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This episode is brought to you by Comcast. Since 2011, Comcast has connected more than four million students from low income families to the Internet. Now they're launching more than 1000 Wi-Fi connected lift zones and community centers nationwide to provide safe spaces to get online. Learn more at Comcast dotcom slash education. Welcome to Stuff You Should Know. A production of I Heart Radio. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark, and there's Charles W. Chuck Bryant Chuckers Chuck Tranh.
Yeah, I had to spice it up a little bit with musical stuff, and no one else is here with us. We're alone out there in the ether. And this is stuff you should know.
Although my prediction is, you know, we started recording a bit earlier today since we're on our own, I guess producer Dave and Short Stuff producer Dave is going to chime in in about five minutes. Oh, okay. Yeah, well, I'll look forward to hearing what he says.
What's your deal with karaoke? I sort of know, but I think the people should now. We should we should exchange stories. Okay.
I like karaoke. I particularly like karaoke in the K box, which we'll talk about, which is basically it's a little private karaoke room for you and your friends, have some great memories of karaoke like that, but I'll do it in front of an audience if I get a drink or two. I mean, you know, not too much, though. You go too much, you start trying to like, you know, fight the piano player or something like that.
Oh, so like live karaoke. Yeah, I've mentioned it a couple of times, but Seagull's request room in Manhattan is the place to go for live piano karaoke. It's just a beautiful, wonderful place. So if you haven't been there, go check it out. It's great. About as good as live karaoke. It's like live instrument karaoke.
All right. So I haven't been there. I will go still. I forget, you know, I thought you would have gone this past year, right? I haven't been there, never been in a K box really now and never had the private carry. You know, we'll pronounce it karaoke even though it's corres ok.
OK, but now we're not going to do it or not because I think Dave Ru's helps us out is like you can't pronounce it correctly, but don't be expected to be invited out to karaoke night with your friends anymore right after you practice your karate.
So I have done live karaoke. A few years ago on my birthday, we went to the the one that has the rock band in the Virginia Highlands.
I don't know that one. Yeah.
I mean, they have the full on band. It's Rock and roll live karaoke. One of the local Atlanta DJs, English Nick, is there to serve as sort of a backup singer and they can mix his vocals and more if you're really bad because no one wants to hear that kind of thing. Sure. But I get up there and did surrender by Cheap Trick, and he I saw him at one point even stand away from the mic. And I was like, I've got this.
Oh wow. Heavey. He like went and did something else, maybe ate some corn chips or something, a tip of the cap. But my deal with karaoke is I used to be scared to death to try it.
And that was when I had severe stage fright, performance anxiety, which I completely got over, because now I'm in a band that sings in front of people.
You and I get on stage in front of fourteen hundred people and it doesn't bother me anymore.
I think I'd still probably be a little nervous to do like acoustic open mic thing.
Yeah. And you should be for a number of reasons, but it's just funny how I used to be so scared and really overthink karaoke like sit in the room, anxiety, sweat. I really want to do it but I won't put my name down. Right. And then, you know, the night comes and goes and I don't do it. Then I have this guilt and bad feelings. It was, it was a thing. Wow.
How old know you at the time. Oh, I mean, this was in my 20s and into my early thirties I think. Yeah. Yeah. When I moved to L.A. is when I really started, I guess it was in my twenties because when I moved to L.A. is when I finally did it, I was like, this is fine. And I sing better than a lot of these people. Yeah.
It's a great feeling to, you know, be done and have the people you're with me like I had no idea you could do that. That's really impressive.
Yeah. Great fun. Yeah, I enjoy it thoroughly.
Do you have a standard karaoke song that you you do or too.
Yeah. I mean I usually try to do and I think we've talked about this under pressure by Queen and Bowie and I kind of both part.
Oh well at the same time you do like the Tibetan throat changing kind of thing. But I've made some mistakes too. You I tried to do foreigners cold. As I said, a friend's not at their wedding, but wedding weekend at a bar in Philly. And I just was feeling it. And I was like, I'd forgotten how high that song is. It was.
Yeah, that can be a problem when you like starting your range, but then you forget. Oh, it keeps going up. That's a that's a real karaoke problem. And actually I saw check that if you do that enough times, you can get what are called karaoke polyps, which are really. Yeah, it's basically like polyps they grow and your vocal cords from straining your vocal cords by trying to sing like a professional without the training of a professional singer.
So it can be deadly, dangerous, maybe not the deadly part, but it can be dangerous.
Yeah. And I used to do the mental gymnastics of kind of like stepping outside and going through the song mentally real quick. Yeah. Oh, yeah. All right. Can I hit the hard for sure. For sure.
And you should I think just as a responsible karaoke singer, you kind of do need to make sure that you can sing the song because yeah, it's kind of funny to you if you do a bad karaoke performance. But the point of karaoke is to, like, blow everybody's socks off, like, just just tear the roof off. The sucker is is kind of my personal motto every time I grab the mic.
Yeah. And, you know, I've had some times where I've seen some performances at the live karaoke thing. There was this country guy that clearly drives in from, you know, country Georgia to do this. And he had a cowboy hat on and he did wanted dead or alive. Oh, yeah. You could tell that's his deal.
He comes into the city, he crushes it and then goes back to the farm the next day. And everyone's like, who was that lonesome cowboy wandered through town?
Who was that masked stranger? It's pretty cool to see an everyday person just get up there and really kill it. Yeah.
And I'm sure that guy has to go out of town because he'd probably get beat up at his town if he tried to do that there. You know, he's got like this like being anonymous to kind of enables that karaoke gusto, I think, as. Yeah, so you said something earlier, you compared Cuttack and karate, and there's a good reason for that because karate, karate means empty hand and Cuttack is actually short for Kara or Cara.
And I even practiced this Kara Orchestre, which is like romaji when when people in Japan take an English word and just kind of Japan it up a little bit.
So instead of orchestra, it's orchestra and cutaş. So it means empty in orchestra means orchestra. So it's an empty orchestra and that's really what karaoke karaoke is. It's it's slang for empty orchestra. And it actually predates the concept of karaoke that we think of today.
Yeah, apparently in the early 50s there was a, you know, a pit orchestra in Osaka. They said we want to make sure what they wanted.
You would assume better wages or more bathroom breaks or something. And they went on strike and the theater replaced them with a sound system. And it was from Matsura Electronics. And apparently, as the story goes, executive for Matsura came there, heard the system and said, it's the orchestra. There's music playing by the orchestra. Pit is empty and thus the term was coined empty orchestra. That was a neat story. That was in the 50s, I think.
1952, was it? Yes.
So karaoke, as we understand it today, didn't come long for good, almost two decades later. So there was this idea that any time you had prerecorded music, especially if it was played in instead of, you know, where a live performer would play that that was karaoke, Kyra. OK, so it was kind of a handy term that a guy named Jessica Inoue used when he came up with karaoke.
And the idea of who invented karaoke, who came up with it, is not just widely settled, but for the most part, there is like those who know site desk in a way, as the as the guy who who actually came up with this as we understand it.
Yeah. I did see, you know, there were a couple of other people in the late 60s that kind of messed around with machines that kind of did what. But the karaoke machine does. But yeah, his story is great. He's a if you look him up a picture, he's a pretty cool looking customer. And in Osaka in the 50s, he was in high school and he was a drummer in a rock band and then tried to be a musician professionally for a little while.
But like so many musicians that tried that for a little while and ended up back at home in his late 20s, living with his parents in Kobe.
Yeah, but he gave it a good decade long try, you know, was out on the road. I read this really great kind of mini biography or autobiography from the early 2000s that was published in the appendix is called Voice Hero. Look, that up is a really he's just a charming guy. Totally. But he tried it for about ten years and it just didn't work out because most of the money was pocketed by the older, more established musicians and just he wasn't going anywhere.
I think he said that he realized that no matter how much he practiced and he really practiced, he would never be as good as somebody who had natural talent. And it just wasn't for him.
So he decided to try something else, but he didn't want to give up playing entirely. He wanted to try to make a living somehow from playing music. And it just so happens that his parents living in Kobe placed him at this really particularly good spot for karaoke to begin, which is Kobe, which is about 30 minutes outside of Osaka, where the very famous Kobe beef comes from and the time in Kobe. And for a while before that, there was a popular pastime of singalongs, which is basically like you go to a bar snack is what they were called, and there'd be somebody playing a piano or a guitar or something like that.
And everybody would sing, you know, popular songs along with the the mini band that was playing.
Yeah, but that was like group singing together, not like a single person either delighting or embarrassing themselves. But he got into this scene a little bit and it was clearly a popular thing. So he's like, I'm a musician. I guess he played piano too. And he learned a few hundred really popular songs on piano and then started performing as the accompaniment, accompaniment, accompaniment.
I think that's the Latin plural. What's the word for the purpose of a company, a company is the company and minimise the polymath? None of these sound right now it's a company. OK, yeah, that just sounds weird to me. But you know how your brain just broke? It did a little bit. So he was doing this as the piano guy, the piano man, if you will, huh? And one day this customer comes in who had been frequenting these nights where he was playing piano and he was like, listen, I'm a business guy.
I got to go to a different city on the sales for the sales meeting. And I got to take these these other people out to, you know, to go out drinking and singing after. And you're my guy. I can't like I can only sing along with you. So would you mind recording something for me that I can bring along? And he said, sure. So we recorded some stuff on a reel to reel, gave it to him.
The trip was a big hit and the guy came back and said, I need more of this.
And that was, you know, literally the aha moment he grabbed desk in a way by his lapels and shook him and said, Give me more, man, I need some more. And he did. And apparently right at this time, as was being shaken, Disco left his body astrally project elsewhere into the universe where he was greeted by the same entity that that led to the creation of ketchup and the same entity as ketchup and karaoke under its belt because it met with Deskin said this is like pay attention to what's happening right now.
Invent karaoke and disco. Basically came back to his body and said, I have I have this great idea. I'm going to invent a machine that is basically me. What this guy wants me to do live, that I can multiply, create a bunch of different machines that do the same thing. And it's going to be the first karaoke machine ever. And that's what he did. He came up with something called the eight, which is a great name.
Yeah, it's cool looking.
I mean, the idea and you can look at pictures of the guy with this thing and it's you know, it's about the size of a small guitar amp or something, which is not bad.
You'd think it'd be the size of like a smart car or something for the prototype back in the day.
But it was simple. I mean, they had amps at the time. They really just combined a few technologies, which was an eight track player from a car, a car, a car, eight track players where they started with.
Oh, yeah. And a which are really no different than any other players. I guess that's true. Yeah. Yeah. I mean maybe they worked better in motion, I don't know.
But that's probably why those cars were so big, because they had to be that big back in the day to hold the track.
Yeah. So you know, it was like an eight track player mixed with a, you know, an amp or a small paea. And his idea was called the Duke eight because it was kind of like a jukebox, is that you would put money in it like a jukebox to get a certain amount of time on the clock, which I think was kind of brilliant instead of like a song like I think the ideas that people would just keep feeding it.
Yeah, he actually specifically said that he chose five minutes, one hundred yen, about thirty five cents. Forty you five minutes of of singing time so that you'd be partway through the second song and have to put more money in to finish the sentence. So he was, he was a sharp tack in a lot of ways.
Well in some way. In some way. So I think they took a couple of months to build each. They cost him about four hundred and twenty five bucks, which is about twenty seven hundred today. And he said, I got to get some of these tracks recorded. So he got a bunch of his friends to record, you know, musicians to record these instrumental tracks, started shopping it around and sold all eleven of those machines in pretty quick order.
Yeah. I think I don't know if he sold them or if he took them as like basically proof of concept of money. Yeah, something like that. Either way, he did get them in 11 different clubs around Kobe and everybody was glad to have them there to look at. And that was about it. They just sat there and nobody did anything with him. Nobody knew quite what to do with them. And even if they did, I think it took, you know, how much gumption it takes in an established karaoke place when other people are doing it.
Imagine being literally the first person to do karaoke like you probably would. You know, it just took a little bit. So they hired somebody. He said a pretty girl in a sexy outfit is how he put it in that one autobiography and had her go around all these eleven clubs and basically like sing karaoke. And she did it because he hired her to. But apparently she came back and was like, I would do that again just for fun.
That was a lot of fun. And from that point on, basically the whole concept of karaoke took off, at least in Kobe.
Yeah, there were about two hundred of these machines. In and around Kobe in pretty short order, and I think it's a good time to take a break.
I think it is, too, because karaoke is just simmering. The lid is like rattling on the body right now. Yeah, it's about to blow.
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OK, Chuck. So there's a rendered fat spitting out the sides of the pot and steam going everywhere. I just burned my hand on it. Let's tear the lid off of this sucker, which is tangential to my karaoke motto of tearing the roof off the sucker.
That's right. So they're going gangbusters. And Kobe and like you said, it's not too far from Osaka, which is a bigger city. And a couple of entrepreneurs from Kobe said, this is great, but we need to get this to Osaka. And they brought a around, kind of showed it around. And it really hit big to the tune of they were moving about 25000 of these a year pretty quickly.
Yeah, because so remember, I said that Kobe was like a perfect place for karaoke to to kind of be incubated because people already did the singalongs in Tokyo and Osaka. It wasn't like that. They liked watching an actual band perform or listening to actual songs on the jukebox. But when these guys it could not find the name of this club. But when they opened essentially the first karaoke club in Osaka, I guess it just hit at just the right chord, just the right time.
And all of a sudden, Osaka was a karaoke town and in very short order, Tokyo was as well. And because it kind of blew up for the first time in Osaka, Osaka is considered the birthplace of karaoke, even though it really was born in Kobe, like very plainly. Yeah.
So, you know, you mentioned earlier that he was a pretty sharp tack in some ways in others. And I'm not saying he wasn't smart, but he didn't patent the thing. His brother in law said he really should patent this juke aid. He said, you know what, patent law is really complicated here in Japan. It's super expensive. You know, all I can patent is the business model because all of these you know, it's just a combination of other components that already have patents on.
Right. Which is, you know, I guess it's just different. I know just from my shark tank viewing that in America, if you put together these different or any different technologies and just the right way, you can get a patent. You know, not always, but I've seen patents go through where I'm like, well, that's just this, this and this right there. Like, yes, but we can buy them. But that's in the patent office.
Yeah, I think it's called an improvement or something like that. And I actually read this really interesting article, Chuck, in Aon magazine, like, I don't know, five, six, seven years ago where it basically made the case that we stopped actually innovating. We humans did back in maybe the 60s or 70s, and that everything we've invented since then spin off is basically just putting existing stuff together. And they use the example of the iPhone, which basically is like it's amazing.
It's this amazing technology. But it's you know, it's a camera. It's also a phone. It's also your email. It's also text like it's all these existing things just put together in one convenient place. And that that's a really great example of how we actually stop, like, creating new stuff and just basically repurposing, repackaging existing stuff and that hopefully we're due for another huge technological advancement sometime soon if we don't just decline from utter decadence before we get the chance to do that.
Yeah, I remember there was a meme a few years ago, probably a little more than that. What that showed up this the front page of a RadioShack magazine ad or whatever.
And it was at the bottom. It said all of these are now on your smartphone. Right. And it was like forty things, you know, from like tape recorders to microphones to cameras to, you know, thing. What's the thing that tells the temperature the an accompanist. But basically everything, you know, on that page is now on an iPhone.
It's got like, well, and now I see why Radio Shack is no longer around.
Yeah. Poor Radio Shack. They really they did a lot there and they got kind of dissed at the end.
It was pretty great. I love that story. It was.
And they had a really cool logo to. Agreed. So so you said that he did not patent the karaoke machine, the Duke, right?
Yeah. I mean, he made plenty of money still, though. Yeah. So, yes, he's still manufactured Geocaches eight and sold them. And, you know, he sold tens of thousands of them a year and they were his machine. So basically for a long time until until other competitors figured out that there wasn't a patent on this thing. If you wanted a karaoke machine, you had to go to a disco in a way. Right. And buy one.
So, yes, he definitely made money and he continued to make money over the decades and through the years selling like equipment or CDs, stuff like that. Right. So he was fine. And he actually seems very Zen about this.
But it is entirely clear that had he patented this and I think this really kind of drove home to me just how globally popular karaoke is.
He would have been a billionaire many times over just from inventing karaoke and kicking back and taking the royalties from the initial patent. He didn't like I agree, though.
He didn't seem like that kind of guy from reading about it, because once you do that, your job then is is fighting people in court. Yeah. Yeah. And that he wants to do that.
No, he didn't seem interested in it. He also wondered, I think in that one autobiography article if it would have taken off had had he had a patent on it.
Right. It might not have just gotten as big as it was. I think that, you know, which is a pretty an argument in favor against an intellectual property laws. But I think we should do an episode just on intellectual property one day.
Let's do it. Let's do it, John. You know, who didn't feel that way was an adventure from the Philippines named Roberto del Rosario because he did get a patent on his karaoke sing-along system in 75.
And, you know, I guess he I don't know his full story, but surely he knew what was going on with the Duke aid and knew that he could kind of capitalize on the he I read a little bio on him in and apparently he claims that he had no idea about karaoke as far as Japan is concerned, that he invented it independently. So who knows about that? But he's also very frequently cited as an inventor of karaoke incorrectly. And then there's another guy, too, who will meet actually, let's meet him right now.
There's a guy named Kay Takagi. Come on in Takagi. So Kay is a he was a Japanese businessman who happened to manufacture karaoke machines. And the reason that he's frequently cited as the inventor of karaoke is because he and another guy named Earl Glik are the two men who introduced karaoke to the West through a machine debuting in 1982 called The Singing Machine.
Yeah, and we should say that, you know, Dave, one of our great writers, helped us put this together. And he got a lot of this stuff from this point forward from a book by a man named Brian Raftery called The Don't Stop Believin Colin How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life. And I think this is kind of one of the seminal books on Korea. That's the impression I have as well.
But, you know, it came to America, like you said, it had been spreading throughout Japan and obviously with international business travel and international travel period. It's the kind of thing that eventually made its way to the states. And this film producer, producer of Children of the Corn Flakes was. Yeah, that's sort of his most noteworthy movie.
Because, I mean, while he respects he was. Yeah. I mean, I had respect for him just being the head of Hal Roach studios. Hal Roach Studios were responsible for Laurel and Hardy and our gang, The Little Rascals. But by the time Earl Glick was presiding over it, it was like basically teetering on bankruptcy and resting on its laurels. Had no idea that he produced Children of the Corn. So, yeah, mad respect to Earl Glick.
So in 1980 and again, this is a great story. I hope it really went this way. He was on a cruise ship and he was playing blackjack, ran out of dough and needed to double down and needed more money because he had a great hand, apparently. And there was, like you said, a man named Is it Chi or K K, which is short for KeIso Kesu Butoh Buhrow.
So OK is nearby, he said, here's three three large I can cover you on that gave him three grand Glik one and obviously that formed a friendship. He was like, you're a great guy just to give me three thousand dollars. Like, yeah.
And K was like, you're a great guy to pay me back. Exactly, and they they bonded there on the cruise ship, and when they hit Tokyo and docked, Takagi took Mr. Glik back to his office, said, hey, look at this karaoke thing. It's pretty great you should get these going in the states. And GLIC was like, yeah, I'm not so sure about this, but Takagi was not to be deterred and over the next year would kind of send him sales figures to the point where it was like, hey, there's some real money to be made here.
So so I mean, at least in Japan by this time, nineteen eighty, eighty one eighty two karaoke have been like a huge sensation in Japan for a full decade. Could change the culture in a way basically points to the invention of karaoke as like giving like all these intensely overworked Japanese office workers, a way to like blow off steam and like just feel better about themselves that they otherwise didn't have.
So it really took off in Japan, but it was questionable whether it was going to take off in America. So it wasn't like a given thing that just because the sales figures were high in Japan that they were going to translate into America. And at first, actually, that is how it went when they came up with the singing machine in 1982. Apparently Kate Takagi would demonstrate, demonstrated on the street and get booed. Right. Because as he recounted later, it seemed like the American public like took offense or was generally agitated when people who weren't professionals publicly performed music.
And that was the whole basis of karaoke. It still is.
It's reasonable, though. I mean, here's my deal. Like, if someone there can be a certain amount of bad that's still kind of entertaining and fun depends. But there's some that's so bad where it's just you're waiting and waiting for that song to end. It's just so pain. Sure.
And that's when that's when you boo to let them know that like you need to you need to stop, though.
There's a certain booing threshold for sure, especially when you know that they are essentially deliberately singing badly. They deserve to be.
Yeah, yeah. OK, that's a different thing. If someone is just super drunk and being really obnoxious, you can compare them to and that's different.
It's when they're trying and they're bad, that's when you shouldn't be on because you will totally shatter their spirit forever.
Yeah. So it's up to you as an individual to cast that judgment that moment. Exactly. Just use it wisely is. That's right. All right. So the it's not taking off quite yet. He's demonstrating it, like you said, not doing a good job as legend has it supposedly even took it to Frank Sinatra, who will figure in always figures in it karaoke? It seems like you and Frank was like, no, thank you.
He said, what is this hunk of junk, baby? You can you can do Sammy. I'll do Frank from now on. That was actually me doing a bad Phil Hartman impression of Frank Sinatra.
Well, mine is just Billy Crystal doing a. Doing Sammy Davis Jr., so. Oh, I like to think of you doing Sammy Davis Jr.. Well, it's funny because Sammy was actually there when Frank turned it down. He was like, I don't know, man, you could make some real dough with this thing.
And Frank said, Don't contradict me, Sammy. Not in front of garlic.
Oh, boy. That's pretty good. Phil Hartman. I think Joe Episcopo used to do it back in the day. Yes. Like, Phil Hartman was great. Remember, he was doing some, like, roundtable discussion about current topics or something. And Schnatter O'Connor was one of the panel members and he kept Calrissian aid and Cueball and she she was like trying to have this legitimate conversation or whatever. He just kept dismissing Jan Hooks, I think. Yeah, yeah.
It was great. Great. That was back when he was really mad at her because she tore up the picture of the pope protesting abuse. Oh, yeah. And it's like maybe we should revisit that. Yeah. Yeah, right. Exactly. Yeah. You know, I think Schnabel's kind of right on the right on target.
They're still around. I can remember I was reading about it not too long ago. And I mean, she's still if not putting out music, I think she's an artist. At least she's still creating still creating things.
Yeah. So karaoke takes hold and at least on the West Coast. And I saw some places like we're going to cover the East Coast in the West Coast. I saw that before this even happened.
The Midwest. Yeah. Did you see that? No, I was totally joking. Really? Yeah. I saw the archive, New York Times article about the place we're going to talk about in Manhattan. And they said that it had already been sort of making the rounds in the Midwest because of Japanese auto workers. Oh, wow. That's really impressive. So but it was in the Midwest and no one knew about. So, yeah. So did did this predate dimples on the West Coast, though, or did it kind of also simultaneously go on in L.A.?
Well, if dimples what year was dimples?
Dimples, I have the impression was in the mid 80s, I would say probably. Let's go with eighty five.
No, no, I'm sorry. Eighty seven is when it really took off.
Well, the article in the New York Times was from 87 and they said that it had already been a thing in the Midwest. Wow.
That's that's really hats off to Peka for innovating with karaoke in the US.
Probably Detroit, maybe. I guess that's where the Japanese auto manufacturing was back then.
I wonder if it was Japanese executives coming over and talking about karaoke or American auto executives going over to Japan and learning about karaoke, then coming back to the Midwest and being like, let's do something tonight.
Right. I put on a bunch of mufflers today. Exactly. I'm ready to unwind something.
That's really interesting, man. Nice nugget. So dimples, like we mentioned, it was until, I think the mid 2000s, a bar in Burbank, 2014, from what I saw. Oh, is that when it came out in favor of a whole food to be built over the top of it.
The whole. Well, the multiple Whole Foods, so, yeah, Whole Foods was built. So this is in Burbank, right across from Warner Brothers studios. And the owner there, Sal Ferrero, bought a bunch of these karaoke cassettes.
He started advertising like, hey, we're America's first karaoke karaoke bar. You're going to love it. People didn't catch on at first, but they kind of took a page from the earlier days with this when they said, well, there are plenty of young, attractive actors and actresses out here, so let's just get some of those in to perform. And it took off people like, well, I want to be a star to right. Exact people started hitting the mini stage.
So, yeah. So this was Dimples was is known as America's first karaoke bar, apparently incorrectly. But it certainly was America's first widely known karaoke bar because it was in L.A. But it was extremely old fashioned and a lot of ways No. One, there were no cake boxes, which we'll talk about. It was you performing on stage in front of the whole bar that's considered an old fashioned style karaoke bar.
Yeah. Number two, you probably don't necessarily know every single lyric to the song you're singing. So they would hand you a book with laminated pages, with the lyrics. So you would be reading from a big binder while you were trying to sing and perform at the same time. That's certainly very old fashioned.
And then also number three, I think there were only two. Now that I say number three, I think it was those two that made it super old fashioned. So you perform in front of strangers and then you had to read from a book. And so Dimples apparently really took off. And then karaoke also really took off around the world when they added something called CD plus G, which is compact disc plus graphics. Oh, that was the third one.
They would literally use eight tracks or cassettes of recorded karaoke music. And then all of a sudden in the late 80s, you had a disc that you could buy. They had a whole bunch of karaoke songs, but then also had a video component to it as well so that you could see the lyrics on screen and around the late 80s when karaoke, as we know and love it today, was was born.
Yeah, I mean, one of my favorite things still about karaoke is that sometimes it can still have that old school look with like a nature scene, like a waterfall right behind the looks like it's like this looks like the late 80s. Yeah. Up on screen in front of me. It's a delight. Yeah. Or at least the early 90s, you know. Yeah.
So that was the West Coast in New York. There was a place called Sing-Along that opened in eighty seven and this was opened by I think like four people. Zach Smith, who was the drummer for Scandal. Great band. If you remember scandals.
I remember the Warrior. Yeah, exactly. And then an attorney named Mindy Birnbaum and then scandals manager Donald Zuckerman. And we also should say that they sort of put it on the Western map, but there were places already in Manhattan, there was one in Chinatown called Lotus Blossom, another one at a restaurant called Ubon. So there were some karaoke bars in Manhattan. But kind of like with everything else, they're like in, you know, history says until it's introduced to like white America doesn't exist, like it doesn't exist.
Maybe we'll mention it later in a retrospective in thirty years. Exactly.
Yeah. So but it did hit it big because of sing along.
So are you saying that sing along spread karaoke in America more than doubles did.
OK, although they did franchise I think they opened one in Buckhead here in Atlanta as the second one. Is that right. Mm hmm.
And so Sing Along was also this place that innovated the CGY karaoke tjokkie that I couldn't help myself.
That was totally involuntary joke. Yeah, but the cage is the guy who is like English Dan who you know, gets everybody psyched up to come up on stage, sneck English, whoever English. Dan was a rock guy.
Right. I really like to see you tonight. Don't know. Yeah it was. He was English. Dan English. Nick was AKG English. Dan was English. Dan and John Ford. Exactly. Yes. That's a great song too. Sure. But so the KYAY was innervated at singalongs too. And you said the second singalong was in Buckhead, right?
Yeah, I think. And then Chicago is next.
So that would have been like the early nineties because the late eighties saw like the the beginning of the entrenchment of karaoke. And then the spread really took off in the nineties. And all of a sudden it was like pop culture everywhere. Karaoke, the first time for the first time in America in the nineties.
Yeah. And it's funny to go back and read. I know, Dave. Pulled a quote from the AJC here in Atlanta, but to go back and read that New York Times article sort of describing what karaoke is, is really very tricky.
I know. I'm saying contemporary journalism is so helpful. I love it.
It's neat because they're like, you know, people get up on stage who have never seen before and some people are bad and some people are great, but everyone has a good time. Yeah, it's like that's karaoke.
Yeah. And so, you know, people made fun of it, but it was still an extremely popular thing to do, typically, like ladies night, trivia night, karaoke night, like it wasn't necessarily like karaoke bar, but it was kind of everywhere. But then there were places that were karaoke bars that started to spring up, too. And apparently it started to hit on hard times in the 90s that at least the trend started to die out a little bit.
Grunge, I'm sure grunge had something to do with it. There was kind of a sea change when grunge came along. But then American Idol actually revived karaoke like gangbusters, basically.
Yeah, I think that's a good place for a nice little cliffhanger.
