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.