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The best fictional rockers of all time

May 6, 2009 14:37 IST

The best fictional rockers of all time

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Raja Sen

Bollywood has been learning to rock. Last year we saw Farhan Akhtar and the boys as Magik, a jaded bunch of rockers coming back together to regain some lost glory, and now we hear Parmeet Sethi's making a very similar film but setting it in Punjab for Yash Raj Film.

Meanwhile, Vipul Shah's next big film features Salman Khan, Ajay Devgan and Asin, and is rumoured to be about a UK-based rock band. It remains to be seen if they sing about laundry bills as well.

We aren't quite there yet. With the exception of Anurag Kashyap's unreleased cult hit Paanch, and a couple of songs on his brilliant DevD and Gulaal soundtracks, Bollywood might be strumming but the feel hasn't quite kicked in yet.

And till we get there, let's look to the West. Here's a look at the best fictional rockers of all time.


Image: Asin and Salman Khan in a scene from London Dreams

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10. The Wonders, from That Thing You Do

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Tom Hanks directed this story of a relatively fab foursome in Pennsylvania in 1964. The Wonders rise to superstardom with the catchy That Thing You Do, but they turn out to be one of many one-hit wonders and are soon overshadowed by the music of the British Invasion.

Tom Scott, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry and Jonathan Schaech star as the Wonders, and while their sound might be rather derivative, one can't quite doubt the hummability of the title track.


Image: A poster of The Wonders

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9. Wyld Stallyns, from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

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Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves might have been a couple of air-guitaring morons, but when the air-solos they finger throughout the film are played by guitar legend Steve Vai, you realise this isn't a band to take too lightly.

Wyld Stallyns are helped along by Eddie Van Halen in the first film and in the sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Vai turns up across the soundtrack while Death himself plays bass for the on-screen finale. No wonder Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong said they wanted to "be" the Wyld Stallyns.


Image: Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves

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8. School Of Rock, from School Of Rock

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This Richard Linklater movie is ridiculously hard to resist. Jack Black plays Dewey Finn, a former rocker who ends up as a substitute teacher for the fifth-grade.

Realising his students are preternaturally talented, Black puts their classical skills to good use and turns the class into a massive band and sets out to win Battle Of The Bands.

Much enjoyable madness abounds in every direction, and Linklater's musically gifted 13-year-old's packed quite a punch, especially with Black's insane vocals.


Image: A scene from School of Rock

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7. Maxwell Demon And The Venus In Furs, from Velvet Goldmine

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No prizes for guessing, this Todd Haynes film was all about David Bowie. Jonathan Rhys Meyers played Brian Slade, an adrogynous glam rocker given to excesses in every way.

And even as Slade fronted Maxwell Demon -- a la Bowie's seminal Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars -- the film featured Ewan McGregor as Curt Wild, modelled clearly on Iggy Pop.

A groovy, unforgettable film.


Image: A poster of Velvet Goldmine

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6. Stillwater, from Almost Famous

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Director Cameron Crowe put his own memoirs through the fictional grinder for this one. Crowe had covered legends Led Zeppelin for Rolling Stone magazine when he was a teenager, and here we see his hero William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit) ride along with emerging rock band Stillwater.

Billy Crudup is the guitarist who gets all the spotlight -- and the groupies -- while Jason Lee plays the lead singer who wants more focus, and the band manage to come up with a pretty authentic sound.


Image: A scene from Almost Famous

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5. The Commitments, from The Commitments

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Alan Parker adapted Roddy Doyle's eponymous novel into this lovely film about a group of unemployed Dubliners turned into a soul band by their manager.

Robert Arkins played the ambitious manager Jimmy Rabbitte, and the Commitments included a multitalented cast of musicians, from Andrew Stong and Angeline Ball to Glen Hansard, last seen in the spectacular little Irish hit, Once.

The film became a milestone in the history of Irish music, a well-deserved honour considering just how good they sounded.


Image: A poster of The Commitments

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4. Hedwig And The Angry Inch, from Hedwig And The Angry Inch

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Director John Cameron Mitchell played the disturbed Hansel Schmidt, an effeminate man well set for a sex-change operation before it gets botched.

Rechristening himself as Hedwig, he forms the titular band -- the Inch referring to what's left of his genitalia -- with Sook-Yin Lee and a group of Korean Army wives.

It is a trippy, crossdressing cult film and the music is simply fantastic.


Image: A scene from Hedwig And The Angry Inch

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3. The Blues Brothers, from The Blues Brothers

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The most tuneful collaboration to ever come out of Saturday Night Live, everything started with a series of great sketches featuring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd at the height of their powers.

The John Landis film clubbed them together and gave them a flimsy, hilarious plot -- but the world was overwhelmed when they heard just how deliciously good the comic duo sounded together.


Image: A poster of The Blues Brothers

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2. The Rutles, from All You Need Is Cash

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Who better than one of the Monty Python gang to spoof the biggest band of all time?

Eric Idle described any resemblance to the Beatles as 'purely and satirically intentional' and proceeded to lampoon the Fab Four with love and utter, nonsensical irreverence.

Idle, John Halsey, Ricky Fataar and Neil Innes played the band, and while John Lennon was turned into Ron Nasty, Yoko Ono turns into a German experimental artist (ahem, a Nazi), 'Help!' becomes 'Ouch!' and Yellow Submarine becomes Yellow Submarine Sandwich, the music they end up creating is pretty darned good.


Image: A scene from All You Need Is Cash

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1. Spinal Tap, from This Is Spinal Tap

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Turn it up to eleven, lads.

Rob Reiner's made many a memorable film, but this mockumentary on a fading British metal band struggling to recapture lost glory while on a shabbily managed American tour, is inevitably his legacy.

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer pull out their overdone English accents as they unite several times over -- The Originals become The New Originals to The Thamesmen -- before they finally settle on Spinal Tap, and go from flower power to heavy metal.

Every scene in the mockumentary -- featuring Reiner himself as documentary-maker Marti DiBergi -- is a work of genius, from Guest talking about folding sandwiches to exploding drummers to Shearer referring to the other two bandmembers as fire and ice and himself as lukewarm water.

Brilliant authenticity is found as the band's journey lampoons several genres of music, from folksy psychedelia to art-rock to heavy metal, and the band's career mirrors bands like Pink Floyd and The Beatles, among many others.

While Iron Maiden walked out of the film's premiere because it hit too close to home, several major artists were touched and identified with the chaos. Reality bites like nothing else does, and this magnificent comedy of delusions and dreams, publicity and press agents gives us not just some immortal comic lines, but a significantly awesome rock band.

You know, the kind that becomes a legend in Japan.


Image: A scene from This Is Spinal Tap

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