Date Night #5: Sing when you’re winning…
Ah date night. That wonderful night when you screw your courage to the sticking point and put yourself out there for one more spin on the merry-go-round of love. This one took place at All Star Lanes on Brick Lane, where some choice power ballads were being belted out…
I’ve always loved singing, and in my day I was even pretty good at it. As a soprano chorister in my early teens I sang for both the Queen of England and the King of Belgium, and in my early twenties, long after my voice (and other things) had dropped, I became a huge fan of the ancient art of karaoke (which literally translates from the Japanese as “drunk song murder”). Mostly this came about through a new group of friends who organised a series of impromptu Karaoke evenings in dingy flats that came to be known as “Karaoke Club”. The first rule of Karaoke Club was that you did not talk about Karaoke Club. The second rule of Karaoke Club was that you did not talk about Karaoke Club. Of course, I’m talking about it right now, so don’t be surprised if I’m unceremoniously assassinated before I finish writing this article. The third rule of Karaoke Club was bring chips and dips. But the fourth, and most important rule of Karaoke Club was this – if it’s your first night, you have to sing.
Now whilst I had a background of singing professionally, it was never as a soloist, and so I was understandably nervous my first time, so I picked the evergreen classic “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, mainly because it was mostly talking. This was quite rightly greeted by a brutal chorus of boos and shouts of “GO HOME!” and I resolved to be more prepared next time. There are so many awesome memories of those Karaoke Club nights though – we’d have rock hour, where you could only sing rock songs, rap hour, where only rap tunes would be acceptable, and love ballad hour, where every song would have to be crooned lovingly to whoever happened to be sitting in the love chair at the time.
These long nights spent in a brutal crucible of gladiatorial song-bat made a man of me, and prepared me for life for literally any karaoke emergency. They even gave me the idea for what I liked to call Karaoke Bombing, when a session singer friend and I would roam the streets looking for pubs with Karaoke nights, walk in and sign up. My friend would then absolutely destroy the room with a pitch perfect, full throttle rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, then drop the mike and walk out, leaving only the sound of sobbing men and women begging us to stay.
So when my brother recently announced his engagement, I was understandably excited that the engagement party (that coincided with his fiancées birthday) would be taking place at a karaoke booth at the All Star Lanes on Brick Lane (the street which is also known as the curry capital of London). I spent the preceding week practising my version of “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, a rendition so powerful, it can literally strip the paint off the walls. V. wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about singing, but she was excited to come along, and as it turned out, there was pretty much no solo singing anyway as everyone just sort of shouted along to whatever was playing anyway.
Thanks to the engagement news, the karaoke booth was absolutely packed with about thirty people in a room designed for eight, and everyone was a little bit merry to say the least. But the atmosphere was absolutely electric – All Star have a great list of songs available, and even though we only had an hour, we managed to whip though an immense set list of Karaoke classics that ranged from pop (“Spice Up Your Life”) to smooth R&B ( “Ignition (Remix)”). Via “Africa” by Toto, obviously because y’know, it’s Africa by Toto. The highlight was seeing my incredibly inebriated brother passionately singing into a microphone for ages before someone pointed out to him that it wasn’t on, and then after the mistake was rectified and the mike turned on, realising that he was drunkenly singing an incomprehensible and entirely tuneless series of grunts and howls. The whole thing ended in a brilliant group sing along to “We are the Champions”, and then we finally emerged back out onto the street, bouncing with energy and hugging and laughing at the brilliant awfulness of our concert.
Now I’ve got to go – someone’s crouched on the roof of the house over the street, and they’re singing “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” while shining a red laser into my front room. Better go and see what they want…
If you’d like to embarrass yourself in front of your friends with your rusty pipes, check out the All Star Lanes website.
Jon Hamblin writes ‘The Things I’ve Done To Impress Women”, an award winning blog that details his frequent failures to impress any women ever. Read about his other Date Nights.
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