Four Epic Songs From Four Memorable Bands.

(Who Never Existed)

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There’s nothing quite like a great song to put you “in the zone.”

A recording that transports you to that special place:

Right smack-dab at the endorphin-packed intersection of Happy and Content.

In fact, I was just about to start a long, huge, fully annotated list of such tuneage. But then I remembered that our new cloud-server storage provider charges by the word. So I’d better refrain for now.

“I also accept cigarette gift cards.
We’ll work something out.”

Great. I’m officially a nicotine enabler.

But as I was saying, you all know the feeling: the music grabs you. And soon, it’s not enough to just play a recording, or watch a video. You start planning the next move: to take your post-pandemic, live-show-lovin’ self to see the artist in person.

But sometimes, that’s impossible.

Because the band doesn’t exist.

Oh, for sure, some of these pretenders eventually did make it to the stage.

Perhaps the most famous example is The Monkees.

The Prefab Four started out as a contrived, made-for-TV ensemble, created solely to ride the crest of the incredibly real phenomenon of Beatlemania. But something rather unexpected happened: they eventually crossed over from a silly television fantasy to an actual performing entity.

The brain-trust that had created and produced the band had their own particular vision.

But slowly, the members moved away from using tried and true songwriters like Boyce & Hart, Neil Diamond, and Carole King. And as the “band” became a band, they created considerably better songcraft that people might have expected.

This metamorphosis included changing from using studio musicians like The Wrecking Crew, in favor of actually playing their own instruments in the studio. And in concert.

But enough about fantasy turning into reality. Let’s get with the phony.

From the obscure to the obvious, to the “please make it stop,” here are four random examples:


Drive Shaft:
You All Everybody

Lost was one of the great, mysterious, dramatic, and sometimes just plain creepy TV series of the 2000s. It ran for six seasons. In addition to providing a lot of viewers with a permanent go-to set of lottery numbers, the show had a wide variety of interesting characters.

One of the passengers from the ill-fated Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 was an adorable, heart-of-gold Aussie guy named Charlie Pace.

Before the character became best known for this famous line, he was a bass player and the main songwriter for a rock band called Drive Shaft. Charlie performed in the group with – wait for it – his brother Liam. They had – wait for it again – their squabbles and conflicts

But like every band with a brother named Liam, they periodically put their differences aside and made a hit record. And in Drive Shaft’s case, their only hit record. But it was a banger. Watch Charlie as he tries to subtly remind his fellow maroonees that he had a “biggie.”

You might have your own list of heartbreaking moments from Lost. But I’ll never get over the flashback that explained how the eventually broke and washed-up Drive Shaft had to license the song, and – OK, one last ‘wait for it’ – perform it in a diaper commercial. Sorry, Charlie. I’ll forever blame Liam.

But “You All Everybody” was not the first island-based, made-up-band hit. Our crackerjack research reveals: that honor goes to…


The Mosquitoes:
“Don’t Bug Me – He’s A Loser”

Any Boomer will tell you: Thanks to having just five TV channels as a kid, reruns were actually re-re-re-re-re-re-re-runs. And because of this, a simple throw-away episode of a 60’s sitcom can have a moment or two that is destined to be seared into your hippocampus for the rest of your mortal days.

Case in point: Bingo, Bango, Bongo and Irving: The Mosquitoes. The storyline was that they were purposely seeking a place to escape their manic and adoring fans, and ended up (for an episode) on the eponymously named Gilligan’s Island.

MaryAnn, Ginger, and that little minx Mrs. Howell cooked up a scheme to perform a song (as “The Honeybees”) for the guys, hoping that they would consider them as a promising opening act when they return home – thus finally rescuing the seven castaways. And you absolutely will never guess in million years how it all turned out.

And by the way, if you’re reading along and wondering if I’m gonna link this, well, I mean, come on:

Of course I am.

The Mosquitoes were played by a real trio called The Wellingtons, who sang both the opening and closing theme songs that were used for first season of the show. The were joined by Les Brown Jr., the son of band leader, Les Brown Sr., as they needed a fourth person to play Irving.

It was all a mediocre product of its time. The blatant shoehorning-in of “a rock group for the kids” was, for lack of a better word, cartoonish.

Hol’up – did your humble “Prince Of The Snappy Segues” just invoke Saturday morning cartoons? You bet your Bubble-Yum I did.

OK, kids. Don’t sit too close to the TV, and put your hands together for:


The Archies:
Sugar Sugar

“Sugar Sugar” has been called a joke, trite triffle, and by many, a general affront to quality pop music.

