Karaoke Nights

An extensive ode to my favorite hobby...
April 17, 2009
In several previous articles, I've alluded to my love of karaoke. Now I would like to devote an entire piece to it.

Karaoke is something of great pleasure for me. The town I live in has very little for those who aren't children or senior citizens to do. Karaoke has been a Godsend for me. When I enter the bar, it's like entering another world...A world where there's no penalty for cursing or saying shocking things. It's where I go to let off steam and have a good time.

I would now like to share some of the songs I've done at karaoke, and how I have performed them.

Let's start off with one of the tracks I'm acclaimed for doing. The song is "Purple Rain" by Prince.

I've been a Prince fan from way back. I've quoted his music in several pieces I've written over the years, but at karaoke, I have tried several of his songs, and I haven't done too well with them. One night, I decided to perform "Purple Rain", though, and what emerged was what would become one of my standards.

I just tore into it, doing my best to copy Prince's singing patterns, and I must've done it well, because the entire bar was cheering. When it got to the lyric that encouraged everybody to wave their hands, the entire bar responded in kind.

The first few times I performed, I mimicked Prince's "oohs" as the song drew to a close, but then I decided to try something different. I decided to try doing an impromptu sermon just like I was a Southern preacher. I could also be seen as paying homage to another song from the "Purple Rain" soundtrack, the track "Let's Go Crazy". I call for Amens and Hallejulahs and the bar goes along with it.

I only perform it by request now, but I'll fulfill the request every time.

Another song I perform by request is "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns 'N' Roses.

The first time I performed this song was in 2006. Karaoke fell on Black Friday that year, and I prefaced my performance of this song by comparing retail stores to the craziness of jungles, urban and otherwise. I then performed the song, yelling and snarling in all the right places, and maybe a few of the wrong ones, too. By the end of the song, I wasn't even singing, but instead screaming out the lyrics.

It was also on this song that I introduced my prediliction for profanity. Taking a cue from a G'N'R peformance I once heard, I yelled out:

"You know where you are? You're in the motherfucking jungle, baby! You're gonna diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

The entire bar was yelling out their approval, just like I was a member of the group. I only do the song by request now, because I don't want it to get stale, unlike some other singers who stick to the same songs over and over again.

You see, even though I live in New York, country music is strangely popular where I am. As such, country music is performed very frequently. There's a few tracks I'm okay with, but all in all, I feel like I'm in "The Blues Brothers", where they're told Bob's Country Bunker has both kinds of music, country and Western.

I bring up both because there's this one singer at karaoke who performs the same 5 country songs and "Sweet Home Chicago" over and over again. He has a book filled with dozens of karaoke discs, but out of all of them, he only has a set amount of songs.

I tried to spark him up with a kamikaze karaoke. A kamikaze is where you send out a song for somebody to sing. If they agree to sing it, you have to buy them a drink. If not, they have to buy you a drink. One evening, I kamikazed this singer to get out of the deep South and pay a visit to 8 Mile.

Yes, I dared a man in his mid-50s to perform Eminem's Oscar-winning classic "Lose Yourself". Unfortunately, he turned it down and I got stiffed out of my drink. Another singer took over, but he had done the song before. He does it well, but variety is the spice of life, and it would've been interesting to hear this older singer step out of his comfort zone.

I've been on the receiving end of my share of kamikazes, and I've never turned them down, no matter how outrageous they might be.

For example, one evening, someone dared me to perform Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like A Woman".

Never one to pussy out at karaoke, I gave the song a swing and the entire bar was cheering me on. When the song ended, I was told that I had the biggest pair of balls in the room. Well, we all do outrageous things, and this was one of the most outrageous for me.

Sometimes, I'll personalize a track. There are a few country tracks I like, one of which is The Charlie Daniels' Band's "The Devil Went To Georgia".

The song relates the tale of a battle between the fiddle-playing Satan and a young guy named Johnny. My real name is John, and so every time the name Johnny comes up, I always say "I" or "I'll" or "My" or words like that. I use profanity on here as well.

