The Real Musicians Behind Film and TV’s Fake Bands


No matter how much we love them, there comes a time when we must face up to the sad reality of film and TV’s fictional bands: They don’t write their own songs. It just isn’t possible. They aren’t real. Solace, however, can be found in the surprising little-known facts that accompany these fake jams. Many of them, for instance, were written and recorded by actual bands long before they became hits for your favorite faux ensembles, while others were simply ghostwritten by artists you probably know. Meet the real musicians behind film and TV’s fake bands after the jump.

“Forever” – Jesse and the Rippers/The Beach Boys (Full House, 1992)

For those of us who couldn’t see Jesse and the Rippers at the Smash Club, our favorite Full House uncle released a video of himself doing the usual Jesse Katsopolis things – y’know, playing footsie with babies, pondering his shirtless thoughts, rocking out in candle-lit churches. Somewhere between staring into a mirror and staring into our souls (at the 0:57 mark), Jesse is shown harmonizing with three men: Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, and Mike Love. These aren’t just any ol’ Rippers, they’re Beach Boys. In fact, the Beach Boys wrote “Forever” for their album Sunflower in 1970, long before the song made sitcom wedding history as an Uncle Jesse “original” in 1991. How rude? Cut. It. Out? You’re in big trouble, mister? Whatever Full House catchphrase you choose to convey your disappointment, this music video confirms that John Stamos has rarely left bed since the early ‘90s, and we’re okay with that.

“Fever Dog” – Stillwater/Nancy Wilson (Almost Famous, 2000)

Once upon a time, there lived a sisterly pair known as Ann and Nancy Wilson. They loved rock ‘n’ roll and personifying non-human species through indecipherable metaphors. Together, they formed Heart. The result? “Barracuda,” of course. Oh, and one more song of the sort: “Fever Dog.” That’s right, Nancy Wilson, rather than our beloved fictional Russell Hammond, penned the Almost Famous hit for Cameron Crowe. Does this mean she’s the real “golden god”? Is Heart the new Stillwater? Pass it on?

“Love is All Around” – Billy Mack/The Troggs (Love Actually, 2003)

In this Love Actually music video, a naughty Bill Nighy plays Billy Mack, a washed-up “pop star” who successfully rerecords his one-hit-wonder as a holiday gimmick. We’re led to believe that the song “Love is All Around” has been a Billy Mack sensation for decades. The hit did indeed reach #5 on the UK Singles Chart back in 1967, but the success belonged to the Troggs, an English rock band perhaps better known for “Wild Thing.” As much as Billy Mack may have felt it in his fingers and/or toes, the Troggs were the ones who made everything (pause) groovy.

“Sugarhigh” – Gina/Coyote Shivers (Empire Records, 1995)

Long before Renée Zellweger traded her flailing arms for Chicago‘s jazz hands, there was Empire Records. Before Empire Records, there was a rocker named Coyote Shivers with a fairly dirty song called “Sugarhigh.” Shivers, who had a small role in the film, performed a cleaned-up version of the tune alongside Renée Zellweger’s character, Gina, toward the end of the movie. He would also later be declared a vexatious litigant in the state of California amid a heated divorce and a restraining order from his ex-wife, but we mustn’t dwell. Not on Rex Manning Day.

“That Thing You Do” – The Wonders/Adam Schlesinger (That Thing You Do!, 1996)

Whether you know them as The Oneders, the O’Needers, or The Wonders, these Beatles counterparts took the fictional and real-life charts by storm, snagging #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1996. Not bad for a film band, eh? If you found yourself hopping and jiving to “That Thing You Do,” then you probably loved yourself some “Stacy’s Mom” in 2003. Adam Schlesinger, the bassist of Fountains of Wayne, wrote both hits. Here’s his version.

“We All Die Young” – Steel Dragon/Steelheart (Rock Star, 2001)

Rock Star, the film where Jennifer Aniston awkwardly ices Mark Wahlberg’s nipples, is 105 minutes of Mark Wahlberg’s never-before-seen lip-sync stylings. As the singer in a Steel Dragon cover band, Wahlberg’s character, Chris Cole, is chosen to replace the fired frontman of the “real” (but still fictional) Steel Dragon. The band’s real-life equivalent, Steelheart, provides their 1996 song “We All Die Young” as the film’s best-known fake jam. The lead singer of Steelheart, who must be pretty bummed that the fictional version of his band did better than the real one, provides Wahlberg’s singing voice. Should have stuck to the Funky Bunch, Marky Mark.

“Degenerated” – The Lone Rangers/Reagan Youth (Airheads, 1994)

“Degenerated,” the token fictional Lone Rangers song in Airheads, sounds like something stars Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, and Brendan Fraser might write if told to come up with a heavy metal song. Alas, the trio was not behind the lyrics, “Degenerated! And your thoughts are constipated!” The song debuted on Reagan Youth’s 1984 debut album, ten years before it appeared in the 1994 film. The Rangers’ taste for naked pictures of Bea Arthur, however, was 100% original.

“Do The Hippogriff” – The Weird Sisters/Jarvis Cocker (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2005)

Two members of Pulp and two members of Radiohead walk into a Yule Ball. What do you get? The Weird Sisters, in fact. Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker was approached to perform as lead singer, assemble a magical band, and write three songs for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, thus proving that Hogwarts is the Madison Square Garden of the wizarding world.

“God Gave Rock and Roll to You” – Wyld Stallyns/Kiss/Argent (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, 1991)

There’s no hiding that Kiss is the musical force behind Bill and Ted’s performance of “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” as Wyld Stallyns. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter barely touch their instruments while Gene Simmons’ and Paul Stanley’s voices are prominent. Kiss, however, wasn’t the first band to give us rock and roll. The song was originally a 1973 single from Argent, an English rock band whose rendition is a fair bit tamer than the one heard in the finale of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. You can’t blame Argent for feeling mellow; they likely defeated their evil robot clones long before taking the stage.