The Quick Seven: Seven Musical Hoaxes

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It was 19 years ago this week (can you believe it's been that long?) that the Milli Vanilli lip-synching scandal came to a head "“ the duo were stripped of their Grammies after it was revealed that they didn't sing a single note on the Girl You Know It's True album. But they were hardly the first to pull one over on the music-minded: hoaxes and trickery have been going on since

platinumweird1. Platinum Weird. It's the greatest band that never existed. In 2004, Kara DioGuardi (yep, the American Idol judge) and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics got together to write some songs for the Pussycat Dolls. Somehow, it resulted in songs that sounded like Fleetwood Mac. You can see how two wouldn't exactly mesh. Instead of scrapping the whole thing, Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine told them to forge ahead with what they were doing. This involved creating a band to go with the songs and a making a whole backstory about what the band did in the "˜70s and how they eventually collapsed. A bunch of artists were in on the joke as well, recording clips reminiscing about the greatness of Platinum Weird. Contributors included Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Stevie Nicks and Christina Aguilera. When Rock Legends, a Behind the Music-type show, appeared on VH1, the network came clean about the band's origins (or lack thereof).

marauders2. The Masked Marauders. Can you imagine a supergroup of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger? Rolling Stone editor Greil Marcus could, so he created it for a review. Except none of the real artists were actually involved, and the record wasn't actually made. The review was hysterical, noting that Paul McCartney jammed with himself on the bass and piano simultaneously, and Bob Dylan had developed a killer bass voice which he displayed by singing "Duke of Earl." People freaked out and the letters started rolling in "“ when would the album be released? So, naturally, an album was created. Impersonators were hired and The Masked Marauders LP was released in November of 1969. It spent 12 weeks on the charts and sold more than 100,000 copies. The public was let in on the joke (if they hadn't already gotten it) when they bought the album "“ several references were made to the sham in the liner notes and in one of the songs.

3. Grunge speak. In 1992, The New York Times ran a piece about the proliferation of grunge music, and asked a Sub Pop Records sales rep if there was some grunge slang that they should know about. Irritated by the question and the attitude toward grunge (kind of like the Times was checking up on a remote tribe that the world didn't know about), the sales rep made up a string of words off the top of her head, including "big bag of bloatation," "cob nobbler," "lamestain," "swingin' on the flippity-flop" and "wack slacks." She said they meant, respectively, drunk, loser, uncool person, hanging out and ripped jeans. You can read the whole list (and the whole article) here (The Times got her record label wrong).

violin4. An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin. According to this book, the funerary violin was an musical genre that was ousted by the Vatican in the mid-19th century and has rarely been spoken of since. It's a work of fiction "“ there is no such thing as that particular genre - but it's hard to categorize it as such, since it's written like a dissertation on the subject. And the author is quick to defend his work, saying that it's not necessarily a hoax, but that he intended to "expand the notion of musical composition to encompass the creation of an entire artistic genre, with its necessary accompanying history, mythology, philosophy, social function, etc."

5. Adélaïde Concerto. No doubt if an undiscovered piece by Mozart suddenly turned up "“ especially a 10-year-old Mozart "“ it would cause great excitement in the musical world. And it did. Too bad the piece was actually written by Marius Casadesus. He even forged a title page that showed "Mozart" had dedicated the piece to Madame Adélaïde de France, King Louis XV's daughter. It was suspected that Casadesus was behind the work for many years (he had claimed that he merely "˜edited' it) but it wasn't confirmed until he admitted it himself in 1977.

6. The Handel Concert and the J.C. Bach Concerto. Um, no wonder Marius Casadesus forged the Mozart piece "“ it ran in the family! His brother, Henri Casadesus, wrote these pieces and claimed they were by Handel and Bach (and there's a third unconfirmed piece as well).

7. Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber. If someone told you that Mozart wrote a little ditty whose title translates to something like, "Lick (or Kiss) me in the ass fine well and clean," I bet you would think they were putting you on. But it's true. Mozart had a bawdy sense of humor. But it's still part hoax "“ or part misunderstanding, perhaps. Although Mozart likely wrote the lyrics, scholars have uncovered that the tune itself was probably written by Wenzel Trnka.

I considered some of the more recent lip-synching incidents of late "“ Britney, of course, and Ashlee Simpson on SNL. But those girls didn't hire someone else to do the singing for them entirely, so I decided they didn't count. If you can remember another scandal of Milli Vanilli-like proportions, be sure to remind us of them in the comments!

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November 17, 2009 - 11:52am
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