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  • Writer's pictureCharles I. Guarria

Backing tracks are back in the news. Is it something bands should use?

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Paul Stanley was human again. During a June 6, 2022, show in Antwerp, Belgium, he stepped away from the microphone while his backing track played on.


It is not the first time this has happened.


Recently, Kiss' manager Doc McGhee gave an explanation as to what Paul is doing on stage.

Mr. McGhee: "He sings every track. So he sings to it. So he's not lip-syncing. He fully sings. It's enhanced. It's just part of the process to make sure that everybody hears the songs the way they should be sang to begin with. Nobody wants to hear people do stuff that's not real; that's not what they came to hear." He repeated, ""He'll sing to tracks. It's all part of a process. Because everybody wants to hear everybody sing. But he fully sings to every song."


Look folks, he sings to tracks. Mr. McGhee said so, twice. Case closed.

What I suspect he is doing is what I discerned the incomparable Frankie Valli to be doing as well. Re-recording the vocals for the songs as the backing track for the tour. This is a better alternative than using enhanced recordings from decades ago.


Using the recording from decades ago would be a dead giveaway since voice intonation changes as we age. I am surmising Mr. Stanley and Mr. Valli go into the studio before a tour, sing so that we the fans hear the aged voice. Couple those tracks with the live singing, and, as Mr. McGhee stated, it's an enhanced sound. It isn't really lip-syncing, but it certainly isn't all live, either.


When one is 88 years old, like Frankie Valli is, one either retires or does the above. Donna and I saw Mr. Valli at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach. It was a thrill to see him live. It was also obvious from song one that the effort he was exerting did not match the voice coming through the sound system. However, you either take it for what it is or you never get to see a legend. I can't say I'd go again, but I am glad I saw him. We even fist-bumped!

A quick Google search found references to Mr. Valli and backing tracks beginning in 2017.

Surprisingly, the commentators for the two YouTube videos on Mr. Stanley that I watched were kind to him.


One can read into their polite critique as being at the crossroads of fandom and intolerance.


I too have stood at this crossroad, looked both ways, shrugged, and kept moving forward.


The thing is, this is a personal decision music fans have to make. There is no commentary, no matter how vociferous, that will convince anyone that using backing tracks have merit or are an injustice.


Look, what Mr. Stanley and Mr. Valli are doing does not rise to a Millie Vanilli level of embarrassment. That duo didn't sing at all on their smash lp, Girl You Know It’s True. The 1989 record sold 14 million copies and got them the 1990 Grammy for best new artist. They had to give back their Grammy when they were finally caught lip-synching. I hope they got to keep the cash for all those record sales. Sadly, one of the two, Rob Pilatus, died from a drug overdose in 1998. The other half of the duo, Fab Morvan, blames the record industry for their demise, saying they were "chewed up and spit out by the record industry machine.”


Of course it isn't his fault he lip-synched an entire album. I bet the dog used to chew up and spit out Mr. Morvan's homework as well.


But I digress, back to the point.


KISS, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison, Frankie Valli, Jan and Dean (I reached back for that one!) all have been known to use backing tracks or lip-sync during live performances.

However, they all could do one thing that Millie Vanilli couldn't. They all could actually sing and/or play instruments at one time in their lives. And they all did it really well. Top 40 well, hall of fame well in some cases.


The central question is, do you still want to see these acts perform live, or do you think they should hang it up as soon as they can't reproduce live what they created in a studio.


For the sake of discussion, let's say Mr. Stanley started singing in front of an audience at the age of fifteen. That means he's been at it for 56 years. How many voices can take that stress and still sound decent? Keep in mind there is a lot of screaming and straining going on when you sing rock n roll.


By way of comparison, the great Tony Bennett was singing beautifully at 95 years old, however, his type of singing doesn't stress the vocal cords in the same manner Paul Stanley has.


What a fan has to ask is, do I want to see only the real deal on-stage, or would I rather see some of the world's most popular bands even if they need a little help?


I asked The Verve Pipe's lead guitarist and all-around good guy Lou Musa for his thoughts. He summed it well, "I believe a performer and/or musician should be able to use any tools necessary to present the best possible performance. That being said, if you are not disclosing to your paying audience, that the tools being used in your act are in fact artificial, then it’s really not fair to ridicule or judge anyone who has an issue with it.


I'd love to hear how you feel about it.


Please like, comment, and share.


See ya soon!


~30~

3 Comments


karetiny2011
Feb 28, 2023

Enjoyed the article! It really comes down to your decision to see the artist(s) perform Been to many shows and still enjoy enhanced or not

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Charles I. Guarria
Charles I. Guarria
Mar 01, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for the kind words!

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johnlarson66
Jun 22, 2022

Real KISStards support KISS no matter what.


Anything after the original members did their Farewell Tour is just a cash grab for KISStards and people that have no clue.


KISStards that are okay with guys dressed up as Peter and Ace, then they should be okay with backing tracks. Paul's voice is shot. He should voice track some of his stage banter.


Sync it, Sync it, Sync it out loud!


Sync Army!

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