There’s just one little problem with all of that: It’s actually a great record.

“Great record?” you say in disbelief? Look, I know: it’s three chords performed by animation cels multiplexed at 16fps. With borderline preschooler lyrics.

Which just might be part of the charm.

The Archies were a “group” that provided the music for a Saturday morning program called Archie, based on the comic book series of the same name. You couldn’t get more wholesome.

The record was huge, reaching the top in 22 countries – and was the Billboard Number One single for the entire year of 1969. It featured a better-than-average pedigree than many songs of the era: Andy Kim (“Rock Me Gently”) and Ron Dante (producer of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy”) co-wrote the song. It was performed by top studio musicians including Gary Chester on drums, and Sal DiTroia on guitar.

And a musical hill I’ll die on: the record has production hooks that are stunningly good.

Backing vocals were provided by industry veterans Toni Wine and Ellie Greenwich. And, (we assume fully clothed:) Ray Stevens provided handclaps.

The Archies obviously couldn’t tour, so when the song hit number one, it had to somehow be featured on music programs like Top Of The Pops in the UK, or American Bandstand. Workarounds for the lack of a live performance had to be concocted. These usually featured dancers interspersed with the Archie “music video.”

But Ron Dante – good on him – has managed to move the needle a bit closer to an actual Archies live performance.

As an honorary member of The Turtles, he tours with other 60’s and 70s bands in the nostalgic “Happy Together” Tour.

And when he performs “Sugar, Sugar,” the delighted fans know every word.

Somewhere, Jughead is eating a hoagie and smiling.

And as you might have guessed, we’ll wrap it up with perhaps the greatest Fab Faux that ever graced a fictitious State Fair stage:


The Wonders:
That Thing You Do!”

Of the 200 things to love about Tom Hanks’ love letter to the early 1960s music scene, one of my favorites is the fake authenticity.

From the accuracy of the period’s instruments, to the explanation of how small town, post-British Invasion bands would stumble their way to success:

Everything is believable.

The song styles. The dialog.

Even the fake band names from That Thing You Do! sound like they actually existed.

Film critic Roger Ebert liked the movie well enough, and noted:

“They have one song, written by their lead vocalist, Jimmy.”

“It’s called “That Thing You Do!,” and it’s a good thing it’s a good song, because boy, are we familiar with it by the time the movie is over.”

Fair enough, Roger. But the way that the song evolved, from a sleepy ballad, to an amateur record made inside a church, and finally, to the polished pop gem that was a fictional hit: that’s the real story.

Real or made-up: you can’t keep a good band down.

No oneder wonder that, at least in the fictional universe of the film, it made it to Number 7.

Some fake bands are a novelty. Something to have a chuckle over, as they play their fake songs.

But this one is different.

The appeal of the Adam Schlesinger-penned song is undeniable.

Even thought the Wonders never existed, each time I hear “That Thing You Do!”, it feels like a real band from a bygone era. And that’s almost as good.

So to close, with a nod to Roger Ebert, we’ll pick one of the dozen or so versions from the movie. This one is a favorite; it shows what can happen in pop music when there’s a “happy accident.”

I hope that you enjoyed this small sampler of fictitious bands. And I assure you that I’m an expert, and can easily spot an imaginary band from the real thing. I’d love to tell you about a few more…

But I have go:

I just heard on the radio that the 50th Anniversary Tour of The Playtone Galaxy Of Stars is coming to town!

And take a guess who’s headlining!

Anyone wanna come along?

20

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mt58

Your grateful host. Good on you all.

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Phylum of Alexandria
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July 7, 2023 8:35 am
  1. I stand by Lester Bangs assessment of “Sugar Sugar.” And apparently so does Tom B.
  2. Notice how eager Dominic Monaghan is to show off his ring. 🤔
  3. Let’s not forget Zach Attack! Take it away, Casey:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWyUKSYnOIQ

Phylum of Alexandria
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July 7, 2023 8:38 am

Oh, wait, you said “epic” songs from “memorable” bands.

Never mind. Carry on.

Pauly Steyreen
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July 7, 2023 10:17 am

When I read the opening lines of this column, I thought we were going to be talking about Milli Vanilli or Boney M. Or maybe the fake band in the music video for Blues Traveler’s “Run-Around.” But I got on the right wavelength soon enough…

I watched a lot of Gilligan’s Island in syndication from ages 6 to 10, so I remember the Mosquitos episode. It’s amazing how many people found our seven stranded castaways, successfully left the island, then subsequently got amnesia. Heck, maybe Gilligan is giving Lost a run for its money!

