"What'd you get?"
"Vodka and pepsi."
"Vodka and pepsi is not gross. Vodka and chocolate syrup is gross. Vodka and ketchup is gross. Vodka and pepsi is just weird."
"Actually, vodka and chocolate syrup would be kinda like a chocolate martini. Yum."
And so begins another departmental karaoke night on Monday, with a small but determined turnout of sociologists.* Jerry Marwell, who had provided the main talent component of the faculty karaoke contribution prior to his leaving for a post-retirement stint at NYU, was back in town and in a mood only to do songs by Ray Charles. After three such numbers, I convinced him to expand the circle to other recently departed artists, so that he would do one of his signature songs, Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."**
What has already been established at these karaoke nights, but which I merrily re-affirmed yet again, is that I plainly and by far possess the least singing ability of anyone willing to take their turn on the karaoke stage. As with my driving ability, which is also horrendous, I would still assert that I am above the absolute lowest echelon of the incompetent, as I think that echelon should be reserved for those who are not just incompetent but also unaware of it. Anyway, everyone else in sociology who does karaoke regularly is obviously and considerably better than me.
I am at peace with my song-styling-suckiness. Besides my own enjoyment, I see myself offering three contributions to the greater karaoke collective. First, I cheer raucously for everyone else--sociologists in general are smart enough about community to know to do this--which encourages those on stage to even more stellar performances. Applauding at the end is NOT adequate--here's a karaoke-cheering-rule-of-thumb: the audience should clap/whoop at least twice in the first 90-120 seconds of a song. Second, my appearances onstage help lower the inhibitory threshold keeping other people from participating: "If that guy is fine with going up there with that embarrassingly little to offer the musical world, what am I worried about?" Third, and this I've only recently discovered, I can put my name in for songs that I have no business claiming I'm going to be able to do, and, then, when my name is called, I can exhort person(s) with genuine karaoke talent to bail me out by joining me on stage to do the actual singing/entertainment work.
Anyway, I went onstage six different times last night--which may be a record--for: "Outbound Plane" (a rare Jeremy solo! awful! hideous!)***; "No Scrubs" (Dorotha and I fight over who gets to be the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes); "Birdhouse in Your Soul"; "Survivor" (a cameo appearance just for the line about how Beyonce's not going to diss you on the Internet); "You Oughta Know" (see third point in preceding paragraph); "Sweet Child O' Mine" (ditto).
I ended up staying there until close to midnight. On the way home I was so hungry that I stopped at the only non-Taco-Bell drive-thru available: Big Mike's Super Subs on Regent Street. Once again, as ever, they lived up to their store slogan: "So what if most of our late-night employees are high? You think you can't be high and make a good sandwich?"
I just looked in my iTunes "Purchased Music" and realized there are at least ten (!)songs that I have bought on iTunes after hearing them done at karaoke or at least having them raised as karaoke possibility. I'm not proud of having bought all of them, but, for posterity, here's the list: "Downtown", "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues", "I've Been To Paradise, But I've Never Been to Me"****, "Mandy", "No Scrubs", "Proud Mary", "Survivor", "Train in Vain", "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (best karaoke song ever), "Werewolves of London."
* Alas, I did not bring my digital camera, so no photos.
** Speaking of Johnny Cash, about a week ago I watched for the first time the widely acclaimed video for his song "Hurt" that was released a year or two before he died. The song itself, despite an awkward first verse, is an inspired cover of a Nine Inch Nails song. But, if anybody clicks on the link and watches the video (or has seen it before), can you let me know if you agree that the parts of it with Johnny at the banquet table are really, despite whatever acclaim, lame and even kinda creepy? Like the gestures they have Johnny do, and the wine spilling thing, and that inexplicable shot of that fish head.
*** Submitted to the karaoke stewards only at Jerry's behest that I put something in early on. I dithered between doing "Outbound Plane" and doing Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life", which, after a next-day review of the latter's lyrics, I think I made the wise choice.
**** The 99-cent purchase of which confirmed my suspicion that the sociology graduate student who does this song does it way-way better than the original.