The Monkees were NBC’s biggest posers besides so-called “cop killer” turned pig, Ice T. But they were far from the only bullshit artists to slither from the entertainment crypt to the recording crib. Here are 10 more bands that also started their careers as complete works of fiction.
What started as a top-secret experiment to see if humans and frogs could create a viable interspecies life form turned into a Grammy-winning prog rock band. As polliwogs, the four specimens displayed a great deal of rhythmic acumen—likely due to their bulbous throats and frog DNA–and were encouraged to make music to keep them docile. The band released “Opiate,” “Undertow,” and “Ænima” under the direction of government scientists, but the band escaped after eating everyone in the lab sometime in November of 1998.
Initially, the idea of three speech therapists getting together to rap after work was a perfect pitch for a family-friendly Friday night sitcom, but it turned out that the weirdos cast in the show could organically finish each other’s sentences. Unsurprisingly, the television show was scrapped after five episodes due to the rampant antisemitism of America in the 80s, but Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons knew they could turn these young men into their personal rap puppets. Eventually, Madonna set MCA, Ad-Rock, and Mike D free creatively by showing them her supernatural third nipple and releasing them from Def Jam’s stranglehold.
The first Deftones sessions began as squad cars pulled up to a house that was filled with a bunch of ne’er-do-well pot dealers. When it was clear the cops were coming in, Chino and the fellas began playing the instruments lying around the home so poorly it repelled the drug task force. The band started playing shows in the hopes that the music would allow them to sell large quantities of brick weed in peace. Going legitimate was a surprise to even the band, but being able to play music without doing drug deals after the success of “White Pony” negatively impacted the quality of their music.
The Southport Middle School science department went to a lab equipment conference in the mid-90s to perform some pop-punk versions of songs about microscopes. At first, Weezer only performed their geeky songs about phylum and electrons to teach kids in a fun way, but they got their first taste of success in Cincinnati and never looked back. Legend has it that all the lyrics for the blue album came from a notebook Rivers Cuomo confiscated from a skinny kid in the back of the class when he was drawing instead of watching his teachers shred riffs about the water cycle.
Long before The Clash was combat rocking, they were rocking the fall 1975 line of combat boots for Silvermans Mile End Military Surplus Store. The group met at the photo shoot for the store’s catalog and only ever picked up instruments on the photographer’s insistence that they take a silly one. Once Joe Strummer started reading the store’s progressive anti-government catalog copy, this group of footwear models became a band.
In the beginning, the assignment was easy: be the band playing in the middle of a haunted house. The group of drug-addled vagrants that came to be known as White Zombie covered themselves in blacklight paint and got to work noodling Satanic versions of 50s seasonal classics for horny teenagers. What no one accounted for was that the band just fucking lived in that haunted house and kept playing louder and greasier even though Halloween was over and there was already six inches of snow on the ground.
The Grateful Dead
Before they were your step-uncle’s personality, this bunch of narcs were CIA field operatives looking for a covert way to infiltrate groovy San Francisco. Once inside, they used the band to complete government psyops and experiments until they got a little lost in their undercover personalities. To this day, former agent Jerry Garcia is the only band member to return to his former post and rejoin civilian life. The rest of the band marches on despite being led by some sort of middle-aged deviant sexual shaman.
Getting these bad motherfuckers all into one room at the same time was a dumb fucking idea because Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, and Will Champion were tough sonsabitches that cut down men just for looking at them wrong. These street toughs were initially posing as a sad college indie rock band to get a gig inside a hotel they were going to rob. They successfully cracked the safe and walked away with enough loot to never have to work the streets again, so they decided to lay low and do the only thing that brought them any measure of joy: playing mediocre pop rock for people that could afford an iPod.
My Chemical Romance
Let’s get it straight: this band still doesn’t actually exist. Turns out the band is actually just a sentient mist created during a psychology experiment that’s haphazardly floated over New Jersey enough times to write a few songs about the cursed hellscape it is forced to forever drift above but never touch.
Radiohead began as a support group for young men chronically addicted to huffing air duster. Unable to do everyday tasks without the comfort of a hit of keyboard cleaner, their therapist suggested that each member play an instrument every time they thought of getting high. They started playing but never stopped hitting the canned air which is exactly why their music sounds like that.