FULL DISCLOSURE: This is going to be a post about a particularly full-blooded evening of karaoke I enjoyed on the Friday just past. It can be considered to be of relatively niche interest, perhaps even provocatively self-serving. It will probably not invoke feelings of warm nostalgia for your lost youth, nor will it enlighten, entertain or satisfy you in any material aspect. You proceed at your own peril.
Fans of intermittent Afterword contributor, incomprehensible hip hop enthusiast and shameless dilettante Bingo Little will doubtless recall with mixed affection and concern said individual’s oft-noted enthusiasm for the noble art of karaoke.
It was, perhaps, inevitable, that Little’s dalliances with that second most masturbatory form of evening entertainment would lead him to darker corners, and so it has proved. A chance meeting with an old colleague some months ago lead to the formation of a crack squad of Karaokeists, each bringing to the table their own unique style or lack thereof, and a commitment to tackling vocal challenges of increasing bombast and splendour.
First blood was drawn back in April, when the team undertook a punishing six hour marathon of howled choruses and botched verses, spread across no fewer than three venues (they kept kicking us out), and taking all those involved deep into both the small hours of the night and the farthest reaches of their own fractured psyches. We may not have stared directly into the void that evening, but we certainly harmonized into it, and the sound that came back – if I can even really call it a sound – was both haunting and strangely clarifying.
Friday night saw the inevitable sequel. Again, a marathon session, again vocal chords pushed beyond all human limits and again, tunes forcibly broken to the will of the collective. I’m reproducing below the full catalogue of songs undertaken (someone had the good sense to keep a list this time round), together with a few hard-won observations. Hopefully, these will be of service to all those who might, at some undetermined time, seek to follow in the tremulous footsteps of that ill-fated Brotherhood of the Mic who, on a sunny Friday evening in July, looked music itself square in the face and did not blink or quaver. When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer – on Friday night, for the first time, I related to homeboy, hard.
Let’s Get In On – Marvin Gaye
What’s going on – Marvin Gaye
I’m your man – George Michael
Brown eyed girl – Van Morrison
Sittin on the dock of the baby – Otis Redding
Johnny Be Good – Chuck Berry
Black or white – Michael Jackson
Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars
Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins
This is Hardcore – Pulp
Dakota – stereophonics
Tracks of my tears – Smokey Robinson
It’s My Life – Talk Talk
No Church In the Wild – Jay Z/Kanye West
Gold Digger – Kanye West
Who’s Got a Match – Biffy Clyro
Pass out – Tinie Tempah
Yeah – Usher
What’s the Difference – Dr Dre
Senorita – Justin Timberlake
My girl – The Temptations
Thinkin Bout You – Frank Ocean
Pyramids – Frank Ocean
Self Esteem – Offspring
Sweet child of mine – Guns n Roses
Made You Look – Nas
Dani California – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Ignition – R Kelly
Mr Jones – Counting Crows
Stand by me – Ben E King
It’s like that – Run DMC
Drift Away – Dobie Gray
Welcome to jamrock – Damien Marley
King of wishful thinking – Go west
Fool to Cry – Rolling Stones
I want you back – Jackson 5
Sexual healing – Marvin Gaye
No woman no cry – Bob Marley
Monkey gone to heaven – Pixies
Purple rain – Prince
Hotline bling – Drake
Regulate – Warren G
Still dre – Dr Dre
Straight Outta Compton – NWA
Higher love – Steve Winwood
Heart shaped box – Nirvana
Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead
Fat lip – Sum 41
This is how we do it – Montell Jordan
The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
Lovely day – Bill Withers
Mr Brightside – The Killers
My Cherie amour – Stevie Wonder
Voodoo child slight return – Hendrix
Gimme shelter – Rolling Stones
Return of the Mack – Mark Morrison
Bridge over troubled water – Simon and Garfunkel
Smells like teen spirit – Nirvana
Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
I’m the one who wants to be with you – Mr Big
Boys of Summer – Don Henley
Through the Barricades – Spandau Ballet
Concrete schoolyard -Jurassic 5
Talkin about a revolution – Tracy Chapman
* The only song of the evening which can be said to have truly defeated us was Frank Ocean’s Pyramids. I would strongly advocate consigning this to the “do not touch” category – the various shifts in tone are tricky to manage, and the singing is frequently seemingly completely unmoored from the music behind it. It’s also about nine minutes long. Virtually the only fun part was shouting “Cleopatra”, over and over again.
* Surprise discovery of the day was that Welcome to Jamrock is an absolutely stellar karaoke selection. Literally everybody loves shouting “OUT IN THE STREETS, THEY CALL IT MURRRR-DAH”, to the point where it was frequently interjected into the pauses of completely unrelated songs later on (“BRAAAAAVEHEARTS” from Nas’s Made You Look got the same treatment). Two thumbs up, would sing again. Particularly recommend whacking up the reverb, if available, to disguise all manner of toasting fauxs pas.
* No song invites its practitioners to get completely lost in music quite like Sexual Healing. People really do live that shit.
* If you want to do karaoke, but don’t really want to sing (which, let’s face it, is most people’s position, deep down), This Is Hardcore by Pulp is the tune for you. You can pretty much spoken word your way through the entire thing, and look relatively louche and debonair while doing so. Jarvis kicks and hand gestures entirely optional.
* By contrast, if you want to absolutely torch your voice, head directly for Sweet Child of Mine. Ouch.
* Also in the “enormous fun to sing” category: Uptown Funk, Pass Out, Mr Brightside and Return of the Mack.
* You haven’t lived until you’ve segued Street Spirit (Fade Out) into Fat Lip.
This is the bit where I’m supposed to propose something that will lead to a flowing conversation beyond the OP itself. So I’d like to ask: what are your memories of 1970s food, and are there any band names you find particularly irritating?