I’d put the School of Rock kids into the mix for great fictional bands. They have gotten back together and put together a few one-off shows throughout the years. But I don’t think they were really a band in the sense we would understand it.

Whaddya say gang… should we create our own TNOCS fake band? Certainly we have several musically inclined individuals among us (not me). Could be a fun enterprise!

rollerboogie
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July 7, 2023 11:10 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I would totally be down for that. Could add piano and vocals, and maybe some clarinet.

cappiethedog
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July 7, 2023 10:43 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Clarinet, a memory trigger! The garage band in Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse. The brother of the protagonist plays the clarinet. Solondz must’ve been aware of Morphine.

“Hey, that didn’t sound too much like ‘Satisfaction’.”

There is also a great fake band in Lukas Moodyson’s We Are the Best. It’s about three tweens in Sweden who form a punk rock band. At the rec center, the girls get no respect from a metal outfit called Iron Fist, or the rec center director, whom the girls have to fight to get an equal amount of rehearsal time as the boys. And it just dawned on me right now, but neither does the drummer’s father. He jokingly crashes their band meetings by auditioning as the clarinetist. Clearly, he loves his daughter. And yet, he doesn’t take her new obsession seriously.

The film has such a big heart. I’m close to tearing up thinking about it.

rollerboogie
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July 9, 2023 10:03 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Have not seen either of these films, but I need to add them to my list. We Are the Best reminds me just a tiny bit of Metalhead, an excellent Icelandic movie about a girl who starts a black metal band to honor her deceased metal-head brother.

Lucy
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July 12, 2023 9:51 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

ahaha I was obsessed with that movie (Welcome to the Dollhouse). The Quadratics!

Phylum of Alexandria
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July 7, 2023 12:32 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I can add bad vocals and/or shitty beats from Ableton…

Pauly Steyreen
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July 8, 2023 1:35 pm

Phylum, your songwriting abilities are known far and wide… maybe in addition to your bad vocals and/or shitty beats, you could be our Carole King.

Phylum of Alexandria
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July 8, 2023 5:23 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Glad to hear that someone appreciates a real fistness of words…

Ozmoe
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July 8, 2023 1:29 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I claim the triangle and/or kazoo as needed. Also, I could do any mid-song dramatic monologue like what Elvis did in “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” as needed.

rollerboogie
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July 9, 2023 10:04 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

Or see Mork’s monologue in the song I posted earlier, as another possibility.

rollerboogie
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July 7, 2023 10:18 am

This is fantastic. I have thoughts, lots of them.
First, The Wonders- “That Thing You Do” is one of my top 5 music movies without having to think about it. And might I add another name for consideration that adds another layer of fiction-the fictitious band name of The Wonders when they were performing in the fictitious beach blanket movie- Captain Geech and The Shrimp Shack Shooters.
And Roger Ebert is wrong. The Wonders did not have only one song. There was also, “All My Only Dreams” the B-side to “That Thing You Do”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZK0TGmx5HQ

rollerboogie
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July 7, 2023 10:23 am

I always loved this song from an episode of Mork and Mindy where Mork sang with a fictitious band that included a guy playing a “flamingo guitar”. Mork does a spoken word part in the middle, in his native language. Don’t recall the name of the band.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSYSqw0z2lk

JJ Live At Leeds
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July 7, 2023 12:14 pm

First thought was The Wonders and you didnt let me down.

One of those weird aspects of being a keen observer of the cultural landscape from afar; Gilligans Island. Heard so much about it but never seen a single minute of it. Don’t know if it was even shown here. With only four channels (and we only got the 4th in 1982) we had re re re re runs a plenty. The Monkees were a school holiday staple in the 80s, every morning, roll out of bed knowing schools out and eat breakfast as the prefabricated four announce ‘Here they come…..’ Then there was the Banana Splits for more fake band shenanigans.

A few of my favourites;

– The Soggy Bottom Boys from O Brother Where Art Thou
– The Rutles
– Sex Bob-omb from Scott Pilgrim Vs The World – “We are Sex Bob-Omb and we are here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff”

https://youtu.be/bmQVm18Q_Io

Pauly Steyreen
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July 8, 2023 1:45 pm

Was that the queercore band where Scott was the non-queer band member?

JJ Live At Leeds
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July 8, 2023 2:37 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

If my memory is right they’re two thirds straight. Drummer Kim was Scott’s first girlfriend and there’s underlying tension at his moving onto Knives Chau and then Ramona.

