Friday, February 13, 2015

Karaoke Dokey

In 2002, I composed and recorded a wonderful album with the missus, who’d been the singer in a South London-based new wave group around the time Blondie, like which they sounded, sort of ruled the world. Our album, Like a Moth to Its Flame, credited to Mistress Chloe, was celebrated in The Village Voice and San Francisco Chronicle, and inspired all who heard it to shout, “Hurrah!”, but the missus has since confined herself musically to karaoke, for which she began developing a serious taste during our 2004 visit to Cyprus, where she performed Baby Spice’s sole UK hit to a small audience at an outdoor restaurant by the sea. She later became a crowd favourite at the karaoke nites overseen by the noted DJ Bob Allen in grungy Ramsgate, Kent, and, more recently, at a gay pub in Richmond, a couple of hundred meters (ain’t I European today!) from where The Rolling Stones began their ascent at the famous Crawdaddy club, now a sushi joint.

Last night in our hotel bar on the outskirts of El Medano, on the south coast of Tenerife, though, she wowed ‘em as she has wowed ‘em but rarely, performing everything from T. Rex’s “Telegram Sam” to the Stones’ “Brown Sugar” with crowd-delighting panache, brio, and what have you. Where once (as while with The Voyeurs, here depicted) she seemed immobilized by self-consciousness, she now beams with pleasure and dances in time to the music, and the audience’s heart invariably melts.

The evening got off to a rocky start with the author performing Marty Robbins’ fervently corny 1958 hit “El Paso” with unbridled theatricality that, from the look of them, inspired many horrified onlookers to muse, “WTF?” The missus then knocked ‘em for a loop with her spirited rendition of The Tremeloes’ Cat Stevens-composed “Here Comes My Baby.” Over the course of the evening, during which the audience came to adore her ever more fervently, she treated us as well to Blondie’s “Presence, Dear,”  the Rolling Stones’ bawdy “Brown Sugar,” and Alvin Stardust’s unheard-in-America, but quite wonderful (and wonderfully lewd) glam-era classic “My Koo Ka Choo.” Remarkably, given that she once conspired to impersonate Chrissie Hynde on the UK pop star-imitating programme Stars In Their Eyes, she performed no Pretenders favourites. By around her fourth number, the cottontops at the adjoining table were imploring her to try a ballad, but to no avail.

It has long been my own ambition, because I am vengeful, and my sense of humor puckish, to perform Richard Harris’s famous version of the Jimmy Webb classic “MacArthur Park,” and last night that dream (or, for the audience, nightmare) came true. Sweet green icing flowed down by the gallon as I gesticulated even more immoderately than in “El Paso.” I thought, during the endless instrumental section, that by rights it should have been Bob Allen’s audience in Ramsgate I was tormenting, as in my 17 months there it invariably included a couple who performed Meat Loaf’s comparably endless “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as dissonantly as any song has ever been performed. But we don’t live in a just world. 

The average age in last night’s audience was probably around 92, but no one seemed inclined to perform “My Way” or “Mack the Knife.” Indeed, we were the only actual singers, to whatever extent you might describe me as a singer, except for a pair of old gals who made the “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” couple sound in comparison like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and a Scottish woman who apparently felt duty-bound to remind us of the great Proclaimers Hit “500 Miles.” The DJ made everyone (except their husbands, who took him outside and beat him unconscious (just kidding)) titter by stuffing paper towels in his ears while they performed. 

My own most successful performance, in terms of audience pleasure (or at least diminished impatience), was probably Desmond Dekker’s glorious “Israelites.” Performing at a karaoke nite, you can’t go wrong evoking an audience’s carefree younger days. 

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