When a band performs on television, it’s understandable why a network would prefer lip syncing and miming to the real thing.
People might go to concerts to feel music being created in real time, but the live experience doesn’t always translate to a home viewing audience who have come to expect something clean.
Compound that with the fact that a studio track minimizes the chance for mistakes and all but guarantees the length of a performance and you’ve got a safety net that won’t alienate those tuning in from their couch.
It might be good for the networks, but many bands bristle at the practice and find the whole experience to be disingenuous and insulting. Iron Maiden laid down the law with the BBC way back in the Paul Di’Anno days when they refused to lip sync their debut single “Running Free” on Top Of The Pops in February of 1980.
“I had a bit of an anti Top Of The Pops thing,” recalled bandleader Steve Harris. “They never had anyone decent on, and I was really adamant that I wasn’t going to do it if they made us mime to a playback. I just thought ‘Bollocks to them. What have they ever done for me?’”
Amazingly, the BBC relented and Iron Maiden were allowed to play live. It was the first such occurrence since The Who played Top Of The Pops in 1974. Although victorious in this instance, not every network across the world was so accommodating to the London headbangers. When German TV show P.I.T. extended the invite for Maiden to perform “Wasted Years” on the program in August of 1986, they again demanded lip syncing.
The band agreed to the request to mime their performance this time around, and the show’s producers would live to regret it.
Observant viewers could tell that something was amiss right from the start when bassist Steve Harris is seen with a guitar and guitarist Dave Murray is holding a bass during the establishing shot. Less than a minute in, Harris switches places with frontman Bruce Dickinson for a moment before drummer Nico McBrain steps up to the mic; leaving the bassist to sit behind the kit.
The whole thing is extraordinarily silly and a total joy to watch. Check it out right here!