Zeusaphone
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July 7, 2023 1:09 pm

There are many great fake bands in film history. The Fabulous Stains, Ellen Aim and the Attackers, The Carrie Nations, Eddie & the Cruisers, etc. My favorite, though, is Max Frost & the Troopers from Wild In The Streets

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEqWCH_4srU

rollerboogie
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July 7, 2023 5:12 pm

Then there is the Finnish band BINKY from the Arthur episode “Binky Rules”, that went #1 in the U.S. in just 2 hours. They were not only not a real band, but they weren’t even real on the show. They were holograms. Their “hit” song which plays throughout the episode is based on a real song by Värttinä, the band that sings in the episode.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rETGBI7wTQY

LinkCrawford
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July 7, 2023 10:27 pm

Maybe I missed it, but does Spinal Tap count? (I’m almost ashamed to say that I’ve never seen it).

cappiethedog
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July 8, 2023 1:14 am
Reply to  LinkCrawford

Despite being contemporaneous to the eighties, I have not seen any of the Back to the Future movies. Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance. Technically, This is Spinal Tap is a cult film.

I can’t believe I have a reason to share this boring story.

In 2004, I took a two-day screenwriting course. Richard Krevolin was the instructor. He teaches at USC. I tagged along with my friend’s dad. He went to the Maui Writers Conference. Krevolin liked his script. Alas, nothing became of it, like most speculative scripts. Krevolin cited Stand by Me as a great example of adapting a novel to film. He also cited Stand by Me as Rob Reiner’s first film.

So there is the possibility that a professor at USC’s film program never saw This is Spinal Tap.

Pauly Steyreen
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July 8, 2023 1:42 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

Spinal Tap definitely counts. And you should remedy that absence in your life without delay, Link!

I’d nominate “Stonehenge” or “Big Bottom” or “Cups and Cakes” … all legit bangers!

And while we’re talking about mockumentary bands featuring Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean, I could come up with several strong contenders from A Mighty Wind.

https://youtu.be/_JhLuVu-Cho

Last edited 1 year ago by Pauly Steyreen
thegue
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July 10, 2023 10:43 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

But does Spinal Tap count? Or do they fall into the Monkees category because they’ve released two albums AFTER the mockumentary they made…and the first “Break Like the Wind” isn’t bad!!

A few thoughts:

  1. “Randy Scouse Git” is my favorite Monkees song. Don’t @ me.
  2. Does the duet in the movie Once count? I really loved that movie, and it won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
  3. It was always going to be “That Thing You Do”, wasn’t it? Such a great film!

All great choices mt, and now my brain is spinning!!

Ozmoe
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July 8, 2023 1:32 pm

Hey guys, what’s going on with this thread? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJYSu2OVCGM

DanceFever
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July 9, 2023 12:31 am

Great topic, mt58.
Now prepare to go deep into the rabbit hole.
My first thought after reading this article was “Hey, What about the Banana Splits”?
For those of you fortunate enough NOT to be in high school in the ’60’s, “The Banana Splits” was a Saturday morning variety show that ran thirty six shows from Sept. ’68 until Sept. “70.
It was meant to be a spin off the Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In and consisted of several animated segments with a live action segment tied together with the fictional band, “The Banana Splits”.
The super successful team of Hanna and Barberra that ruled TV animation in
the “60”s approached Sid and Marty Kroft about doing a Saturday A.M. show
that would be a precursor of their memorable “H.R. Pufnstuf” that ran in the early “70’s.
The members of the band (played by puppets, shades of “Sesame Street”)
were Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky.
Their theme song, the “Tra La La Song” hit #96 on the Billboard Hot 100 and
the show was directed by Richard Donner (yes, that one)
The live segment was called “Danger Island” and featured a young Jon Michael-Vincent and his catch phrase (I use it to this day and my kids just look at me and shake their heads) was whenever there was a screwup, he would shout “Uh-Ooh, Chango!”
Contributors for the music played on the show were such regular members of the BB Top Forty as Al Kooper, Barry White and Gene Pitney.
Ahh, the memories!

thegue
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July 10, 2023 10:44 am
Reply to  DanceFever

I feel like after we’ve done the “Song of the 2000s” matchups, and “Worst song of the 90s”, there needs to be a tournament of best songs by imaginary bands.

Now…who wants the assignment?

