When I was a kid, the Carpenters urged their listeners to “sing a song.” The year was 1973, and the song had been written by Joe Raposo for the children’s show “Sesame Street” a couple of years earlier. The Carpenters took their version (sans Muppets) all the way to No. 3 in the Billboard charts, extolling listeners not to worry if “it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear.”
That’s what we who sing karaoke have to do: Not worry about it, and just go for it.
I’ve been singing on stage, regularly or periodically, for 20 years now. It’s one of a few things I can do reasonably well, but for which I’d never win any awards.
Still, I tend to surprise people who know me as a fairly reserved, introverted sort when I get up on stage and tackle “T.R.O.U.B.L.E.” by Travis Tritt or the Cheap Trick classic “Surrender.”
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You won’t see me trying out for “The Voice” or signing any recording contracts, though. I’ve entered a few contests, and I’ve never won because, let’s face it, there are a lot of really good singers out there.
I started singing myself as a sort of therapy after the breakup of my first marriage. Most karaoke is done in bars, but I didn’t go there to meet women. I went there to sing, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I even took two semesters of voice classes at Fresno City College where I learned how to sing from the diaphragm (not the throat), how to shape my mouth to enunciate more clearly and so forth. (A side note: The teacher was classically trained; when she asked class members at the end of the semester who our favorite singers were, I chose Freddie Mercury — but she didn’t know who he was.)
There are at least a couple of places to sing here on the North Coast.
Mozzi’s Saloon on Main Street in Cambria has karaoke Thursday nights, and San Simeon Beach Bar & Grill hosts Jim “Elvis” and Vel Owen on Fridays and Saturdays. George Gray has also hosted karaoke at various times.
Samaire and I headed up to San Simeon last Saturday to sing and had a great time. It was only the second time we’d been to karaoke in a few months, and “Elvis” made us feel welcome.
He was in a movie called “3,000 Miles to Graceland” — a quirky caper movie set, in part, at a convention of Elvis impersonators — and showed us a photo of himself with Christian Slater, one of the stars, taken during filming. He also had pics of himself with CCSD Director Amanda Rice and former Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters, both of whom had taken the stage during his karaoke shows. Who knew politics and singing had so much in common?
Actually, karaoke’s a great excuse to escape from politics, work, financial worries, relationship problems or whatever else you might be dealing with in the real world. You can sing Billy Joel’s “My Life” to your parents, the Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes” about your ex, “God Bless the USA” about your country or “Can’t Help Falling in Love” to your sweetheart. (That last one’s an Elvis tune, which Jim closed the show with this past Saturday.)
It’s a lot better than getting stuck at the Heartbreak Hotel or Hotel California. You can check out of the bar anytime you like, but it’s so much fun, you’re likely to be back for more.
Don’t get up on stage with a singer unless you’re invited. Duets with someone you know are one thing; having a half-drunk patron you don’t know try to upstage you is another.
Watch where you’re going. Don’t trip over the speakers or the microphone cord and do a header into the front row. And with some systems, if you move in front of the speaker while you’re singing, you’ll create a cringe-worthy wave of feedback.
Don’t put a song slip in with someone else’s name on it. I mean, come on, is this junior high? You might as well put a sign that reads “kick me” on the person’s back. If they want to sing a song, they’ll put it up themselves. They don’t need a helping hand from you.
Don’t sing the same song someone else just sang. Remember, there’s an audience. They don’t want to hear more of the same. Plus, you’ll either sing the song better or worse than the person before you, and you’ll either upstage or fail to live up to them. Either way, you’re the one who looks bad.
Don’t walk in front of the monitor while someone’s singing. That’s even worse than walking in front of the TV during the last two minutes of the Super Bowl.
Be polite. Applaud even if someone sings a song you hate or sounds like a drunken coyote howling in the moonlight. It’s the right thing to do.