Children's Programme Fake Band Smackdown!!!
If you were around last year, then you know that nothing . . . NOTHING . . . will ever top the June 2013 smackdown, which may be fondly remembered among future historians as the June "The Dragon" 2013 smackdown. But I'm not going to let the fact that I peaked one year ago stop me from reaching for a different level of greatness now. (Thanks for the idea, Brandon!)
To help me determine which "fake bands" make it to Round 2, pick your favourite out of each pair below and let me know in the combox.
The Archies Sixteen
I thought I'd begin with the two most famous cartoon bands of all time, one of which even had a hit that charted in the "real" world! If I had been around in the mid-1960s, when these two cartoons first came out, I would have been a little skeptical about these bands' making the transition from print media to TV. Writing and animating the stories is one thing; composing and recording original music is another. But Filmation and Hanna-Barbera clearly knew what they were doing, and I'm amazed at how high both The Archie Show and Josie and the Pussycats set the first bar for "fake" bands.
What would convince a truly talented musician to let a mascot or puppet get all the credit for his work? Music writer Rob Sheffield has mused that sometimes we need to wear a mask before we can speak the truth. More prosaically, I wonder whether they understood that their honest selves wouldn't have attracted a tenth of the audience their fuzzy personas did. The Banana Splits were the hosts and band of a variety programme especially for children, while The Electric Mayhem were the house band of The Muppet Show, which wasn't quite for kids. The former were inspired by British bands and Motown, while the latter were inspired by counter-cultural music like the score of Broadway's Hair. Which group would you like to hear more of as we proceed with this smackdown?
Given how much fun children have with anthropomorphic animals, I'm a little surprised that there aren't more of them forming bands in children's programmes. The Beagles, supposedly inspired by The Beatles, don't sound like the Fab Four at all--and despite some decent songs, their cartoon was short-lived. In contrast, The Chipmunks were supposed to produce a one-off novelty album and fade away . . . only to hang around past their creator's lifetime! But which of them deserves to hang out longer in our smackdown? (Note: I couldn't find just the theme song for The Beagles on YouTube, but I did stumble into some good quality audio recordings.)
Which one of us didn't spend a few hours of childhood pretending to be a pop star? Every fantasy is unique, of course, but I think it's safe to say that if Kidd Video and Kids Incorporated were two extremes on a spectrum, you'd know exactly where to plot your own playtime. The New Wave garage band Kidd Video get sucked into an animated world where they must defeat an evil music executive's plans to ruin pop music for everyone else. But is this more or less realistic than the Kids Incorporated members reopening a venue which once hosted Elvis and Frank Sinatra, and running it as a successful business with themselves as the headliners?
Characters in children's shows are usually children or animals, with teenagers pushing the envelope a bit--but it's rare to find a cast almost entirely made up of adults. We have two here who take "fake" bands and their backstage drama to heights that younger characters never could. I'm cheating a little with Barbie and the Rockers because they didn't have a TV show of their own, just a couple of direct-to-video movies. But they were developed precisely to compete with Jem and the Holograms, whose TV success was translating into major doll sales. We know whose company eventually dominated in the doll market, but which band would you rather see get ahead in this smackdown?
Let's throw in two bands from teen programmes, just because we legally count teenagers as children. (Besides, I can't be the only one who watched both California Dreams and Degrassi Junior High before she was a teenager herself.) The "Dreamers" entered music history halfway between The Mamas And The Papas and Katy Perry, which makes them the essential missing link . . . but it's hard to remember them when they played their last gig in high school. (LOL!) We could say the same for The Zits (originally Zit Remedy), who could earn a spot in Canada's Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame (I'm 100% positive there is one . . .) for writing the anthem of their entire class's high school years--their entire class being all Canadian teens in the 1980s. Which band sounds like it could have been on the soundtrack of your teenage years?
Of course I would throw in a boy band! =P How do these guys manage to seem more artificial than the puppets? LOL! The members of 2Ge+ther were meant to be a send up of 90s boybands--and like 90s boybands, they all had to stay in character whenever they performed. As much as Big Time Rush also seem like a parody, they are a real boyband. It's only confusing inasmuch as all boybands are "fake" to some degree. The point is that they don't exist just to drive the show; the show also exists to drive their record sales. Which engineered pop concept are you swooning over?
Let's close the Archie Sixteen with two "fake" bands that produced "real" music stars. The actors hired to play The Monkees, envisioned in the writing as a Beatles-esque but unsuccessful band, got serious so about the music on the show that they released actual singles which ended up outselling The Beatles! A few years later, David Cassidy would chafe at his role as The Partridge Family's squeaky-clean lead vocalist and would be one of the first teen stars "to go wild" in the name of musical emancipation. And he did enjoy success as a solo artist in the 1970s . . . although the catchy Partridge songs cast a longer shadow than anything he ever did on his own.
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