What is a “fake punk”? Depending on who you ask, it could be anything from a person who cynically cashes in on the punk aesthetic (i.e. John Varvatos) to someone who showers regularly and eats breakfast every day (i.e. you, probably).
But a “fake punk song”? Ah, that’s an easier one. These 10 songs were all one-off pastiches made by people whose engagement with punk rock was limited at best, and boy does it show. Though the following artists certainly won’t be earning any punk rock merit badges, that was clearly never the point. Welcome to the weird world of fake punk.
Edge of Etiquette – “I Hate You”
Even by fake band standards, Edge of Etiquette were exceptionally short-lived. Having come into being for the sole purpose of soundtracking a minor scene in Star Trek IV, they lasted for the day and a half it took to record “I Hate You”, never to be heard from again.
The song itself betrays its throwaway nature, though it’s not without its charms: everything about the recording is almost endearingly crappy, up to and including the lead singer’s inability to determine whether he’s singing in a British accent or an American one.
Remarkably, the song managed to take on a double life, as it was also featured in the 1987 Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello comeback vehicle, Back To The Beach.
Windshield – “Windshield”
(Song starts at 7:36)
Unironically hailed by wikipedia as a “revival of the insect-community genre”, Santo Bugito was a short-lived cartoon following a group of insects living along the Mexican-American border. In the penultimate episode of its first and only season, Ramon, lead singer of the punk band “Windshield” arrives in Santo Bugito from Los Angeles, whereupon havoc predictably ensues.
Windshield’s musical numbers are about what you’d expect from a bunch of anthropomorphic insects playing punk rock on a ’90s cartoon show, though the fact that they were performed by Devo co-founders (and regular Nickelodeon cartoon soundtrack contributors) Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh does lend them a certain tangential shred of punk cred.
Fancy Rosy – “Punk Police”
“Punk Police” was the b-side of a one-off single by Puerto Rican-born, Germany-based model Fancy Rosy, and it’s a more intriguingly weird fake punk song than most, primarily due to the way it’s swathed in a disorientingly thick layer of echo.
Though it may have been categorized as “punksploitation” at the time (a term specifically used to deride flash-in-the-pan artists jumping on the punk bandwagon in the late ’70s), it now sounds more of a piece with some of punk’s later, more experimental offshoots. Fancy Rosy herself – also a member of Pretty Maid Company – appears to have completely vanished into the ether, but her modest legacy lives on.
“It’s Punk!” (From Pink Panther Punk)
What punk is, according to this song (and Pink Panther Punk, the colossally wrong-headed 1981 children’s album that spawned it): junk, funk, bold, cold, old, gold, slick, trick, thick, sick, chic, neat, freak, weak, frank, swank, dank, blank, through, new, residue, and – of course – covers of songs by artists like Billy Joel and The Doobie Brothers.
Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias – “Kill”
By 1977, genre parodists extraordinaire Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias had lampooned pretty much every popular subgenre to hit the airwaves in the 1970s, so once punk rock hit they were more than ready.
Not only does their Snuff Rock EP lead off with the steadily escalating absurdity of “Kill” (he talks about cutting out his liver how many times?) it also closes out with the cod-reggae “Snuffin’ Inna Babylon”, a pitch-perfect parody of every punk band’s obligatory failed reggae experiment.
Best of all, the EP was the band’s first (and only) release on the hip indie label Stiff Records, home to The Damned, The Adverts, and many other reputable punk and new wave artists. Give Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias this much, at least: they did their homework.
David Peel – “King of Punk”
Having spent the better part of the early ’70s singing about smoking dope, cops, and getting harassed by cops for smoking dope, David Peel had established himself as a singularly eccentric counterculture figure. Whether that gave him enough ammunition to declare himself “king of punk” and trash the entire new york punk scene is debatable, but the music makes a pretty good case.
Though it may not be punk per se, rock doesn’t get much sloppier or scuzzier than “King of Punk”. Also, saying that he trashes “the entire New York punk scene” isn’t much of an exaggeration, either – the lyrics are him literally telling Television, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, and The Ramones to go fuck themselves.
The Tubes – “I Was A Punk Before You Were A Punk”
Though they penned “White Punks On Dope” as far back as 1974, The Tubes’ claim to punkdom still feels vaguely dubious. Then again, that could be part of the joke – “I Was A Punk Before You Were A Punk” was a song that Tubes lead singer Fee Waybill performed in one of his many onstage disguises, this particular one being a belligerent, chainsaw-wielding punk named (deep sigh) Johnny Bugger.
The song itself was written as a response to the band nearly getting banned in the UK for their sex-and-violence-heavy stage show, and the recording itself is from one of the Hammersmith Odeon shows that followed, so if nothing else it counts as something of a brief victory lap for a band that, by their own admission, had not had too many lucky breaks.
The Village People – “Food Fight”
As a mixed-race group known mostly for gay-themed novelty songs, the Village People were already a prime target for the more racist and homophobic ends of the anti-disco backlash, but once their 1980 film debut Can’t Stop The Music tanked they might as well have painted bull’s-eyes on their backs.
A change of style was clearly needed if the band wanted to survive, but 1981’s Renaissance was generally more generic and forgettable than its New Romantic-inspired cover art would suggest… that is, until the closing trio of food-themed novelty songs, culminating in the fake-punk rave-up “Food Fight.”
There’s no universe in which this song can’t be called misguided, but it’s almost too silly not to love.
Mayhem – “Next Stop: Nowhere”
By sheer coincidence (we swear!) The AV Club beat us to this one by a few days, but no list of fake punk songs would be complete without Quincy, M.E.’s one-episode wonders Mayhem, a fake, Fear-esque group meant to act as Exhibit A in the case against the empty nihilism of the punk rock lifestyle (Quincy’s on the case because a teenage boy got stabbed at a Mayhem concert).
This predictably alarmist episode of Quincy is so infamous that it inspired a Spoon song and a whole new term punk rockers could use to call out poseurs: “Quincy punks”, a term which later begat an actual band named Quincy Punx.
Pain – “I Dig Pain”
Yup, CHiPs had a punk rock episode too, and it’s somehow even more ludicrous than the Quincy episode. This time, the fake punk band in question is called Pain, and their big opening number (“I Dig Pain”) begins with the unforgettable lines “TAKE A HUNK OF CONCRETE! / AND STICK IT IN MY FACE! / I LIKE TO PLAY WITH RAZOR BLADES! / I HATE THE HUMAN RACE!” and somehow devolves from there.
Did we mention that this episode ends with Erik Estrada performing Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration”? Because it does.