Bandfics, Part 2

Led Zeppelin knitted dolls, outfitted in clothing from an early tour. From left to right: Jonesy, Jimmy (with a beard), Robert, and Bonzo.

Not every band inspires a busy and passionate fandom. Using Archive of Our Own as a bellwether, I noticed several things by looking at the stats.

One is the sheer amount of material. Excluding Elvis (450 stories) most of it dates from bands active from the early 1960s on. There’s no Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, or Bobby Darin here, no Shangri-Las or other girl groups, no Rat Pack. A generational divide, perhaps. Or more likely, the sixties were an age when rock artists rose to fame on the young side and there was plenty of media attention devoted to them, meaning a wealth of TV appearances, photos, and magazine articles. Not to mention, they toured frequently.

There are also few Country artists and even fewer Rap and Hip-hop ones. For all their present day (as of 2023) fame, Cardi B and Megan Three Stallion have not a single story between them, while Nicki Minaj has a scant 38. This may be because they are female; bandfics slant towards heterosexual female desires, which means male artists. But there are few male rappers and hip hop artists. Perhaps they are present, and I don’t recognize the names; perhaps fans don’t feel the need to write fanfic about them. After all, rap artists pretty much write their own fanfic. There’s also a lack of Latin artists. I recognized only Mago de Oz, Pitbull, and Menudo. Though, granted, since the bandfic list has a few thousand entries, it’s possible I missed someone.

Led Zeppelin matryoshka dolls. Jimmy, of course, is the dominant one and the largest. Note the tiny Peter Grant one on the far right!

The archive still has, in surprising numbers, plenty of boy band fics, some of which date from the turn of the century. One Direction has an astounding 70,218 and Hanson, The Jonas Brothers, Backstreet Boys, and N’sync contribute another 5,000. But these numbers are experiencing stiff competition from the current wave of K-Pop and J-Pop bandfics. Another band, 5 Seconds of Summer, has an astonishing 10,739 despite the fact I’ve never heard of them. (They’re Australian.)

So, if I’m allowed to generalize – and I will because it’s my weblog — I will say that the majority of the bands with creative, passionate fandoms are male, young, and good-looking. Or were young and good-looking at some point; after all, fanfic exists of the Beatles (6,365 stories) the surviving members of which are in their 70s. Needless to say, the bands must also make good music. Whether it’s truly their own, or manufactured, is immaterial. They must also be photogenic and there’s extra points for dancing ability and/or musical virtuosity.

I’ll make another divide here. There’s a stylistic and thematic one between the boy bands — including K-Pop/J-Pop — and rock bands like Guns n’ Roses, David Bowie, or The Arctic Monkeys. Boy band fandoms slant younger and the group members function somewhat like Barbie dolls for the writers, acting out various scenarios of everyday life and serving, occasionally, as characters in different settings and times. The stories may be sexually charged or not, but there’s a projection from the authors on their “boys” that their very blandness and inoffensiveness encourages. Rockfic bands are older and more experienced, and the fics may be set at any point in their histories, histories of which the writer is well familiar. The oldest bands, those of the 1960s like The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, have been so well-documented through video material, interviews, and published biographies that it’s no wonder they continue to inspire up-and-coming writers, and the fics are especially rich.

A humorous interlude.

This leads me to wonder what the magic ingredients are, exactly, for prolific body of robust fan works.

  • A rich and well-documented media history that is easily available to fans.
  • Young and cute at some point, or at least not homely.
  • Distinctive personalities for each member, ala The Beatles or KISS.
  • Musical genius in singing, songwriting, and/or playing an instrument.
  • Hit singles, airplay, top ten. (Not sure how this is measured these days, but you know what I mean.)


  • An entourage of colorful auxiliary characters. For example, the Beatles side characters would include Brian Epstein, Yoko Ono, the Maharishi, and Allen Klein.
  • A history full of dramatic or tragic events, such as a fatal accident causing the death of a band member.
  • A narrative arc to their history: Rags to Riches, Flew too Close to the Sun, Recluse to Comeback, etc.
  • A distinctive aesthetic. Guns n’ Roses had one, so did The Who.

(Of course, it’s also a mystery why some bands who on the surface have all of these languish, or, even worse, lose their fans. Indierock band Dandy Warhols had an active fanfic site in the late 1990s with a couple dozen stories, only to disappear. The Monkees, too, had an active fandom then despite being 30 years gone; now there’s nothing. Some of this may be because of websites folding or changes to the larger archives, such as banning RPF and bandfics at some point. Or it may be due to fans that grow up and find other things to do with their time. But as fandoms cycle out, others cycle back. The 1960s bands have enthralled a whole new generation of fans.

Yet, I am still puzzled by the precariousness of fan attentions. One would think the dramatic, tragic, gender-bending Lou Reed, a cutie in his younger days and also decadent as hell, would have more stories than he does. (It’s a mere 58). Nine Inch Nails, fronted by hunky-yet-vulnerable Trent Reznor has 206, but unattractive creepazoid Marilyn Manson, 484. Party boys Van Halen have 24, yet Motley Crue, 1,172. I just don’t get it.)

My point in all this is that Led Zeppelin, as a band, makes all these marks, and then some, creating a very rich stew for fannish writings and art.

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