If you’re anything like me, then you love people on TV more than most people you know. In a similar vein, songs from fictional bands that only exist on-screen are all the sweeter to me. Ever since Zack Attack graced Saved By The Bell, I’ve always had a fondness for bands that exist only or partially in the land of make-believe.
Below, enjoy a selection of the hottest hits by such bands. Also, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, I will always be Zack Attack’s number one fan, and I hope that means something to you.
The Wonders – “That Thing You Do!”
The ’90s were just full of misplaced nostalgia, weren’t they? That Thing You Do! was a movie about the fictitious one-hit Wonders (GET IT?!!), and the hit that escalates them to fame, “That Thing You Do.” (I’d call it titular, but I only use that word to refer to things shaped like titties.)
Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger wrote the song, and Mike Viola sings it (and all of the other songs in the movie). He’s also the dude who wrote all the songs in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and a whole bunch of songs in Get Him to The Greek as performed by Russell Brand as Infant Sorrow frontman Aldous Snow. The song got as high as #18 on the Adult Top 40 chart and has remained in several people’s heads to this day.
David Cassidy – “I Think I Love You”
Picture it: November, 1970. The Cleveland Cavaliers had just won their first game as an NBA franchise, Russia had just landed a self-propelled rover on the moon, and this man was about to be the hottest piece of ass in the country:
David motherfucking Cassidy, of TV’s The Partridge Family, which debuted the same month to coincide with the release of “I Think I Love You.” Written by Tony Romeo, this song is his best-known hit (dude also wrote “Indian Lake” by the Cowsills).
Besides David Cassidy and Shirley Jones (the mom on The Partridge Family and David Cassidy’s real-life step-mom! I didn’t even know that!), The Partridge Family was actually a group of well-seasoned session musicians and singers. I’m telling you, this song actually doesn’t suck at all if you don’t think of it as being performed by The Partridge Family.
The Heights – “How Do You Talk to An Angel?”
Another November #1, but this time in 1992. Bill Clinton had just won the motherfucking presidency, Howard Stern’s radio show had just begun in Nevada, and a little song called “How Do You Talk to An Angel?” knocked Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” (aka the most successful Motown song of all time) out of the number one spot it had held for a record thirteen weeks.
Alas, as impressive as this was, the show The Heights, which focused on the Jamie Walters-fronted band called (duh) The Heights, was canceled a week after the song fell from the top of the charts. Another fun fact: it was replaced at number one by “I Will Always Love You,” which went on to beat Boyz II Men’s record by spending fourteen weeks at number one. Cute-in-a-’90s-way lead singer Jamie Walters went on to be immortalized on Beverly Hills 90210 as Ray Pruitt, Donna Martin’s bad-boy rocker boyfriend who occasionally beat her, and the rest is immaculate ’90s TV history.
The Archies – “Sugar, Sugar”
The 1969 year-end Billboard Hot 100 is a beautiful thing to behold. The Stones’ “Honky-Tonk Women” at #4, The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next to You” at #3, Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People” at #5. And at number one, besting them all, the Archies — Archie, Reggie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead — with “Sugar, Sugar,” the number one selling record of 1969. Let that shit sink in for a minute! 1969! Six million copies! Freaking Archie from the comics!
On lead vocals, we have singer/songwriter/producer/session singer Ron Dante, whose Wikipedia page could put some astronauts to shame. This guy was The Lonely Island of the ’60s and ’70s, recording parody hits and the like while also performing roughly every imaginable task associated with the production of music. Later, he ends up producing Barry Manilow and singing backup on “Mandy.”
This fool also sang the supposedly Veronica/Betty-sung Archies song “Jingle Jangle,” which racked up a cool million in sales despite the fact that they gave it away on the back of freaking cereal boxes. What’s that, you say? How in the world? Yes, an actual record that you cut out of your cereal box and played on your goddamn record player. For real.
The Monkees – “Daydream Believer”
The Monkees also gave their shit away on cereal boxes! Don Kirschner, the same guy who put The Archies together a few years later, was the mastermind behind The Monkees, the most successful and well-known fake band of all time. Don’t think The Monkees are some serious shit? Think again: they’ve sold sixty-five million records, and in 1967, they outsold both the Stones and the Beatles. Peter Tork has slept with every First Lady since Pat Nixon.
What’s even more exceptional about the Monkees is that they actually morphed into a real live band after wrestling control away from Kirschner in a freaky life-imitating-art-imitating-life loop. Yeah, there were plenty of haters who called them out for being manufactured, using session musicians in their early recordings (which lots of bands did at the time without scrutiny), not paying their dues, and coasting on their knocked-off Beatles charm, but plenty of completely not-fake bands are much worse than The Monkees, both then and now.
The Monkees used to kick it with the Beatles socially, and when Mike Nesmith got down to brass tacks with John Lennon and asked John straight up if he thought the Monkees were bullshit, John Lennon told him that he never missed a show and that the Monkees were the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers. So suck on that. Plus, don’t tell me you don’t love “Daydream Believer.” Davy freaking Jones, man.