Foreigner vocalist Kelly Hansen had blistering words for bands that use backing tracks: “Tell them to go fuck themselves.”
He’s not alone when it comes to that opinion. Yet for decades, it’s been rumored that some of classic rock’s most beloved artists — such as Aerosmith, Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne — were guilty of enhancing their stage performances.
Bands augmenting their live show is nothing new. For example, Van Halen hired former Night Ranger keyboardist Alan “Fitz” Fitzgerald starting in the early ‘90s to play certain keyboard parts on some of their more synth-heavy material, like 1984’s “Jump.” He’s credited as “keyboard technician” on their 2015 live album.
Black Sabbath employed keyboardists as well, including Geoff Nichols and Adam Wakeman. Still, main man Ozzy took things further, at one point hiring future Warrant vocalist Robert Mason to shadow his vocals. The experiment didn’t go well, and Sharon Osbourne bristled when the subject was brought up years later. “Why are we talking about something that happened 20 years ago?,” she shot back at L.A. Weekly. “We tried it out for one leg of the tour, but it didn’t work out.”
More and more, bands are being called out for taking technology too far — relying on recordings to pad their performances and in some cases, the bulk of their live show. Guitarist Mick Mars, who left Motley Crue in late 2022, alleged that all of his former bandmates had been using tapes during that year’s Stadium Tour. “He did not play a single note on bass during the entire U.S. tour,” Mars charged in a lawsuit, speaking specifically about Nikki Sixx.
As you’ll read below, the subject of backing tracks remains a complicated topic. Members of Kiss, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and others share their thoughts.
How 22 Classic Rock Artists Feel About Backing Tracks
Kiss, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses and more share their opinions.