Twisted Sister Guitarist: Keith Richards ‘Can Barely Play,’ Uses Hidden Guitarists Live

Jay Jay French: Bobby Bank/Getty Images. Keith Richards: MJ Kim/Getty Images
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Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French recently weighed in on the hotly contested debate of whether it’s OK or not for metal and rock bands to use backing tracks while playing live.

Jay Jay offers some pretty interesting takes as he’s coming at the topic from two sides-  as an older artist who recently played a one-off reunion show with Twisted Sister, and as Twisted Sister’s business manager.

One of the most interesting points he raises is that the decision should probably come down more to an individual band and fan base level. More specifically, some fans of a band might really care that the songs sound exactly like they do on the record, and that might justify the use of backing tracks to augment the sound.

Alternatively, other fans might just be there to see a show and have a good time, and don’t care quite so much about the band sounding exactly like the record. Per Jay Jay [via Blabbermouth’s transcription]:

“As a manager, this is a more complicated answer. I can say, ‘Oh, it sucks. Everyone should just do everything for real,’ but there’s a lot of money on the table and bands are under a lot of pressure to replicate records.

And I guess at the end of the day, the real answer is, do the fans care or not? And if the fans don’t care, and there’s a lot of money on the table, the band’s under a lot of pressure to replicate a record, then they get away with it and they do it. So it doesn’t really matter what I say; it just is what it is, and they do it because they feel the pressure.” He continued:

“So, it’s very much a matter of what you will tolerate. If these bands believe the fans will tolerate it, then they get away with it and they do it. It’s not for me to say whether they should or they shouldn’t. You do what you feel you can do, and you get away with it if you feel you can get away with it, and more power to you.

Again, the pressure is on. What do you do when you’re charging a lot of money for a ticket and there’s expectations as to the performance? And what are your expectations?

Are you willing to forgo, you don’t care if a singer sings flat or he can’t sing in key? Does it matter to you? Are you gonna walk out going, ‘It sucks’, or do you go, ‘Wow. He sounded really good?”

All fair and interesting points. However, it got particularly interesting when he started citing specific examples. Most noticeably, he calls out The Rolling Stones:

“This [backing tracks] mostly applies to singers, although in a band like The Rolling Stones, the only one in that band who’s actually good these days is Mick Jagger. His vocals, actually, are as good as ever, if not better. The rest of the band [laughs] really need help.

Keith [Richards] and Woody [Ron Wood] have arthritis and they can barely play. I understand that they use guitar players behind the scenes on nights when they really can’t play.”

While Jay Jay is clear to point out that Twisted Sister is adamantly against using backing tracks, he also points out that maybe not everyone is so lucky. Especially older artists like The Rolling Stones who simply might not have the physical ability that they once had:

“We’re not 20 years old anymore. Most of your heroes are now 70 or close to 80, and they can’t do it. So if you’re willing to pay, and you don’t care, and if you’re willing to forgo a certain amount of that emotion because you wanna have it like the record, then they’ll do it and you’ll pay, and that’ll be the end of it. And so be it.”

Interesting points raised all around. You can watch Jay Jay’s full response below: