Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No. 883 – Tears of a Clown

Performer: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Songwriters: Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Henry Cosby
Original Release: Make It Happen
Year: 1967
Definitive Version: None

At some point in 1993—I can’t remember exactly when—the White Horse management decided that it would be a good idea as well as a business move to start having karaoke on Saturday nights. At first it was confined to a back room, but then they moved it to the entire bar.

Although the karaoke ended by 1:30 and the bar stayed open till the owner gave the last of the barflies—meaning us—the boot around 2:30, this was a bad development, because a large part of the atmosphere of the place was our music on the jukebox, and the juke was shut down during karaoke. Of course, it also was bad, because is there such a thing as good karaoke?

Actually, it might depend on your point of view. To a bunch of ink-stained sports wretches who made the Labatts and Jack Daniels flow copiously, it doesn’t get much better than a mulleted tuneless soul singing the world’s worst version of Eye of the Tiger.

And we had a secret karaoke fiend in our midst, who quickly became less secret: Dan dug karaoke, and back then the only question was not whether Dan would sing but whether he would sing I Fought the Law or Back in the USSR—or both.

As the sports department increasingly fell under the spell of Beavis & Butthead, this became even more fun, because when Dan would get up to sing, Paul and I would make the full transition from “This sucks” and “Change it” to “YES!” “This is cool!” and we’d be head-banging vigorously while flying the Secret Devil Sign high. To keep from cracking up, Dan would always turn away from us. All things considered, the whole situation could’ve been worse.

So what does this have to do with Tears of a Clown? (I ended my run of paragraphs that start with the letter A.) Eventually the good times would end, and I’d be back in my apartment, feeling lonely and miserable—and not just from the alcohol. I was listening to a lot of Motown at this time, and that’s when I connected with this song, as you might imagine. I can relate.

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