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Great moments in lip-synching: Whitney Houston, Nirvana & more

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Whitney Houston
George Rose/Getty Images

There’s a silver lining to yesterday’s whole Beyoncé lip-synching debacle: If Bey did, in fact, mouth the words to the national anthem at Monday’s inauguration, at least she’s in good company.

As Jennifer Lopez noted on The Daily Show last night, basically every major musician has relied on pre-recorded tracks at some point — even giants like The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston. (Not to mention lesser beings like Ashlee Simpson and Milli Vanilli.) So in honor of the earpiece-removal that scandalized a nation, let’s look back at some of music history’s most memorable lip-synching moments — both famous and infamous.

The Beatles, 1963

Lip-synching — or “miming” — was de rigueur on mid-century pop music showcases like American Bandstand and Britain’s Top of the Pops. Even the Fab Four got in on the act when they played those sorts of shows, as in this 1963 performance of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on Thank Your Lucky Stars. The handclaps coming from nowhere are a nice touch.

The Smiths, 1983

Of course, not every musician who appeared on those showcases was happy about being forced to lip-sync. In 1983, Morrissey showed how much he resented Top of the Pops‘s miming policy by petulantly carrying a bouquet of gladioli instead of a microphone during a performance of “This Charming Man.” Nirvana would pull a similar stunt on the same show in 1991, though under slightly different circumstances — as the rest of the band fooled around with their instruments, plainly not playing them, Kurt Cobain delivered a bizarre, live-sung version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

NEXT PAGE: Even the King of Pop (and Queen) do it