While doing some research for an upcoming article about Oasis, I stumbled across this clip of the band taking liberties on Top of the Pops, with Noel and Liam swapping instruments. Quite funny if you’re a fan of the band.
Of course, even at the time, this was nothing new. For years bands were asked to lip-sync or mime along to ‘playback’ on TOTP and other shows, and as a result some took the fakery to its limits. Here’s some of the best:
The Smiths – ‘This Charming Man’ (TOTP 1983)
Possibly where it all started. Morrissey famously lauding it around with a bunch of gladioli instead of a microphone. There’s also this excellent piece about the performance by Johnny Marr.
Nirvana – ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (TOTP 1991)
Unlike Morrissey, Kurt Cobain was at least asked to sing live on Top of The Pops, although it would seem though he wasn’t too happy about being asked to perform to a playback track. The result has gone down in musical history.
Blur – ‘Charmless Man’ (TOTP 1996)
Ironic given the titular Smiths connection above – by the height of Britpop it turns out Blur, like their rivals Oasis, were also tired of the TV performances. Here almost the whole band are at it: Damon’s ridiculous poses and bumhole pointing, Dave’s giant drumsticks, Graham’s tiny guitar and a random out of time keyboard player.
Eels – ‘Novocaine For The Soul’ (TOTP 1997)
Which brings us neatly onto Eels, who took the tiny instrument idea to a new level on Top Of The Pops. The miniature drum kit is particularly impressive.
Muse – Various…
And finally the kings of the TV show muck-about, Muse. Take a bow Matthew Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard:
An early, very blatantly mimed TOTP performance of ‘Sunburn’.
Dom and Chris swapping roles on ‘New Born’ on Live & Kicking.
A rather drunken version of ‘Feeling Good’ on Radio 3.
Spanish station TVE gets treated to an incredible mimed guitar solo during ‘Hysteria’.
All three swap instruments on ‘Uprising’ on Italian TV as Dom takes over as frontman and bassist, Matt shows off his drumming skills and Chris plays both keyboard and guitar.