’ to beat you — a bullet in ya head is how I greet you.” – Guilty As Charged
5. The Wonders as The Beatles (That Thing You Do). The big thing The Wonders have on their side is context — mirroring the classic cornucopia of problems the Beatles faced: musical differences, managerial pressures, and girls that ruined everything. The other is the song-writing. After a nation-wide search for a song to encapsulate the British rock revolution, Fountains of Wayne bassist, Adam Schlesinger made the title track. As well as being lyrically on point, The Wonders have the poppy 60s harmonies to back it up. The Wonders’ songs captures the gleeful heart-ache stylings of Beatles songs like “If I Fell” and “She Loves You” by asking the girl who broke their heart into a million pieces to re-consider. That type of commitment to a girl is heavy — the exact kind of heaviness that was felt in the 1960’s, you know, before people knew better.
PINNACLE LYRICS: “I know all the games you play, and I’m gonna find a way to let you know that you’ll be mine someday.” – That Thing You Do!
6. Steel Dragon as Judas Priest (Rock Star). With the heavy bass drums, cutting-ass cords, and rockin’ metal voice, Steel Dragon kills it. Their songs capture the pure badass that 80s metal exuded, while not going overboard. What makes Steel Dragon so true to life is the amount of real-life musicians who performed in the band and the dedication to the simple, heavy lyrical stylings of that era, especially with songs like “Blood Pollution.” When Steel Dragon’s Izzy Cole stands under the hot area lights with his long-ass hair and leather pants, we see a little bit of the 80s screaming out his lungs.
PINNACLE LYRICS: “Stole some whiskey, stole some wine, I stole my best friend’s girl for a line.” – Blood Pollution
7. The Dreamettes as The Supremes (Dreamgirls). This sound originated on broadway and the sound of the The Dreamettes is the bastard child of Motown and a Broadway musical — and I mean “bastard” purely in the sense that the two musical genres never settled their differences and got married. The lyrics of The Dreamettes contain the same desperate search for meaningful love that The Supremes sing about with songs like “Move,” but without the authenticity of the music behind it, the the songs fall flat. It’s the lack of nostalgia that does it — the fact that you can’t hear The Dreamettes blaring from a crackly radio in your cigarette smoke-filled living room in 1964.
PINNACLE LYRICS: “Steppin’ to the bad side. Whoo. Whoo. Whoo. Gonna take a mean ride. Whoo. Whoo. Whoo.” – Steppin’ to the Bad Side
8. Eddie and the Cruisers as Bruce Springsteen (Eddie and the Cruisers). Eddie and The Cruisers combines the look of 1960s pre-punks with the feel of 1980s working class rockers; the kinds of guys who leave work and haul ass to the bar to pound a whiskey and play music. Eddie and the Cruisers are a dead-on Springsteen, with their heavy reverb, warn voice and even the weird half-tuck with the t-shirt. Eddie does what Bruce does best lyrically, that is, finding the silver lining in the shit-storm that is life, more specifically life in Jersey. Songs like “Runaround Sue” and “Boardwalk Angel” could nestle right in with Springsteen’s Born To Run.
PINNACLE LYRICS: “Dark-side is coming, now nothing is real, she’ll never know just how I’ll feel. From out of the shadow’s she walks like a dream. Make me feel crazy, make me feel so mean. Nothing’s gonna save ya from the love that’s blind. Slip through the dark-side and cross that line.” – On The Dark Side
As far as fictional bands go, there are those who can capture the sound flawlessly, and then there are some who fall flat. If you can satirize a band’s sound, while making music that gets down to the core of feeling — THAT is what separates Spinal Tap from the Weird Al. Just to be clear, I would never speak any ill words about Weird Al – the man is a musical genius.