Out of Tune
I realized last night how little I know about music.
My friend Jim sang a song at karaoke and he asked “Was I out of tune?” and I said “How would I know?”
I wouldn’t. All I know is some music sounds ok to me and some music doesn’t.
I don’t know what an octave is and why there are more than one of them. Sure, I know an octave has 8 notes (“oct” duh), but I don’t know why those same 8 notes repeat over and over and sound different and you call them the same things. And why 8 and not 10 or 7?
I don’t know what a key is or sharp or a flat or a time signature is or anything. I missed out, ok? I was busy reading Misty of Chinconteague and I grew up in a house where the radio was never on and we only had 3 Herb Alpert records and an unplayed copy of Brigadoon. I just never caught up.
So last night CC and Jim wanted to go to karaoke and I went. I knew I wasn’t going to sing, because the world is in sad enough shape already. It surely does not need that. I’ll sing along in church in a big crowd, but how much damage can you do to “This Little Light of Mine” with 200 people singing? It’s not like belting out “Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong” in front of a room of unsuspecting strangers. Though karaoke is suspecting strangers, I suppose.
Karaoke is held every night of the week at Golden China, a large multi-level restaurant with two bar areas, shabby 90s decor and a strong odor of stale sesame oil.
The “KJ” (which I must assume stands for “karaoke jockey”) was a bald 30-something guy in khakis and a polo shirt who was pretty obviously only there to sing as much as he could. I thought he’d have a rapport with the audience, some kind of karaoke patter, but he stuck to just calling the next person, then disappearing into his little karaoke booth.
The karaoke screen was suspended above the stage, a little too high, so that it gave the singers the unfortunate effect of looking slightly demented because their eyes were rolled up in their heads to see the lyrics. It’s a karaoke fact that, even if you know all the words to a song, you are legally required to read them off the screen every single time. So everyone looked demented.
Of course, some of the singers were demented. Jim says every karaoke bar has its oddball denizens, but this was all new to me. It must be like City Council meetings, where there are always those three lunatics who attend.
Greggy was Golden China’s resident loon – a wall-eyed, close-to-tipping-over drunk who bobbed and weaved his way up to the stage, then screamed out lyrics with the intensity and tunefulness of a large hooved mammal during mating season. You have to hand it to Greggy though – he had passion. He gave it his all, every time.
Jim sang a few and was good, giving slightly somber, steady performances of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and “Pump it Up” where he managed to get both the words and melody right, something that eluded many of the singers.
CC was overwhelmed by the 3-inch thick binder of songs and spent the hour and a half we were there pondering all the possibilities. She finally decided and was writing her selection on the entry form when I left to go to the bathroom. It was midnight and I figured it would be four or five songs until they got to her, but I was game, even though my joie de vivre had left me at least an hour before.
My epitaph is probably going to read “Not a night person.”
Sitting on the toilet, I fell into one of those weird microsleeps, where you start dreaming even though you don’t know you have started sleeping, then you jerk out of it going “Huh?” and looking around to see if anyone heard you.
When I got back to the table, CC still hadn’t finished writing the form, and something snapped. “I’m FINISHED,” I blurted. “Going home now!”
I felt like I was having a bossy out-of-body experience, but I was tired and cold and sick of stale sesame oil. I am the least fun person ever, I know.
So that was karaoke. Maybe I should put on that Brigadoon album and try to sing along.