Is it live or is it Memorex? [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


View Full Version : Is it live or is it Memorex?

08-30-2007, 04:54 AM
I was trying to come up with something catchy for my title to get some attention to this topic, but I realized that many on RR probably don't remember that company slogan from years back. Oh well, I hope you read this anyway, especially after the thread I started about Van Halen using voice tracks of Michael Anthony but not bringing him on their tour.

So a good friend of mine who is an excellent musician (guitar, sax, trumpet, keyboard) and a very good singer, was chatting with a guy who worked for Clair Brothers of nearby Lititz, PA (it's pronounce lit-its, not la-ti<a>ts as a guy from Pittsburgh said one time). Anyway, Clair is one of the biggest 'live" sound companies in the world, working shows for the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Yes, Queen, and Billy Joel, and this guy told him some secrets about live sound. He said that very few bands these days play without "backing tracks", especially older bands like The Who and The Stones. The secret is, the drummer, through head phones, plays with a "click track" which keeps everything in time, so each player (bass, guitar, keys, singer) or whatever, when they lose their way or forget their parts, can hit a switch, and the pre-recorded tracks take over. It's a shame but it's true.

The guy told him that this originated with Madonna (go figure), another Clair contract, in the early 80's who was one of the first to do vigorous dancing while attempting to sing. It came to be that she couldn't maintain her breath while dancing and singing at the same time, so her pre-recorded vocal tracks were added when she couldn't keep up, and so began the "fake s<a>hit". Sad but true.

So what's your opinion of this?


08-30-2007, 05:41 AM
Catching an artist making a small mistake was always part of the excitement for me. Now it's like going to see them dance while their CD plays in the background. Not the same.

Oh, and I remember that commercial well. The glass broke both times.

08-30-2007, 06:00 AM
I'm not surprised to hear this. I always wondered how the likes of Madonna and Britney Spears could dance for a whole show and their vocals never sounded winded or tired. I know that they're in top physical shape, but still at some point you'd think that they'd be breathing harder.

Whether or not it's appropriate depends on what you expect from a show. If you just want to be entertained and you feel that the singer getting so physically involved in the dancing is part of that entertainment, then you probably don't really care where the vocals come from.

Personally, I would prefer to know that the singer is actually singing. If you want dancers on stage, have them back you up. Dance if you want to, but not so hard that you can't sing too. I'm there for the music.

I saw Roger Hodgson a few years ago when he had a very bad cold. His voice was shot and he admitted to being fuzzy headed from cold medication. He cracked on all the high notes, and forgot the lyrics to his songs. He made jokes about it through the whole show and still managed to put on a great performance. It was one of the most endearing shows that I have ever seen. It showed that he was human too. It would have been terrible had his voice just been sampled in when he needed it.

08-30-2007, 07:07 AM
I am very disappointed. This is why I enjoy seeing some of the smaller bands, where I'm 15 feet away from the performers and can feel and hear and see their mistakes. The mistakes and the ad libs are what adds flavour to the show. I've seen Jethro Tull six time and each time it's a wonderful warts and all treat. Now, I may be dupped still. Is this technology available and affordable for upstarts???
Perhaps, your friend also explains why Live recordings sound so damn good these days -- they sound almost clinical.

Against Me! -- they were on Letterman last night....... I have to share my favourite discovery with everyone without hijacking your thread, Swish



N.P., Against Me! - "New Wave"

08-30-2007, 08:06 AM
There's also a device that will correct your voice on the fly if it's off-pitch.

Can't remember what it's called. But I guess if you're pre-recorded you wouldn't need it.

08-30-2007, 08:12 AM
It is kind of fun when a singer is jumping around like crazy. You can see them panting, but the vocals still come out perfect. Even when they stumble their voice doesn't waver a bit. But I wouldn't pay to see it.

08-30-2007, 03:09 PM
This is exactly why I don't go to a lot of stadium extravaganzas.

Anyone remember how truly awful early G'N'R were? That was fine with me, perhaps the last remnant of my own punk ethos. They didn't "go Aerosmith" until November Rain and by that time I had tured them aside for other options as far as mainstream listening went. My general attitude has always been: "So you want me to pay over a hundred dollars a ticket but you can't hold yourself to a work ethic that will substantiate that. Hmmnn. **** you."

I'm the consumer and I'll take my dollars elsewhere and maybe that's why a lot of the indie stuff that gets repped around here works for me. I saw Yo La Tengo at a small venue a few months ago and their stripped-down style was perfect for the night. The orignal arrangements were obviously done with consideration of what could and had to be done later in a live scenario. Great stuff.