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July 10, 2023 3:39 pm
Reply to  DanceFever

‘Theme from The Banana Splits‘ has a definitive place in my ‘Definitive Summer’ playlist.

Eric-J
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July 9, 2023 11:31 am

I have to shout out all of the songs in Fear of a Black Hat by NWH and associates. But the one I’ll link is Come Pet the P.U.S.S.Y, because a friend from college (with whom I still play D&D) is one of the backup dancers.

https://youtu.be/qLjfCKZ-M2s

cappiethedog
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July 9, 2023 2:53 pm
Reply to  Eric-J

This is great. It sounds like a C&C Music Factory/2 Live Crew mashup. In 1993, I suspect, the music video played as comedy, because nobody suspected 2 Live Crew’s explicit lyrics would become a rap industry norm. 2 Live Crew sounded so over the top, without putting it into words what I was hearing, I probably registered Luther Campbell’s style as a new strain of camp that nobody thought to explore before.

Rick Ross reinvents MC Hammer as a gangsta rapper on “MC Hammer”. Same principal can be applied here. If you used the same lyrics with a contemporary sound, nobody would bat an eye.

I want to watch “Fear of a Black Hat” again. I suspect that it’ll play more like speculative fiction than satire.

stobgopper
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July 10, 2023 3:54 pm

I would also like to nominate these guys (whose group name I can’t remember):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSwO-k-RqNA

blu_cheez
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July 10, 2023 4:19 pm

Some more fake band gems:

o Fire Inc – Tonight Is What It Feels Like To Be Young (Streets Of Fire):
https://youtu.be/6eln48BCELk

o The Barbusters – Light Of Day (Light Of Day):
https://youtu.be/N5TEI7hizN4

o Daisy Jones & The Six – Aurora (Daisy Jones & The Six):
https://youtu.be/YRXo0esIxYg

o Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem – Can You Picture That? (Muppet Movie):
https://youtu.be/Yu3KJEKC7ew

Phylum of Alexandria
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July 10, 2023 5:22 pm
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Last edited 1 year ago by Phylum of Alexandria
Lucy
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July 12, 2023 9:52 am

You are all forgetting the most epic fake band. This song didn’t have to go so hard, but it did.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ized1XMRp_I

Lucy
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July 12, 2023 10:09 am

Also, I just had a thought – is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band a fake band? It’s like…a concept album about a fake band by a REAL band…

Another weird path my mind just went down – I’m really into Star Wars and soundtracks, but one of my favorite little sub-genres of that is the diagetic music IN Star Wars. There are actually quite a few ‘bands’ within Star Wars such as:
-Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (playing such venues as the Mos Eisley cantina)
-The Max Rebo Band (locked in a contract with Jabba the Hutt)
-Augie’s Grand Municipal Band on Naboo
-Shag Kava (as seen in Maz Kanata’s temple)
-Star Waver (not totally canon – from a Visions short – but a band headed by a runaway Jedi)
-Gaya (I had the pleasure of seeing her live on the Galactic Starcruiser and there is even an album out). I also have to give a shout out to Sandro Alimander and Ouanni, a former backup dancer of Gaya’s, who just got their big break (we even helped him write a song 😉 )
-The Ferrix Honor Guard (fuck the Empire!)
-The Agasar (one of Cal Kestis’s favorite bands as seen in the Jedi Fallen Order game – Sugaan Essena is a legit banger. They are a fake band portrayed by a real world Mongolian band (The Hu))
-There are also several other uses of diagetic music throughout Rebels, The Clone Wars and the Bad Batch (Cid’s jukebox mixes, the stuff Zeb is listening to, a track that is rather humorously named “Indian Pop Source” which is a bollywood style song playing in Hondo’s bar) although I don’t know that there are bands for any of them.
-There’s also a chanteuse performing on Dryden’s yacht (the song is called “Chicken in a Pot” rather humorously.

Okay, thanks for letting me geek out!

dutchg8r
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July 13, 2023 11:17 pm

Don’t forget the band that brought Peace to the Universe, Wyld Stallynz!

We’re Sha-Na-Na considered real or made up? I seem to recall they’d come on Saturday nights after Dance Fever, and I always thought Bowser was totally cool.

Of course, I was, like, 4.

Anyone else remember a mid 80s Saturday morning cartoon called Kidd Video? Where this band got sent to ‘The Flipside’ animated world by Master Blaster? But then they would usually show a live action music video of theirs at the end of the episode? Oh man, loved that cartoon.

https://youtu.be/L05o6Qqz-Yw

Last edited 11 months ago by dutchg8r
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