Beyonce performing at The Liverpool Echo Arena _300
ALTHOUGH as political scandals go it’s not quite up there with Watergate or even John Gummer feeding his kids burgers, the furore over whether generously proportioned R’n’B hitmaker Beyonce mimed her way through the Star Spangled Banner has given Barack Obama the first presidential crisis of his second term.
Should Mr Obama be fretting over this important issue in between worrying about falling off a fiscal cliff or bringing peace to the Middle East. he would do well to remember the sad tale of Milli Vanilli, clips of whom popped up on our TV screens last week as a reminder to the leader of the free world to take this miming business seriously.
The Vanilli, you may remember were all over Smash Hits in 1989 with their catchy brand of Euro pop, epitomised by such chart behemoths as Girl, I’m Going to Miss You and Girl, You Know It’s True.
Sadly the German duo’s dreams turned to dust just a year later, when it emerged that Fab and Rob had not actually sung on any of their hits.
Widespread condemnation followed with Milli’s Grammy for Best New Artist being taken off them in a fit of music industry pique.
Although it was ghoulishly entertaining to see the group sing a cappella on news reports as they tried to convince people they could string a note together, the story ended in tragic circumstances when Rob’s life spiralled downwards into drugs and crime before he was found dead in a Frankfurt hotel room aged 32.
Clearly then as the unfortunate Rob Pilatus proves, miming can be a matter of life and death.
Quite why people feel so strongly about this has always been something of a mystery of me.
Milli Vanilli were managed by legendary pop impresario Frank Farian who reportedly tasted similar mime-based successes with Boney M in the 1970s. He clearly saw nothing wrong with repeating the formula with Milli Vanilli and why should he?
Faking it has always played a massive role in pop music and in my mind an entirely positive one.
Watching old clips of Top of the Pops recently it’s remarkably entertaining to see just how carefree the performances are when artists don’t have to worry about things like singing and playing their instruments.
It’s worth remembering that Top of the Pops was a celebration of the single itself and not the performance. It was invented as an exhibition of the song that the kids could go out and buy that weekend with their pocket money. Why would they want to listen to a live performance that didn’t sound like the single people had gone out in droves to buy that week? Surely such claims for authenticity belonged in the musty, beardy confines of the Old Grey Whistle Test and its modern day equivalent Later...with Jools Holland.
Miming gave us some great moments: would David Bowie have been able to drape himself over Mick Ronson if he’d been worried about hitting the high notes on Starman? Would The Faces have been able to play football with John Peel? Would Julian Cope have been able to climb all over a piano while performing a particularly medicated version of Passionate Friend? I think not.
Criticising and banning miming has always been the reaction of the po faced bore. Back in 1991 TOTP producer Stanley Appel effectively ruined the programme’s chances of covering the UK’s dance culture by banning rave acts. Great work Stanley.
So if you’re reading Obama, don’t worry. Beyonce is pop and pop loves a good mime.