The subject for Day 18 of my 30-day Song Challenge is “A song you sing well(ish) at karaoke“. Now let me state upfront that I’m not, nor have I ever been, a singer, nor have I sung karaoke very much. And most of the few times I did, I was embarrassingly bad. One of the eye-opening things about attempting karaoke is how really difficult it is to stand up and sing into a microphone when you’re not a singer, nor have any real experience singing in public.
My very first attempt at singing karaoke was back in the early 90s while at a bowling alley in Sacramento, CA with friends. After bowling a few games, during which we also drank a fair amount of alcohol, the six of us went into a room where people were singing karaoke. I and two friends, who were also co-workers, decided we’d tackle the B-52s classic “Love Shack”. Despite its fun, party-like vibe, “Love Shack” is not as easy a song to sing as one would think, partly because there are both male and female parts, but also because they’re meant to be sung in a colorful, animated style that requires a bit of vocal talent. Patricia sang the female parts okay, but Jim (who had an even worse singing voice than me) and I literally mangled the male parts. We were so bad, our other three friends began jeering and throwing food at us!
A few years later, after my partner and I moved to St. Louis, we had a friend who liked to go to karaoke bars. Curiously, though he played piano and sang beautifully, he never wanted to sing karaoke, but only watch others do it. We tagged along with him a few times, and one night, after I’d taken in just the right amount of liquid courage to lower my inhibitions but still maintain adequate mental acuity, I first sang the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta number from Grease, “You’re the One That I Want”, in a duet with the bar owner’s daughter. Then I did a decent job singing the Archies’ bubble-gum classic “Sugar, Sugar”. With my newly-found confidence, on a subsequent visit to the karaoke bar, I summoned the courage to sing the Bee Gees‘ “You Should Be Dancing“. And much to my own surprise, I gave a stellar performance, falsetto and all!
Sadly, all my following attempts at karaoke, of which I can remember only three more – The Diamonds’ 1950s classic “Little Darlin'” (WTF was I even thinking that I could possibly handle that song, which I butchered in front of Patricia, of the “Love Shack” debacle, and her husband Keith, who were visiting from Sacramento), Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On”, in a pathetic duet with my friend Sue while on a cruise, and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, which was far more difficult to sing than I’d imagined. After that humiliation, my karaoke days were over!
Now, for a bit of info about my song pick: As everyone knows, though the Bee Gees began their career writing and singing mostly heartfelt ballads, they transitioned to a more rock-oriented style in the 1970s, which later included a number of dance songs. Although the brothers Gibb felt their songs like “Jive Talkin'” and “Stayin’ Alive” were actually rock songs, they were labeled disco by both music critics and fans. I do consider “You Should Be Dancing”, with it’s infectious, thumping dance beat, as a true disco song, and what a fun song it was to dance to! Released in 1976, it was later used for one of the great dance scenes in the film Saturday Night Fever, where John Travolta wows us with his amazing moves on the dance floor.
Here’s the scene from Saturday Night Fever of John Travolta dancing to “You Should Be Dancing”: