Rock stars just love dabbling in the movies. In the past we’ve looked at rock stars in the movies, but what about bands? The band cameo is an oft-overlooked little Hollywood treat, especially if you’re not aware that it’s coming. Here are the 10 coolest – and often most unlikely – band cameos.
10. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – Cannibal Corpse
In perhaps one of the most extreme musical cameos ever, this controversial death metal band can be seen performing their track “Hammer Smashed Face” when Ace Ventura walks into a club. Ace ends up on stage with the band in inimitable Jim Carrey style. Legend has it that the band were drafted into the film at the personal invitation of Carrey himself, and that he is a big-time metal fan, although Alex Santana of the band Blood Money wrote on Blabbermouth.net in 2009 (when he was engaged to Carrey’s daughter, Jane), “For the record, Jim hates death metal... He’d never heard of Cannibal until doin’ that movie. Trust me, it’s the first thing I asked him when we met.”
9. Back to the Future Part III – ZZ Top
With one ear to the blues and the other to modern production methods, ZZ Top are the musical equivalent of the Back to the Future films. Although the band contributed the song “Doubleback” to the closing credits of Back to the Future Part III (and is a fine example of Billy Gibbons’ trademark pinch harmonics), the film itself includes ZZ Top performing in the background at a town dance in the old west.
8. The Simpsons Movie – Green Day
Many bands have appeared as themselves on The Simpsons over the years: Metallica, U2, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Spinal Tap, NRBQ, “Weird” Al Yankovic, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Smashing Pumpkins, Cypress Hill, Peter Frampton, Sonic Youth, The Ramones, and the list goes on. But perhaps the most dramatic musical cameos in Simpsons history occurred in 2007’s Simpsons Movie, which saw Green Day rock out in animated form before meeting their tragic watery demise at the hands of characteristically rioting Springfielders.
7. Encino Man – Infectious Grooves
Suicidal Tendencies side project Infectious Grooves appeared in this 1990s Brendan Fraser/Paulie Shore comedy, performing “Feed the Monkey” in the climactic prom scene. In contrast to Suicidal’s punky, thrashy sound, Infectious Grooves were, as their name would lead you to believe, all about the groove, and much of that danceable mojo was supplied by one Robert Trujillo, future Metallica bass player.
6. Empire Records – GWAR
This classic 1995 film is a love letter to record stores. And in this era of downloading, it feels especially poignant. The filmmakers surely could have handpicked any band to appear in the film. So who did they choose? Theatrical metallers GWAR, complete with their trademark monster costumes. After ingesting some brownies he probably shouldn’t have, store employee Mark watches GWAR perform “Saddam a Go-Go” on TV and then, in his altered state, imagines himself joining the band, with predictably hilarious results.
5. Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey – Primus
This 1991 Keanu Reeves/Alex Winter film features an acting cameo by Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin early on, but it’s Primus’ powerful performance of “Tommy the Cat” at a Battle of the Bands that solidifies the movie in the hallowed halls of great musical cameos. Les Claypool’s wildly innovative fretless 6-string bass style looked great on the silver screen, and the only thing that could top it was a Steve Vai-performed, harmonized intro to KISS’s “God Gave Rock ’N’ Roll To You II” (as mimed by Bill and Ted). By the way, Keanu Reeves recently confirmed that plans for a new Bill & Ted movie are advancing.
4. The Darwin Awards – Metallica
Lars Urlich has dabbled in a bit of a film career with cameos in Get Him to the Greek and the forthcoming Hemingway and Gellhorn with Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen, but Metallica as a whole have also made a surprise appearance in a film. The Darwin Awards is a hard film to define. Not quite drama, not quite black comedy, the movie is based on the famed award for “those who improve the species by accidentally removing themselves from it.” Metallica feature during a scene describing the misadventures of a pair of fans who met their demise at a Metallica concert in 1996. The Darwin Awards website conferred urban legend status upon the event in 1997, and Metallica conferred musical legend status upon the myth by participating in its immortalization in this film. Footnote: one of the doomed metalheads is played by 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander.
3. Singles – Alice in Chains, Soundgarden
One of a few bona-fide grunge movies of the ’90s (Kevin Smith’s Clerks also qualifies), Singles is about the lives of a group of 20-somethings living in Seattle. The film features cameos by both Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, while Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament play members of fictional band Citizen Dick alongside actor Matt Dillon.
2. Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2 – Alice Cooper and Aerosmith
The two Wayne’s World movies launched the film career of Saturday Night Live alumnus Mike Myers, who would go on to megafame with Austin Powers and Shrek. The two films introduced many catchphrases to the rock lexicon (such as “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” and “No ‘Stairway?’ Denied!”), and it showed the world just how much Alice Cooper knew about Milwaukee. Cooper and band could also be seen performing the song “Feed My Frankenstein” with full stage production (in the first movie), while Aerosmith perform “Shut Up and Dance” in the sequel.
1. Blowup – The Yardbirds
This 1966 film about a photographer (David Hemmings) who finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery is an unmissable chronicle of ’60s London. It’s equally unmissable for guitar fans, who are treated to a performance of “Stroll On” by The Yardbirds. This particular lineup of the notorious guitar hero breeding ground featured both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, and the climax of the scene involves a guitar meeting its tragic demise at the hands of Beck. Interestingly, according to the book The Complete Rock Family Trees by Peter Frame, Yes guitarist Steve Howe’s band The In Crowd was initially to be featured in the scene. “We went on the set and started preparing for that guitar-smashing scene in the club,” Howe said. “They even went as far as making up a bunch of Gibson 175 replicas... and then we got dropped for The Yardbirds, who were a bigger name. That's why you see Jeff Beck smashing my guitar rather than his!”