The task – a list of the top five most interesting manufactured bands. Seems simple, right? After all, growing up in the late 90’s, my childhood was awash with boy-band mania. However, as I began to research what it means to be a “manufactured” band, I found myself coming across some surprising results. Break out your Monkees album and prepare to be shocked – or not.
5. Backstreet Boys – What a shocker
The Facts: The late 90’s were drowned out in a sea of perfectly choreographed dance moves performed by a talented gaggle of boys with strange hair. The Backstreet Boys formed in response to an open ad placed by Lou Perlman to form a boy band. The first member to be chosen was A.J., followed by Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, and lastly Brian Littrell.
What you didn’t know: Howie, A.J., and Nick had already formed a singing trio, and later had become a quartet, incorporating Kevin, who’d moved to Orlando to work at Disney. It was pure chance that after hundreds of singers and dancers auditioned for Perlman, the five-some consisted of four people who were already friends.
Fun Fact: 98 Degrees, another popular boy-band, was in fact formed organically and later signed to Motown Records.
4. Menudo – It’s a dog eat dog world
The Facts: Despite the fact that the term boy-band is commonly associated with groups formed post 1990, manufactured boy bands have existed for decades. Producer Edgardo Diaz formed Menudo in the 1970’s, and their first record was released in 1977. Menudo’s success, however, was not contingent upon the identity of its members. When a member turned 16, became too tall, or their voice changed, they were ejected and replaced. When the world of Reality TV took hold, MTV created a series called “Making Menudo” which was eventually cancelled due to low ratings. Over 20 years, Menudo has had 30+ members, many of whom have continued on to be involved in the music world.
What you didn’t know: In January 2011, Menudo released Enchanted Island, a compilation of never-before-heard English songs.
Fun Fact: Ricky Martin is to Menudo as Justin Timberlake is to NSYNC.
3. Spinal Tap – Meta-theatre meets heavy metal
The Facts: Everything about Spinal Tap is fiction. But what makes them so endearing (and so metal!) is that, in the end, they managed to create entertaining music and film for metal fans everywhere. According to the mocumentary This is Spinal Tap, the band hails from the United Kingdom (in fact all the actors portraying Spinal Tap were American [Christopher Guest as a dual citizen]). In reality, the band first appeared on a failed sketch comedy pilot show with songs written by Rob Reiner. If you look them up on Wikipedia, you’ll be happy to find a list of both their real and fictional biographies and discographies singles and bootlegs. Spinal Tap is a trip if ever there was one – a long freaky trip worth taking.
What you didn’t know: One of their drummers is a woman who has also written two children’s books.
Fun Fact: Their fictional history cites a total of 18 drummers who have all died in bizarre circumstances (such as spontaneous human combustion). In reality, they’ve had four; all of them are still alive.
2. The Pretty Reckless – Wait, isn’t she from Gossip Girl?
The Facts: Led by ex-Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen, The Pretty Reckless is the girl-pop-punk answer to the question of who would take over the 90’s boy band mantle. Momsen, best known for her role as Jenny Humphrey on CW’s Gossip Girl, was introduced to producer Kato Khandwala, who formed the band around Momsen, originally called The Reckless (later changed due to trademark issues). Keeping all personal feelings aside, it’s hard to tell where the heart of The Pretty Reckless lies. Momsen, who auditioned for Hannah Montana (the role claimed by Miley Cyrus), seems to be perpetually acting (despite having stated that “music is where I can be me”). Music has been a large part of her upbringing, but it’s hard not to notice the huge image shift from Hannah Montana runner up to racoon-eyed punk-blonde-bombshell.
What you didn’t know: Momsen is a quadruple threat – singer, dancer, actress, and model.
Fun Fact: Momsen starred alongside Jim Carey in How The Grinch Stole Christmas as the ever-adorable Cindy-Loo Who.
1. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Weren’t expecting that, were you?
The Facts: Music writers have spent countless years and words crafting the biography of the great Hendrix – so here is my abridged version: it is safe to say that he was one of the heralds of a new age of psychedelic and blues rock, and remains one of the most revered and talented musicians in the history of rock n’ roll. Moving on. Jimi Hendrix arrived in London with his manager Chas Chandler, who brought in Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to join Hendrix. What started as two backing musicians soon turned into much more – an experience. They perfected the power trio format (pioneered by Cream, later used by Nirvana). Despite not choosing them himself, Hendrix himself was fond of his two band members. However, it wasn’t all psychedelic sunshine and rainbows – the Experience dissolved in 1969, amidst drug-fueled creative differences. Jimi moved on to form Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys. However, the creative ground breaking achieved by The Experience could never be duplicated.
What you didn’t know: Hendrix was drawn to Noel Redding because Jimi liked his hair.
Not-So-Fun-Fact: Noel Redding was forced to sign away his royalties in 1974 and later had to sell the bass guitar he used during that time.