Monday, 8 November 2010

I Know This Much Is True

So I was sitting in this bar – this was back in the day when I was still young enough to sit in a vaguely trendy bar without people gathering in corners and wondering who the old fart in the corner was - and it was quite late in the evening. I’m not much of a drinker and I was driving anyway, so I was stone-cold sober.

And of course there was a karaoke on.

It was that time when karaoke (literally meaning “empty orchestra”) was everywhere and sad, beer-bellied blokes were getting up and singing “Hstranghers hin the night-a” or “hthe hwonder hof hew” in that style of singing that only drunk pub singers can manage, drawling out every line, whilst ill-advised young couples were taking on “Bat Out Of Hell” having failed to realise that it’s a nine minute song

Fortunately these things are rare today – though you still see them from time to time. Kareoke, that is – not drunk pub singers: you see them all the time – but they were all the rage at the time. My normal, sober, reaction upon seeing a Kareoke machine would have been to turn-tail and find another pub, but I was with friends you understand.

And it so happened that not that long ago Tony Hadley (of Spandau Ballet) had been doing solo gigs in that area – not the night before, but you know – not long back. And about half way through the night, after a particularly drunk and manic young lady had murdered Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” this bloke in a white suit got up to sing (it was also the time when white suits were yet to become laughable for the second time (the first time being around the time of Miami Vice))

And the thing was: he was the spitting image of Tony Hadley

And the song he chose to sing was “True”, by Spandau Ballet

And when he sang it he sounded exactly like Tony Hadley – to the note.

Only – I’m not sure. Is this what faded pop stars do in their spare time? Trawl the karaoke bars of the world bemusing the regulars by performing their own songs to generic backing tracks?

Plus: my memory of this Tony Hadley lookie-likey is that he must have been about 10 years too young to be the actual Tony Hadley – unless of course the man himself had aged well. So was it the man himself, or just someone who had practiced very hard? I guess I’ll never really know.

But I do feel a bit sad for these fading stars. Like I went to see Midge Ure (Ultravox and one half of Band Aid along with Bob Geldof) not long after the Tony Hadley incident (and we’re still talking at least 10 years ago here) and he introduced one song by saying “The last time we did this song we had Eric Clapton on guitar on the left, Mark Knopfler on guitar on the right, Mark King of Level 42 on bass and Phil Collins on drums: tonight you’re getting the cheap version”

All very amusing at the time: but sometimes I wonder if it hurts to be reduced from having entertained 70,000 people in one go and from having Phil Collins and the Pope on your speed-dial, to playing bingo halls and karaoke bars where the audience are disinterested at best – or if the music itself remains enough
I hope the latter is true: I hope that it’s still enough just to create the music, to be a part of that moment – but still: there must be a part of them, as they stand on that stage, that looks out on that small room and wonders where it all went.

Maybe that’s why there are so many Era-Revival tours with all the nearly-made-it acts on one line-up, not just because the acts want to recapture something they once had, but because we do as well

Who knows – maybe one day I’ll be in a pub somewhere watching a karaoke and Lady Ga-Ga will get up and do one of her own songs then disappear, unrecognised apart from by me? Don’t be too sure it couldn’t happen.


Kat Mortensen said...

My husband and I went to see "ABC" at our local cultural stage venue (Leonard Cohen's tour stopped there and it was brilliant!), but ABC was only Martin Fry. I have to admit though, he put his all into it and it was a good show, but sad in its own way. Mind you, I came away from it with a new appreciation of the lyricism of ABC which, it turns out had really only been Fry and a synthesizer, when it came down to it because the other members were fly-by-nights who didn't really hang around.
I've always wanted to do Karaoke, but never had the guts (or enough drink in me).


Argent said...

Satan will be ice-skating to work before I ever do karaoke! Yes, it is a bit sad to see these former stars trying to reclaim their glory days. Still, if they're enjoying themselves.... (big if).

Titus said...

Oh God, I love love love karaoke. I mean love it. Best not to go out with me anywhere near a microphone, in fact. Especially where drink's involved.
Tony hasn't aged particularly well, so I don't think it was him.

And DFTP, I never got your e-mail address. Look, I'm here:
TitusmckayATaolDOTcom. I need your words for an academic portfolio submission that uses poets from Hesiod to the modern day to explore the myth of Pandora and the dangerous woman. It's a mash-up, full credits at end of the works used.

pohanginapete said...

Good question (whether the music remains enough, that is). My guess is it depends on so many things — size of ego, direction of focus (past, present or future), present situation (amount of alcohol, quality of friends and audience, etc) and so on — that generalising's necessarily meaningless. But, I imagine it might often resemble the feelings of an author on seeing her book in a pile of remainders, flogged off for 5% of the original RRP.
   This is the kind of situation where buddhist concepts of nonattachment and awareness of the present probably come in mighty handy.
   As for karaoke, give me an unplugged jam session any day. I guess karaoke can be entertaining, but I prefer my music listenable, and at the kind of volume at which I can still hold a conversation with friends.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Kat - Martin Fry eh? Kareoke - i dunno: it's probably best done on holiday where no one knows you!

Argent - there was a particular chappie a few years ago who was whinging on about forever being associated with his 1980s heydey...funnily enough now the audiences are thinning out he's back doing a tour with the group again

Titus - see comment to Kat, but i will admit to being guilty of having done Kareoke in the past. These days i'd be more interested in singing live if i had my guitar

Pete - your unplugged jam sounds great. What time are we meeting :) - well, maybe one day anyhoo...

Michael said...

You've got a killer sense of humour. Quielty sharp. Are you this funny in real life?

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

michael - i dunno: people always look at me and laugh, so i guess i must be (joke)

I have my moments :)

the watercats said...

yup... I reckon it's better to just start quiet, and remain there, then even when you just get one person who likes you it's a buzz... glad to see Brian Ferry is going again though, saw him on Jools the other night and cursed him and his fantastic band and wall of backing singers.. will be getting his new album for x-mas hopefully, (at least I dropped enough hints to the Ronald!)