The Expendables is a franchise built on nostalgia and muscles aiming to recreate the action films of the 80’s…
Music and Film have long formed a strong partnership, even silent films had live musical accompaniment, so the logical progression to scoring and sound tracking a film was never going to be far behind. And the benefits can be seen in reverse too, how many songs have become revered because of their linked scene – see our Tarantino articles for several.
So with this sort of relationship it is hardly surprising that from time to time the two worlds crossover and you find musicians actually appearing in films, rather than just sound tracking them. Obviously the reverse is true, actors dipping their toe into the world of music, but the less said about Hasselhoff’s, Johansson’s or Shatner’s musical careers the better! No as it goes, musicians often fair much better crossing over than actors do, although not always as Madonna’s 2002 exploits in Swept Away and Die Another Day will testify.
But rather than look at all the bad examples (there are plenty) I wanted to highlight 5 of my favourite musician appearances on Film. Now this sounds easy at first, but once you start to dig into the memory banks you will discover there are plenty and varying styles of cameo. For example here are just a few random and honourable mentions that didn’t make the top 5; Huey Lewis – ‘Back to the Future’. Flea – also ‘Back to the Future’and ‘The Big Lebowski’. Alice Cooper and Billy Idol as themselves in ‘Wayne’s World’and ‘The Wedding Singer’respectively. As well as Jack White in ‘Walk Hard’and Ozzy Osbourne as his polar opposite in ‘Trick or Treat’
5 – Dave Grohl from ‘The Pick of Destiny’
Whilst the film tanked at the box office this cameo is nonetheless worthy of a place in the top 5. Reprising the role of Bezzleboss himself from the music video for ‘Tribute’off of the first Tenacious D album, Grohl underwent hours of make-up to once again face off against Black and Gass in one of the closing scenes for the film. The advantage here is that Grohl is afforded the opportunity to perform himself this time, ultimately showing how big a comedy music rock off should really go!
4 – George Harrison from ‘The Life of Brian’
Now this could be considered one of the briefest cameo’s going and whilst true it’s a blink and you’ll miss him role, George Harrison’s appearance is no less impressive or important. Whilst other cameos in this list, and many others not mentioned may have contributed more to their respective role than a handshake and a thick Liverpudlian “ullo”few can claim to have contributed more to the film. Without Harrison the brilliance that is Life of Brian would probably not have seen the light of day with funding pulled days before filming. A long time friend and massive fan of Python, Harrison stepped in to finance the film, as he “wanted to see the film”. What has since been described as the most expensive cinema ticket ever, Harrison’s cameo was just reward and a nice nod to his contribution to getting the film made. As his second standout contribution to great modern British culture it warrants the inclusion as one of the best cameo’s going.
3 – Meat Loaf from ‘Fight Club’
There are several cameos you could use for Meat Loaf, a few include Eddie in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, JB’s dad in ‘The Pick of Destiny’, and another personal favourite is his appearance in ‘Wayne’s World’as doorman Tiny. But probably his greatest contribution to film was his role as Robert “Bob”Paulson in Fight Club. Now fair enough a lot of the credit to this making the top 5 is probably because of how good Fight Club is. The other reason for this making the list is that in this role Meat Loaf has delivered the definitive portrayal of a man removed of testicles…with a hormone imbalance helping him to grow “bitch tits”…who likes to fight…who’s called Bob. Okay a niche role but still a good one made better by a huge chunk of Loaf, and once again, a great film.
2 – Tom Waits from ‘Seven Psychopaths’
Waits speaking in 2006 said, “I do some acting,and there’s a difference between ‘I do some acting’ and ‘I’m an actor.’”And yes whilst is first and foremost and musician to say he does some acting is somewhat of an understatement. The credits to his name are so numerous that picking just one appearance was difficult, but I had to go with his role as Zachariah Rigby, No.6 of ‘Seven Psychopaths’. Why this film of his great many? Well in his unveil sat by the side of the road in an old suit and patterned tie as a murderous lovesick-psychopath stroking a white bunny rabbit it pretty much well sums up everything you expect from all of his previous appearances; a blast of eccentrically hep-cat cool to remind us of the crazy carnival of life. He is also able to inject more humour this time round compared to his more serious roles in ‘Dracula’‘The Book of Eli’or ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’. Not since ‘Mystery Men’has he been able to inject some direct dry humour so effectively as in Seven Psychopaths and for me that’s “Dandy”.
1 – 1986 David Bowie from the movie ‘Labyrinth’
Bowie is yet another example of a musician who is actually just an all round performer much like Waits. The crossover into movies isn’t that much of stretch as he has undertaken so many different personas throughout his musical career any film role is almost just another chapter in his story. He has played character roles such as his performance as Nikola Tesla in ‘The Prestige’and he also checked off the true cameo by playing himself as the presiding judge of cool in the great walk-off scene from ‘Zoolander’. Yet it is in his role as Jareth the Goblin King that Bowie cements his place as greatest musician cameos – albeit a leading role isn’t really a cameo as such. On the face of it a kids fantasy film where an older goblin king, who is seemingly human, falling in love with a teenage girl who he has challenged to rescue her baby brother (whom he has kidnapped) is a bit strange, but Bowie’s charisma and natural showmanship help you overlook any 70’s BBC paranoia and go with the coming of age story that it is.
Labyrinth is one of the weirdest films I had the joy of watching in childhood, and whilst it’s not the loveable humour you can usually expect of a Henson production the one thing that I am ever grateful for was the young introduction to the freaky world of Bowie and all it’s brilliance.
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