The original lyric is:

"Johnny said: "Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again.
I told you once, you son of a bitch, I'm the best that's ever been."
I change it to:

"I said to him 'Hey, come on back if you ever want to try again, 'cause I told you once, you fucking prick, I'M the best there's ever been!"

I don't perform it much anymore, basically because I feel variety is the spice of life and because no one has requested me to sing it. If the request ever comes up, though, then yippie-ki-yay, motherfuckers!

There are some songs I suck at, though, and even my partisans don't like my versions. One of them is Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley's "Paradise By The Dashboard Light".

I've tried it several times, and I've whiffed every time. After a poor rendition of it last year that had even people who normally like my singing yelling "Spare us" when I said it was a song I would be doing a lot in the future, I decided it wasn't worth it. I haven't performed it since then.

The only part of the song I'm really good at is the sportscaster part, and even that hasn't gotten exactly the best of receptions. My Mom says that plenty of people have tried it and not gotten it right. She bought up how people who drink have tried performing it. Oh, there's a real confidence booster.

I eventually came to the conclusion that the only thing I have in common with Meat Loaf is weight issues.

On a different tack, several years back, this drunk guy wanted me to peform Led Zeppelin's classic "Stairway To Heaven" with him.

I'm not exactly a rocker, but if someon wants me to perform with them, I'll play along. I gave it a go, but my duet partner was off-key and singing several lyrics before I did. It fell to a 3rd person to join in and get the song back on track. Unfortunately, every one of us was singing different parts and it came out rather poorly. Would I give it another go? Yes, but only if my fellow singer were sober.

You see, the bar I perform at is 21 and over. That can be both good and bad. The bad involves drunkenness and the good involves the fact that I can say and sing outrageous things, and I won't get in trouble.

The woman who runs the karaoke I go to is named Stacey, and the both of us are known for dueting on the songs "Sex (I'm A...)" by Berlin and "Obsession" by Animotion.

I had been exposed (forgive the pun) to both of these songs in my youth, and when I saw them both in the song books, I decided I would give them a go.

I enjoy performing these tracks with Stacey, and when we perform, we improvise on the lyrics. With "Obsession", I'll syncopate with the instrumental and use lyrics like:

"Give it to me, Stacey. Give it to me, Stacey. Give it to me, Stacey. You know you drive me crazy!"

When we perform "Sex", we do our own riff on the end of the original, when Terri Nunn is having an orgasm, or at least doing a good job at faking it.

It's times like those that I'm glad I'm an adult.

To close out the article, I'll go with the song I always close the night with. This is one song that I'll gladly sing every time I perform. The song is "Fight For Your Right To Party" by The Beastie Boys.

Aaah, yes. This track comes from that glorious time when the Boys weren't concerned with world affairs or raising money for various causes. It was back when they were just about having fun. The Beastie Boys have often stated their regret at this time in their lives, but one of the best things about being young, or young-like, is just doing things for the pure fun of it. I truly enjoy this track, and I like performing it, too.

As always, I change lyrics, though. The lyric is:

"Your Mom busted in and said 'What's that noise'?.
Aw, Mom, you're just jealous. It's the Beastie Boys".

Since it's obvious that me and my 2 fellow singers aren't the Beastie Boys, I always change the lyric. Since we do the song great, I change the second lyric to:

"It's 3 people who sing better than the Beastie Boys!"

While that may not necessarily be true, we are more in tune with the glories of that combination of naughtiness and innocence than the Boys themselves are now.


I can't imagine a time in my life before I went to karaoke. Before I started going, my Friday nights were very, very boring. Now, every other Friday, I'm a pop star, fueled by Coke (because they don't serve Pepsi), having a wonderful time and just letting my hair down. I love it.

So, with that, the floor is open for discussions: Do any of you like karaoke? When you sing, are there any particular songs you like to do? Do you change around lyrics or just play it straight?
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