I found this video of Sandie Shaw singing Puppet on a String that enabled Britain to win the Eurovision Song Contest in 1967. The video is interesting but not for the song itself. One reason is that Shaw’s lip-syncing is really bad. Another is that the young people selected to surround her and dance seem to be the most awkward and nerdy group they could have possibly picked, as if the producers went to a nearby high school to round up some students and found that only the chess club was available. Hell, even I could dance better than that and I don’t even dance. The song is a pretty silly one and the one notable thing about it is the tuba line that runs through the entire song, unusual for a pop song.

This video of Nancy Sinatra lip-syncing These boots are made for walking, made around the same time, shows how real dancers do it.

This was also a silly song, notable for making up words ‘truthing’ and ‘saming’ as antonyms for lying and changing. Thankfully, those words never caught on, though the current use of ‘truthers’ and Stephen Colbert’s ‘truthiness’ are similar.

I wonder how common lip-syncing is these days. Singers are obviously doing it on those fast-cut videos where the scene shifts every few seconds. But what about ‘live’ events or where the recording takes place in a single take with a backup band and everything? If it is, the performers seem to be much better at it, since it is only when something unexpected happens that it is revealed. Recall the infamous exposure of the duo Milli Vanilli twenty years ago when the sound system developed a glitch mid-song and repeated the same phrase over and over, forcing the ‘singers’ to run off the stage in embarrassment. This led to closer scrutiny and it was discovered that not only were they lip-syncing, they were not even the actual singers of the song and were lip-syncing to other people’s voices. That pretty much ended their careers.

A few days ago Madonna fell backwards down some steps while performing in London and hit her head, because the routine required her wearing a cape that a fellow dancer was meant to pull off. But the cape was put on too tight and she got pulled back instead, and it is quite scary to watch as she could have been very badly hurt. Being a true professional, she recovered well to get up and continue her song but the episode made it clear that she was really singing.


  1. moarscienceplz says

    I like this Italian send-up of American/British rock videos.
    The “lyrics” are gibberish -- an Italian’s idea of what a rock song in English sounds like.
    (If this seems a bit disjointed, it’s because it is a mash-up of two videos shot many years apart. I have seen both the B&W and color versions alone, and this one is better than either, IMO.)

  2. lorn says

    For ’67’ England the people around the singer are not exceptionally shy. You have to remember that in ’67’ TV was still something of a B&W novelty, radio was still a big thing, and the idea regular people might show up on TV even more of a novelty.

  3. says

    Tubas are unusual in pop songs and rock music, but not unheard of. There have been plenty of very popular bands that heavily employed brass and woodwind instruments throughout their careers. There were plenty in the 1950s and 1960s because jazz was still the dominant form of popular music. But as rock music began to dominate and touring became everything, groups got smaller. Even groups that insisted on pianos when touring (e.g. Queen; Emerson, Lake and Palmer) eventually gave up and went with synthesizers.

    There still were groups with brass and woodwind sections in the 1970s (Chicago; Earth Wind and Fire; Tower of Power; Lighthouse; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Steely Dan), fewer in the 1980s (Madness, The Specials, Fishbone), but scant few after (Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Brian Setzer Orchestra). Nowadays, brass is limited to studio work or replaced with synthesizers. There is truly nothing that replaces the sound of a blown instrument. A single saxophone can change an entire group’s dynamic.

    People call me a snob for saying this, but I stand by it: If you can’t play it live with instruments, it’s not music. Below, Steely Dan, performing “Peg” in a non-professional session, more than 30 years after first recording it, and still sounding fresher than most bands today. After that, the keyboard scene from the film, “El Mariachi”.

  4. Katydid says

    The first video, it looks like everyone is dancing under threat of gunshot to the head. The second one just reminded me of a 1960s-era episode of Star Trek.Were the dresses glued to the dancers’ behinds so they wouldn’t flip up?

  5. Kilian Hekhuis says

    “to round up some students and found that only the chess club was available” -- That’s a nasty bit of chessism you’ve got on display there, Mano!

  6. Mano Singham says


    I was captain of my school chess team so felt comfortable picking on that group!

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