Of course, my hypocrisy knows no bounds. I expect NIN and Floyd to be revved up pretty well and it neither surprises or disappoints me when they do what they gotta do. Perhaps my expectation is more that "organic" music will remain organic. I never expected much live from Front 242.

If there's any of y'all SoCal boys and girls out there you might remember this one:

A tour of two monoliths that lasted all of three glorious shows that saw none of the syncing work and the Sister's million dollar light show turn to a lava lamp. It was the defining moment in my young life when I realised that I would never be an S1-W (sniffle).

08-30-2007, 03:25 PM
This is exactly why I don't go to a lot of stadium extravaganzas.

If there's any of y'all SoCal boys and girls out there you might remember this one:

A tour of two monoliths that lasted all of three glorious shows that saw none of the syncing work and the Sister's million dollar light show turn to a lava lamp. It was the defining moment in my young life when I realised that I would never be an S1-W (sniffle).

And I wish I had been to that show! I can't remember how long ago I was at a 'stadium' show, but I did see k.d. lang and Lyle Lovette and his Large Band at a fairly large venue recently. I can tell you they are so good they don't need trickery.

Actually, my recollection of the bigger shows back in the day, save the Who at the Spectrum, were not very pleasurable. Most of my favorite shows were in much smaller venues and the bands were not 'Top 'o the charts' types; Beulah, Over the Rhine, Gillian Welsh, Emmy Lou Harris, Echo and the Bunnymen, Stan Ridgway, Luna, The Jayhawks, Paul Westerberg, and on and on. You just feel like you're special for being there instead of one of many thousands, and you can (usually) drink a beer and relax in a nice seat.

I would never pay big bucks to see some aging rockers in a big arena, and I made that clear recently. I did just pop for $50 a seat (VIP in the fourth row) to see the Waterboys at the Keswick on November 3rd. That, my friends, will be money well spent!

Swish Baby

08-30-2007, 03:31 PM
I thought about dropping a line in about your $15 Decemberists experience. These days that's much more my speed although Wynton Marsalis at the Murat Theater (maybe 1500 in attendance) and later again on the same night at a little rat-trap, hole-in-the-wall called the Chatterbox was pretty damn kewl too.

08-30-2007, 04:13 PM
Hmm, not sure how much this really bothers me.
There's just certain acts I'd expect to fake parts of their set. Others like I wouldn't want to know if they were.

The last stadium show I saw was U2 in Melbourne.

I'm not a U2 fan at all but I'll say that show was pretty f'n awesome with 60 thousand people or whatever it was. I'll give choir-boy Bono his props too - his voice cracked, and he made a few mistakes and ad libbed so much that I just don't think it would have been possible for them to be faking it that night.
Then again, the music is mediocre and U2 is more about the spectacle and giant party than "about the music" anyway...
Kylie Minogue the night before had just come back from her cancer battle and was rushing around jumping in and out of crazy costumes...she didn't break a sweat and sounded perfect...hmmmmmmmmmm..

08-30-2007, 05:48 PM
I don't have a problem with the fakery. It's show business... save the Artistry for the coffee houses, jazz clubs, and $5.00 all ages shows. Hair extensions, cod pieces, make-up, pyro, or backing tracks, it's all the same. Alice Cooper didn't really lose his head and that wasn't real blood that Gene Simmons spit up every night. Demanding vocal authenticity at a show that would use it in the first place is like demanding that a hooker really mean it.

Bobsticks raises and excellent point about bands like Front 242, NIN and Sisters. I don't consider any of those bands less authentic then Yo La Tengo. Hell, I've got plenty of Front, NIN, and Sisters records, but no Yo La Tengo (allthough I like what I've heard :D). As for organic, on Moby's Everything Is Wrong tour, he had a schtick where he would compose a track freestyle and explain along the way what he was doing and what he was adding. Add some kick drum, a little hi-hat. It really was organic when he would tie it all together into a massive rave up and the whole joint would erupt.

Also, a great live "pre-recorded" show is Erasure. Still one of my all time favorites. The shows are complete spectacles put on by two of the finest musicians in that last two decades. Andy Bell will embarrass any Madonna-esque vocalist and Vince Clarke is still in the top 1% of working musician even if he is just clicking a mouse.

But, I've seen electronic dance music played live that wasn't just two guys standing behind keyboards. Lo-Fi Allstars in a basement club that held maybe 200 people playing "electronica" with actual instruments. It might as well have been Ibiza and not Detroit in January. The roof was literally on fire because there was:

"Full bounce
in the f---in' club!
And if you wanna know why
because I'm on the motherf---in' drumbeat!" - Cattleprod

Yeah... that show was sweet.