When you’re on the radio, playing hits and spouting time, temp, and song titles. . and an occasional bit of concealed wisdom, you can’t see the listener. (Notice I said, “listener.” It is a known fact that people seldom listen in groups sitting in bleachers.) So, what happens when a disc jockey is in front of a live audience? Ideally, he or she will speak to one person, perhaps someone toward the back of the bar, preferably one who’s awake. Being appreciative of the value of one-on-one communication, it should feel natural to want to face the audience.
When my daughter, Tori Lou, was visiting recently, she and Andrea somehow wandered into a karaoke bar. It was not far away and they texted me to join them. I found it odd that the screen carrying the lyrics was facing the group gathered there to drink and take turns ignoring one another. This meant for the singer, in order to read the lyrics and follow the bouncing ball, found it necessary to turn his or her back to the “audience.”
I have not had any alcohol since my liver transplant nearly seven years ago. And, when it was my turn to perform, at the urging of Tori Lou and Andy, I discovered that one of life’s great challenges is to do karaoke while sober. Nonetheless, I decided to give it my best shot. In order to avoid turning my back to the bar patrons, I chose a song to which I knew all the lyrics. This way I thought I could turn away from the screen, singing directly to the mostly disinterested karaokians. The song was Detroit City. I made it through the first verse just fine, and when it came to the spoken part I took a meaningful step toward the “audience,” and in my finest radio voice recited the woeful lyrics.
“I took a freight train north to Detroit City, and after all these years, I think I might have been wasting my time. So, I think I’ll take my foolish pride and put it on a southbound freight and ride. . .back home to the loved ones….(awkward pause). . what??
Some of the bar flies were laughing and Tori Lou was pointing toward the screen behind me. It seems the lyrics I had been eloquently delivering had not yet come up on the screen. I was way ahead of the karaoke machine! I turned to the screen nervously waited for the lyrics to catch up, and finished the song, to a burst of polite applause peppered with a few chuckles. I didn’t do any encores.
Now, I’m working on the next song I’ll try at karaoke, should the occasion arise. And, I’ve chosen one that requires I follow the prompts closely. “Volare” by Domenico Modugno, Italian version. I will of course carry to stage the burden of performing sober. But, if I can pull it off, it will be a great swan song to conclude my karaoke career.
Here we go. . .Nel blu dipinto di blu. Felice di stare lassù. . .