Karaoke or Help! I Can’t Sing

On July 5th, a couple of friends from my writers’ group invite me to Bunkers in Leesburg to sing karaoke. If you knew me, you’d know that singing isn’t one of the gifts that God had blessed me with.

Well, I went anyway. And sang. I’d decided that this year, I was going to try different things, even if they were scary. So far, I’d tried swing dancing and pistol shooting.

My friends were a little late arriving, so I went in and started reviewing the available songs. I picked The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby and Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive. I really wanted to do The Who’s My Wife, but it  wasn’t in the book, and as it turned out, not available for karaoke.

Now, this is a perfect example of my luck. It was the one song that I knew all the words and one that was easily within my limited vocal abilities. The bassist, John Entwistle, who normal doesn’t sing lead vocals, sang lead on this song.

My friends showed, got their usual table, and picked their songs. They were calm and collected, and I was a bundle of nerves. It’d been thirty plus years since I’d been on a stage. Then, I’d been among a couple of dozen musicians–plus, I’d been able to “hide” behind a cello.

As chance would have it, I was first up from my friends, though thankfully, not first for the evening. One of reasons I picked Eleanor Rigby was that it was short and easy. Another was that it’s my favorite Beatles song, just strings, no drums, guitars, or synthesizers. Anyway, I believed it wouldn’t be much of a problem.

As I stood on the small stage, things looked very different. One, I could see the audience–something I’d never done when performing. Two, when I attempted to adjust the mike stand to my height, I pulled the top half from the bottom–yep, I broke it, and had to put it back together. Three, I anticipated starting with first of the lyrics, but the recorded “background singers” did that, I was thrown off-balance from the start.

I followed the song fairly closely, only bobbled the words once that I recall. And I made the mike stand my best friend on that lonely stage. My friend, Eleanor, took a picture of me clinging to it as if my life depended on it.

Contrary to appearances, my legs were with me–I wore black jeans. 🙂

I got back to the table and my nerves were gone. Both Eleanor and Angela were supportive. Obviously, I didn’t overwhelm with talent, not that that was on the table. My goal was to hold my own, but I didn’t think I managed it…

My friends did two songs each. They’re skilled singers. Needless to say, I was impressed. It probably was good that I was the first of us to sing–it would’ve been even harder going after them.

Highlights: Eleanor performed a great version of The Cranberry’s Zombie, and Angela did a Kelly Clarkson song (I think). I’m not up on pop music, but she sang well, and I enjoyed it. Several guys had wonderful performances. One, in particular, blew me away. He took a wireless mike and abandoned the stage (and TV monitor) to perform while walking among the audience. Wow!

As I was watching my friends and the other singers, I was thinking that Dead or Alive wasn’t going to work well for me. As important as knowing the words and staying in tune (tough propositions anyway), stage presence counted for a lot.

I needed a song that I knew, backwards and forwards, something I sang along with countless times. None of the songs that I practiced all week commuting fit the bill, not with My Wife being out of the picture. I had no confidence in Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, The Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia, or Men at Work’s Who Can It Be Now.

Luckily, Eleanor had been looking through the song book throughout the night. I’d taken note of several interesting songs for next time. But this time, I needed something that I had confidence in. I chose Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. I replaced my selection, and the woman running everything said it was a good song.

I was called and didn’t have nerves. I’d decided to go for it while watching and waiting. What’s the worse that could happen? I could make a fool of myself in front of my friends. Well, I kinda accomplished that already. I figured that I had nowhere to go but up.

So, I got on stage and listened to the acoustic guitar and started swaying to the music. The words came across the screen, and I start singing. I moved around the stage, singing to the audience, only referring occasionally to the monitor. At the instrumental break, I moved the mike stand behind me, so I could use the entire stage without entangling the mike chord, which I did. Yeah, I was stoked! I enjoyed it a lot!

Then, after the words were done, the monitor says, “9 measure break.” For the life of me, standing and swaying with the music, I couldn’t recall what vocals were left. There weren’t anymore verses, and the chorus doesn’t repeat. I was swaying and dancing, trying to maintain a sense of calm, failing to remember what’s left for me to do. Eventually, the monitor displays lines and lines of “Doo Doo Dah.”

Now, I remembered–it’s the end of the song! I had the famous “Oh, shit!” moment. I had a general idea of how the tune went, but I’d never memorized it, so I did the only thing I could. I faked it!

Afterward, I walked back to the table and Eleanor and Angela looked surprised and shocked. 🙂 Well, join the club; I was a little surprised and shocked, too.

In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, someone mentioned that karaoke means empty orchestra and further says that the definition was hauntingly beautiful. I think that’s awesome. Karaoke was great fun and hopefully, no one was haunted.

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