365 Day Song Challenge: Day 37 – “The Heart Of Rock & Roll”

Day 37. An essential karaoke song.

“The Heart Of Rock & Roll” – Huey Lewis & The News

Huey-Lewis--The-News-The-Heart-Of-Rock-347561First, let me say I was hesitant to do another Huey Lewis & The News song.  But the reasons will become clear soon enough.

I also have to ‘fess up and tell you I haven’t done karaoke in 22 years. And since then I’ve only been once or twice. So my take on what’s essential as a karaoke song is a little bit dated.

If I was going to go for a really essential karaoke song that needed no story to go along with it, I’d probably go with “Don’t Stop Believin'” because, from what I hear, it gets a lot of plays.  However, having neither performed that song, nor seen anyone else perform it personally, all I’d have to go on is a “Family Guy” episode.

As I mentioned, it was a very long time ago that I did karaoke. My first attempt was Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” I’ve said before in this blog that I’m not a great singer, but I thought I did a decent job. I wasn’t prepared for how tough it is to keep the “Saturday! Saturday! Saturday, Saturday!” part at the end going without my voice giving out, but overall, it was respectable. Respectable enough for the karaoke people to ask me to do another song.

That second song was The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” and I think I did an even better job on that one. It was a little more in my range, which I admit is limited.

So, having done what I considered to be a pretty good job that first night, we went back a couple of weeks later. I didn’t want to do the same song or songs again, so I spent some time on my selection. I saw “Band On The Run” and ran through it in my head and kind of sang it quietly. “I can do this,” I thought.

Not so much.

I neglected to take into account that the song is really broken into three parts. The first two parts, the ones I’d run though in my head, are not too bad vocally. But on stage, I hit the third part (“Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash/As we fell into the sun”) and I immediately know I was in trouble. “Fell into the sun” was about the top of my vocal range, and I suddenly remembered it was going to go even higher. Things unraveled quickly from there and I was pretty embarrassed by the end (because unlike most people who do karaoke, I actually cared about being on key, which was probably my mistake). It was only later that I learned they can change the key for you. Who knew?

Anyway, I needed redemption. So I went for another song. This time “The Heart Of Rock & Roll,” which, in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I can sing.

What happened next ended my karaoke career.

I get up on stage and the song starts. I start singing, and something is just… not… right… Did you know that as well as being able to change the key, they can also play a vocal track that is not yours? They can. And they did. What was coming out of my mouth was not what was being sent out over the speakers. Now, I can’t say for sure whether it was on purpose, or whether they clicked a button by accident, or what. What I can say is it was pretty mortifying to be at karaoke and for them not to let you do karaoke.

All I wanted to do was a respectable job, and after the disaster that was “Band On The Run” to not actually get to sing “The Heart Of Rock & Roll” in my mind meant they thought I sucked worse than anyone they’d ever heard. In retrospect, I hope it was an accident, because I know I heard the same guy absolutely murder “House Of The Rising Sun” on multiple nights, and they let him keep doing it.  If I was worse than that guy, I really didn’t have any business being on the stage.

One way or the other, the experience kinda took the fun out of it for me; like I said, I’ve never sung karaoke again.

I will also mention that Woody and I wrote and recorded a bunch of songs shortly after this karaoke experience. My singing wasn’t great on the few songs where I did lead vocals on that “album,” either. Looking back, I was always trying to go too high. Over the years, I’ve learned more about the range I can operate in, although my singing in public has been rather limited since then.

Maybe what I need to do is overcome my hesitation and just sing again. Maybe redo “The Heart Of Rock & Roll.” Or, give “Band On The Run” another go. I’ll just have them drop it an octave and a half…

365 Day Song Challenge: Day 2 – “If This Is It”

Day 2: A song that reminds you of summer

“If This Is It” — Huey Lewis And The News

I’m fond of telling people (as if they care) that “If This Is It” is the song that finally convinced me to buy the Sports album. Well, cassette tape, really, since all I had was a boom box at the time. (This was pre-Power Wagon.)

So, no, it wasn’t “Heart And Soul,” it wasn’t “I Want a New Drug,” it wasn’t even “The Heart of Rock & Roll.” All good songs, maybe great songs, but no, it was this somewhat schmaltzy ballad that convinced me to go to Strawberries and plunk down $6.98 for the privilege of subpar sound and no liner notes. (I’m a bit of a liner note junkie.)

The video is likely what did it, to be honest. I probably saw it at my friend Mark’s house; I’m not sure we had MTV* at my house at the time. For those that have forgotten (or blocked it out of their mind after years of therapy) storyline 1 was focused on a very uncool family packing up their gear and going to the beach. Storyline 2 centered on poor Huey Lewis, who had called his girl and she’d blown him off, telling her friend to “Tell him ‘I’m not home.'” For the record, in the video her mouth moves, but for some reason her voice sounds remarkably like Huey’s. Strange. But I digress…

hueylewisifthisisitCut to the monumentally packed beach. The family is there. Conincidentally the girl is there with her friend. And for some unknown reason, Huey Lewis and The News are there. Fully clothed, no less. Although for much of the video you can’t tell if The News are clothed or not, they’re buried up to their chins in sand. (That must have been a fun shoot.) Long story short, Huey sees his girl and confronts her, she storms off. The family roams around all day, never finding a place to sit down. Cut to late afternoon: The family finally plunks down on the near-empty beach. Meanwhile, a dejected Huey sitting  alone. (What happened to the News? Did the tide come in and drown them?) But, surprise! He’s approached by the friend from paragraph one, who it should be noted, is not hard to look at. In the words of Mark’s father way back in 1984:  “That’s a hell of a consolation prize.”

So there you have it. This song oozes summer to me. The video all but screams “Hey moron! It’s summertime! You’re hot!” It was released as a single in July of ’84 (and was a big hit that summer, peaking at #6). And finally, the song’s got that laid-back “let’s just move slow and stay cool” vibe. Y’know. Summer.

Oh sure, I could have gone with the more obvious “Summer In The City” (Lovin’ Spoonful), “Summer of ’69” (Bryan Adams) or even “California Girls” (Beach Boys or David Lee Roth, depending on your age or what you want to admit to), but that would have been too easy. Heck, I actually thought of over a dozen songs I could have used, but the truth is, when I read the Day 2 song description, this is the one that came to mind first.

My parting thought: if I was in the band, I would have demanded a bigger cut of the royalties if you’d buried me in the sand like that for hours. Although I think they did alright for themselves either way.

What’s your summer song?

* Yes, children, MTV once stood for “Music Television” and actually played videos!