Despite the apocryphal contention that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” authors continue to flood innocent pages with descriptions of bands both fictitious and real. The bands listed here range from the sexy and vampire-fronted to the explicitly god-awful. When viewed as a whole, they provide a persnickety commentary on the self-mythologizing tendencies of rock and a prime example of the great entertainment derivable from thinking up fictitious band names.
1. The Flaming Dildos from A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Pop music and the crushing, forward march of time are the twin subjects of A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan’s 2010 blockbuster novel. This proves a comfortable pairing. Of all pop culture’s artifacts, none quite lends itself to so rapid an obsolescence as pop music. Just as pop culture relegates its gods to the dustbin, so too do Egan’s characters find themselves undone by short shelf lives.
Integral to the novel’s early action are the exploits of the Flaming Dildos—an ‘80s, Los Angeles punk band whose members go on to pursue various fates as addicts, record executives and domestic doyennes. By the admission of Benny Salazar, the Dildos’ brain trust, the group is “awful.”
2. The Vampire Lestat from Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
In the annals of sexy vampire fiction (which, let’s face it, includes all vampire fiction) Anne Rice enjoys a hallowed position. She is to sultry bloodlust as Bismark is to Germany, as Jobs is to Apple. Rice took her trademark subject to its logical extreme in 1988, writing a novel in which her vampire protagonist grows tired of merely acting like a rock star and proceeds to attain rock stardom.
Queen of the Damned’s plot kicks off when perennial Rice hero Lestat forms a metal band called the Vampire Lestat—a group so ill as to rouse the ancient queen of the vampires from her millennium-long slumber. Beyond stating the Vampire Lestat plays metal, Rice’s descriptions of the music grow murky. You could make the argument they sound like In Flames.
3. The Paranoids from The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
It’s a testament to Thomas Pynchon’s talent that he can write a novel as thematically daunting as The Crying of Lot 49 without causing his readers’ heads to double over into little Möbius strips. The novel’s action revolves around California housewife Oedipa Maas as she makes her way to the reading of a will. In the course of Oedipa’s journey, Pynchon manages to interject subjects as diverse as drug culture, the Holocaust, stamp collecting, perpetual motion and pop rock. The latter motif emerges when Oedipa runs afoul of he Paranoids, a teenaged group that worships the Beatles, sings in British accents and speaks in American English.
4. Nazgûl from The Armageddon Rag by George R.R. Martin
It’s strange to think of the man behind Game of Thrones sharing intellectual real estate with Thomas Pynchon, but George R.R. Martin’s The Armageddon Rag manages to recall both Anne Rice’s pulp luridness and Pynchon’s intellectual potpourri. The novel begins with an aging hippy, a metal band (Nazgûl) and a murder, and these subjects proceed to careen into each other like a bushel of apples thrown into a tumble drier. By the novel’s end, the body count has risen, mystic forces have been unleashed and we’ve all learned something about the checkered legacy of the Free Love generation.
5. Mud Dog from Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison
A tale of redemption, mother-daughter bonds and the crippling costs of excess, Cavedweller employs the band Mud Dog as the embodiment of protagonist Delia Byrd’s wildly misspent youth. The novel’s action proceeds from the death of Randall Pritchard, lead singer of Mud Dog and Delia’s on-again, off-again lover. After riding Mud Dog’s success, Delia returns to the small, southern town of her youth to face opprobrium for her years spent with a group that sounds like a spiritual kin to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
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