Monday, April 8, 2019

Fake Bands: Ming Tea


I’m not exactly sure why KKafa took offense at my characterization that The Monkees were a fake band—in fact, as I wrote, some would argue that they turned into a real band. And argue he did. It isn’t a bad argument—although initially The Monkees didn’t, for the most part, write their own music or play their own instruments, as time went on, they did do more of both.

But I’m writing about a band that sort of evolved in the opposite way—starting out as sort of a real band, then gaining fame because they were in a movie. When Mike Myers left Saturday Night Live he formed a band with Matthew Sweet and ex-Bangle Susanna Hoffs to play 60s style music, which they called Ming Tea, after a fake company from the 1965 Ursula Andress movie, The 10th Victim. They decided to perform under pseudonyms: Sweet as Sid Belvedere, Hoffs as Jillian Shagwell and Myers as Austin Powers. I think you can see where this is going.

Myers’ wife at that time was Robin Ruzan (whose mother, Linda Richman, was the inspiration for Myers’ “Coffee TalkSNL sketches, suggested that Myers write a film based on this new “Austin Powers” character. And thus was born Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Keeping things in the family, Myers asked Hoffs’ husband, Jay Roach (who had directed one movie at that point) to direct the film. This launched Roach’s career, as well as vaulting Myers’ into movie stardom.

Ming Tea appeared throughout the film, augmented by actor Stuart Johnson as Manny Stixman (on drums, of course) and songwriter Christopher Ward as Trevor Aigburth, the lead guitarist. And they played “BBC” over the closing credits. The band performed on some talk shows to promote the film, and in the second sequel, Austin Powers in Goldmember, they performed “Daddy Wasn’t There.”

There appears to be some evidence on the interwebs of some later gigs, but no video. Sweet and Hoffs went on to do a series of cover albums together, among other things, and there are rumors of another Austin Powers sequel, so we may get another serving of Ming Tea. And that would certainly be groovy.