For flame game rocker Aldous Snow, it’s been a bad few weeks. First, he crafts his musical “masterpiece”, a multicultural mess called “African Child” only to see it lambasted as the worst musical idea of all time. Then his equally famous gal pal, Jackie Q, leaves him, taking their child and running off to Italy to be with her new beau - Lars Ulrich from Metallic. Then, to make matters worse, the same old cravings for booze and pills come back, leading Aldous down yet another path toward public personal destruction. Enter industry intern Aaron Green. Hungry for his big break, he convinced his bosses that the broken down star deserves a comeback - perhaps at the fabled Greek Theater where he found his first big success.
Thus is the life of the fake rock and roll star, the man or woman who turns the world on with their whipsmart smile - and their symbolic sturm and drang soundscapes. As part of the winning, witty comedy Get Him to the Greek (new on DVD an d Blu-ray from Universal), the character created by British comedy bad boy Russell Brand is beyond redemption…and belief…and funny. Oddly enough, though, he is indicative of how most amplified music makers are viewed by the medium’s manipulators. In fact, looking over the ten celluloid examples listed below, you can see that Aldous is just one of many megalomaniacal characters who’ve taken an existence in service of their muse to ridiculous heights. Apparently, if you want to be a fake rock and roll star, these are the examples you have to live up to, beginning with:
Dewey Cox in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
If there is one fictional musician who truly encompasses the entire history of early rock and roll in one dopey persona, it’s this farcical combination of various sonic stereotypes. From the earliest Elvis moves to a basic brain dead Brian Wilson, this one man of melody manages to deconstruct (and in some cases, destroy) everything about pretend popular culture from the last forty years. Of course, none of it would work without the brilliant acting job of lead John C. Reilly. He truly is a retrofitted rube for all aural seasons.
Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman in The Rocker
Nothing is worse than being in a band going nowhere - except, perhaps, being kicked out of one that eventually becomes unbridled superstars. This is what happens to our wayward drummer who, after his flaccid fall from grace, finds a second ‘crack’ at fame via YouTube and his nephew’s high school pop combo, all the while trying to teach the amiable adolescents about what life is like on the fringes of the limelight. While Rainn Wilson’s hound dog dynamic can be a bit much at times, he certainly captures the world of a washed-up musician quite well.
Dewey Finn in The School of Rock
Jack Black has always been Mick Jagger in Allan Sherman’s body. Put another way, he’s a true cockrocking God given the unlucky likability of a fat funny man. Still, he manages to transcend both types to play a frontman desperate to teach his mandated students the potential in power chords. In Richard Linklater’s love letter to the glories of playing music, we get a wonderful combination of humor and heart, the art of performing transforming a ragtag group of kids into a viable band - and at the center is the funny, fascinating Finn.
Pink in Pink Floyd The Wall
Now this is what most people think is real rock and roll. The dark brooding intensity of a celebrated superstar. Depression draining the life out of the otherwise vital personality. Drugs and debauchery used to deaden the pain. The groupies, the fans, and the memories that make the ‘job’ both rewarding and repugnant. With Roger Waters’ veiled attempt at dealing with his own unhappy childhood at the center and Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof completely lost in the sex and sedative haze, the music biz doesn’t get more menacing than this.
Nick Rivers in Top Secret
He’s got the boy from Tupelo’s swagger, the Fab Four’s fevered fan base, and a crooner’s catalog covering everything from early Beach Boys to brooding ballads. But most importantly, Val Kilmer manages to make his tentative teen idol the very epitome of a clueless accidental hero. As the unstuck in time narrative mangles elements of WWII and the Cold War together, Nick navigates all aspects of his cracked career - film shoots, impromptu performances, saving the day - with a swivel hipped hilarity that’s infectious.
Buckaroo Banzai in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
He’s the very definition of a multitasking megastar - as inventor, spy, superhero, people’s (and politician’s) champion, and mass media Mt. Everest. And then, in his spare time, he cranks out a mean concert or two. Indeed, Peter Weller forever defined his slightly askew persona with this brilliant breakdown of everything associated with comic book creativity, jumping on a bandwagon that was barely even begun. Sure, things are surreal, strange, and often plain silly, but the unique universe created here begs for a sequel - and more sunny Buckaroo tunes!
Max Frost in Wild in the Streets
He’s the Establishment’s worst nightmare - a real life revolutionary whose winning over the disenfranchised with his rock politic posing. After successfully spearheading a Constitutional Amendment lowering the voting age to 14 (“Fourteen or Fight” becomes the new radical slogan), Frost is elected President and takes the adage “don’t trust anyone over 30” to diseased, despotic extremes. As a national pariah personified, this harbinger of hedonism couldn’t been more calculated…or cold…or concerning. Oh, and his music is no great shakes, either.
The Cheap Girls/Benny in The Money Pit
When Tom Hanks’ lawyer character isn’t busy buying broken down mansions in need of Mike Holmes and some massive repairs, he’s guiding various musicians through the myriad of issues facing their hectic careers. On the one hand, there’s the underage MJ like child prodigy who loans him the money to buy the title monstrosity. On the other are a bunch of bumbling crossdressers who are convinced that changing their name to “Meryl Streep” will forever alter their commercial fortunes. Talk about a tough tightrope act to maneuver.
Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy
Wait - we said “fictional” rock and rollers, right? So why bring in the grandiose Gary Oldman’s take on the real life punk pariah and ex-Sex Pistol? Well, if you listen to best friend and bandmate John “Rotten” Lydon, everything about the Alex Cox version of his late lamented buddy is bullshit. It doesn’t make Oldman’s encapsulation of the ‘character’ any less acute. As a matter of fact, this is the Sid everyone remembers - flamboyant, flaming out, and fatalistic in his approach to life and love.
Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck
Life is hard in the big city, especially when you’re a proto New Wave diva massacring songs by Thomas Dolby and trying to hide your affections for a wisecracking intergalactic foul. But that’s exactly the unusual situation this wannabe Kim Wilde finds herself in when the title character literally drops in her lap. While dismal in its ability to capture the charm and sarcastic wit of the original comic book, Lea Thompson’s turn as Beverly - all bad ‘80s fashion aside - is charming.