Everyone and their children remembers when Ashlee Simpson infamously danced off the stage in a fit of embarrassment on ‘Saturday Night Live’ after her vocal track mistakenly played without her lip-syncing along. But that’s to be expected from an “artist” like her. The revelation and admission by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist, Flea, that the band’s instruments were not plugged in for the Super Bowl halftime show is far more shocking and cuts much deeper.
If you read his letter to his fans who were ranting and questioning why his bass was not plugged in during the performance, he assures them he did it for the best of intentions: “… it was a surreal-like, once in a life time crazy thing to do and we would just have fun and do it.” He also says that it was okay because the members of the band like football and that his musician buddies said it was okay.
But, when has this ever been accepted in rock music?
Flea’s message included a story about a time on a U.K. television show, “Top of the Pops” when they were kicked off for refusing to play along with the network’s requirement of “miming,” as he calls it; faking, pretending, falsifying, lying are others synonyms. Ask those dudes, back in ’93, if they’d ever unplug and strut around pretending that their finely honed craft was all a joke and you know what they’d say? Well, Flea pretty much tells us what they would have said, and did many times: “The Red Hot Chili Peppers stance on any sort of miming has been that we will absolutely not do it.”
Personally, I am inclined to trust Flea and the rest of the band implicitly. Because I respect the hell out of them. They put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. But he’s going to have to give me a better excuse than being a football fan, peer pressure and “what the hell” to convince me that this put-on was anything but an egregious disregard for his fans and for the name of the ever-flailing rock genre.
Take a look at how some other rock bands handled the pressure of being asked to fake a performance.
First up, Muse puts on a hilarious performance of “Uprising” on a foreign television show. The band members are playing each other’s instruments and apparently trick the station into believing they’re giving it their all.
This next one is a little less subtle. Eels performs “Novocaine for the Soul” on “Top of the Pops,” the same one the Peppers got kicked off of. How they didn’t hard cut to commercial the second the stagehand pushed play in the back, we may never know. Their instruments are ridiculous. I picture the producers saying, “Wow, I can’t believe they make such great music with such tiny instruments.”
But, you might be saying, singer Anthony Kiedis was actually singing, so that makes it okay. Well, here’s what Kurt Cobain and Nirvana think about your rationalization.
RHCP had a really good opportunity to make a statement, like these other bands did, that they shouldn’t have to be expected to bullshit their sets and that their fans shouldn’t have to listen to a recording instead of hearing their favorite musicians actually rock out.
“There was not any room for argument on this, the NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period,” Flea said.
No room for argument? I remember a crazy funk/punk rock band from LA that would have told them to suck their kiss.
James Garcia is a community reporter at the Loveland Reporter-Herald and a new blogger at Reverb. Follow him on Twitter @JamesGarciaRH.