“This is what we’ve waited for. This is it boys, this is war. The president is on the line
As 99 red balloons go by.”
Karaoke evenings are much derided within pub life and whilst I wouldn’t want to sit in a pub with karaoke on every night of the week it can, on occasions, be entertaining!
There was a great story in The Mail last month (not often you say that) about a 64-year old grandfather who has been banned from all karaoke nights in pubs in Exmouth after, basically, kicking off with other wannabee singers and bar staff!
Unfortunately, that is the image Karaoke is struggling to shake off but it clearly isn’t having an impact on 76- Noah’s Ark DE1 2AW as it was packed to the rafters at 5pm on a Sunday in the centre of Derby.
Just opposite the bus station is obviously becoming the new music mecca of Derby as I noticed a Robbie Williams tribute act was on next door in The White Horse.
It was almost standing room only but I shoehorned myself on to a table that provided two of the opening acts!
I could tell the first guy was serious as he was dressed up in a waistcoat whilst his female singing buddy was checking his appearance before going ‘on stage.’
It would be fair to say he probably had a better voice than Shane McGowan and delivered a version of sorts of The Pogues “Dirty Old Town.”
However, whilst I was enjoying another treat, a pint of very decent Bass, his partner got up and belted out Nena’s “99 Luftballons,” in absolutely impeccable German!
As Ian Dury once said you could’ve knocked me down with a feather as there were definitely more people listening than not at that stage.
How many more songs I could take is open to debate and I think karaoke is fine in small bursts, almost as background music, a bit like it was in this place, which is a cracking little boozer.
On its whatpub? Spiel it sells itself as having karaoke on Friday/Sunday and Monday afternoons so I guess the punters going in there know what’s on the table and it was full. In this era, anything that enables your pub to be full is a good thing and there are plenty of pubs in close proximity if you’re not a fan.
Also, the beer was excellent and Bass is worth sitting through any song for….er hang on, I draw the line at Westlife, I couldn’t drink Bass in a pub and willingly listen to Westlife.
Anyway, looking at the words of 99 red balloons got me thinking about how many 80’s ‘pop’ songs were actually anti-establishment songs.
Much to my chagrin I didn’t realise this was a song about going to war and it reminds me, without looking through rose tinted spectacles, that the charts could still let the odd classic sneak in through the back door in the eighties.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some real turkeys in The Top 40 in 1984 when this was number one with the likes “The Theme From Fraggle Rock” and “The Hitler Rap” from Mel Brooks on Radio 1’s playlist.
However, and this is where it has, undeniably changed, is that you would always get three or four songs in the Top 40 from ‘pop’ bands with social commentary.
For example, you get Style Council in the Top Ten with My Ever Changing Moods and a tuneful little ditty it was with classic lines such as “Evil turns to statues, and masses form a line But I know which way I’d run to if the choice was mine. “The past is our knowledge, the present our mistake and the future we always leave too late.” Or you also had Madness with Michael Caine, a song about an informer during the Northern Ireland troubles suffering from paranoia and that just doesn’t happen now.
Back in the eighties you’d also have The Houemartins “Five Get Over Excited” with a rant about politicians for a full verse tucked away in a three-minute pop song to counteract the likes of Debbie Gibson’s “Shake Your Love”.
I’m not sure who’s counteracting Taylor Swift, Marshmello or Rita Ora at the minute but there doesn’t appear to be any subliminal messages coming through as everything is so compartmentalised and controlled (that’s the beauty of globalisation) nowadays!
Anyway, the point (I’ll get there in a minute) I am making is that hearing 99 Red Balloons sung perfectly in German intrigued me enough to listen to the song at home.
I then got the message – 33 years too late mind – and proves just what a font of knowledge pubs are. Even without knowing, on a late Sunday afternoon at a karaoke session, in a jam-packed pub, you can still uncover some nuggets of information…to go along with a top notch pint of Bass of course.
A top pub where, if you want, you could stay in the front room of two and have a quieter drink but you might miss all the fun!
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
Hielt man für Ufos aus dem All
Darum schickte ein General.”