Is it Live, or is it Memorex? music musings zach claytonThose of you in your 40’s & 50’s remember the commercial that preceded the line that serves as the title of this Music Musings post. The premise for the commercial was that the audience would hear Ella Fitzgerald singing and they couldn’t tell if it was live or recorded on a Memorex cassette tape. Here is one of the commercials.

I started thinking about this as I was watching the Academy of Country Music awards (don’t hate) the other night. As various artists performed, it was fairly obvious to me that they were lip-synching. I mean, you flew there, you have your audience there, a full-blown band is behind you and they even have instruments – What the hell? Just sing! Are you that bad?

I guess lip-synching has been around for a while. Back in the days of American Bandstand, same thing happened. The artist would literally stand there and act like they were singing. It was so obvious and Dick Clark acted like it was no big deal. Of course, you had the Milli Vanilli scandal in 1990 when their Best New Artist Grammy was revoked because it was discovered that someone else had sung on their album and they lip-synched their concerts.

Flash forward to the 90’s and teeny boppers such as Britney Spears and boy bands would use pre-recorded vocals since they danced and jumped all over the stage. Occasionally, you will hear a track on the Internet of someone singing while dancing without going through the soundboard – thank goodness for the soundboard!! Through the years, bands would use pre-recorded additional vocals and even some pre-recorded music during live shows. I swear that Loverboy lip-synched “Working for the Weekend” when they opened for Journey on the Escape tour. The rest of the show was live, but I truly believe that first song was recorded. While not exactly lip-synching, several bands use what I call “tricks” during live shows such as special sound effects, delays, etc. If the computer crashed, they would have to cancel the show.

I bring all these up to make the point that most of us want to hear the music and the singer. I would rather hear a raspy, cigarette voice singing the truth accompanied by a slightly out of tune acoustic guitar than a pre-recorded guitar track with several overdubs backing a pitch perfect singer’s voice run through auto-tune. My motto through the years as always been, “if you can’t play it live with just the guys, then don’t put it on the album.”

Maybe that is why as I have gotten older, I am drawn more to acoustic music. It is less “dressed up” and more about the music and the message. Maybe current artists should abandon the auto-tune and the pre-recorded tracks and keep it simple. Wonder how many of them could hold up to the light of day or the sound of their own naked voice?


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About Zach Clayton

Zach Clayton started Music Musings in 2013, but isn’t a stranger to music. While he may be a mild mannered accountant by day, he always has tunes going and forces his staff at work to play music trivia when they enter his office. He is a self-proclaimed lover of all music genres with over 3,500 songs in his iPod. Zach’s first concert was Eddie Money in Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym in 1979 and claims to have seen Van Halen (all three incarnations) over 25 times. There have only been one or two years since 1979 that Zach hasn’t been to a concert. He also has the uncanny knack of getting to know several folks in the music scene – both out front and behind the scenes. Zach is in the process of indoctrinating his two boys into the rock and roll way by exposing them to concerts and various music while holding them hostage in his truck screaming the mantra – “rap is crap!”

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