Oh, OK. OK, well, we'll leave it, see what happens next. Did American Idol last? We'll find out right after this. Support for this podcast and the following message come from E-Trade trading isn't for everyone, but ETrade is whether it's saving for a rainy day or your retirement, E-Trade has you covered. They can help you check your financial goals off your list. And with a team of professionals giving you support when you need it, you can be confident that your money is working hard for you.
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Well, now you're on the road driving in your truck. Why not learn a thing or two from Josh Amchok? It's stuff you should know. All right.
OK, Chuck, lay it on them. Yeah. American Idol comes on the scene. It was huge. I mean, I'm not sure what their ratings are like these days, but in those early years, it was like one of the biggest TV shows in the history of American television. Yes. And it apparently revived karaoke because people were seeing regular folks get up on stage and sing. And I think that just sort of coincided with people remembering like, hey, wait a minute, this karaoke thing that Kurt Cobain killed, that was kind of fun.
Why are we too cool for school now? Exactly.
Because, I mean, there was I guess it kind of is what American Idol is. You got an accompanist playing and you're singing and that's. Yeah. So it kind of made people like get back into it a little bit.
So that was I think 2002 was the season, the first season where Kelly Clarkson beat Dr. Pepper's little suite in the finals.
Have you seen that, Dr. Pepper with little sweet.
It was a little sweet. The run around. Yeah, just Justin Guarini. Uh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that guy, yeah, so American Idol was big and then that that was like regular America was like, oh yeah, let's go karaoke and I forgot about that. And then cool indie America got back into karaoke thanks to Lost in translation.
Yeah. You know, the very famous scene in the Sofia Coppola film where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are in a box having a lot of fun on their big night out in Tokyo. And it's a really great movie and a great scene, unlike all of the scenes and the two thousand film duets, one of the worst ever.
And I mean, you know, obviously there's like absolution, the journey or whatever. That Mario Lopez movie that Refracts recently released, like, there's obviously really, really, really bad movies out there. There's so bad, they're almost unwatchable.
Duets is bad, like on a on an offensive level that that it's really hard to put into words.
It's so because they clearly sunk money, time, effort and thought into it.
And it's still so bad, like these other bad movies, somebody just pooped it out and like a couple of months. This is like a huge, major motion picture. And it's so bad that it's almost like ticks me off just thinking about how bad that movie was. And it got released.
Yeah, I never saw it. If you don't know what we're talking about. This is the movie directed by Bruce Paltrow starring his daughter, Gwyneth, Huey Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, a bunch of people. And it's literally about karaoke. And I watched the trailer today. And now I have that stupid Kruzan song in my head and I'm so. Yeah, yeah.
That Geico commercial where they're on the moon gives me flashbacks of duets because that's like the main song that they sing in. Yeah, I didn't see that.
I do have to say there's one thing where I didn't know is Bruce Paltrow that directs it.
But there is a shot where Huey Lewis and I think Gwyneth Paltrow checking into a hotel and it's like it's like the scene ends in Gwyneth Paltrow leads the shot and Huey Lewis stands there and he spikes the camera. And a couple of times and you see more clearly than you ever possibly could how blank it is inside of Huey Lewis, his head. You just see it and maybe it's not blank all the time. But for that moment, he was totally blank.
And it's great. It's one of the great shots of all time. But that movie just sat out just for that. It's worthwhile. The whole movie is worthwhile just to see that one shot. But is it's so bad.
I love Huey Lewis, too. Yeah, me too. Nothing incendiary said you've got to see it. But but lost in translation was the exact opposite of what sir. That scene was.
Yes. Yeah. It made it cool and hip again, like he said. And it was already kind of picking up steam anyway. But that definitely was like, well a Bill Murray can wear an inside t shirt and get up there and sing. Was it Elvis Costello? I don't remember what he sang. I think he did peace, love and understanding. So that put it back on the map. And now I guess we need to talk a little bit about just the industry side of it, because, you know, when you're putting hundreds and hundreds of songs out performed by different people like these aren't the original versions.
They're recorded by, you know, session players and session singers, because you always have that, you know, sort of background track going and there's a lot of money going.
I mean, karaoke is like a ten billion dollar industry or something, and everyone gets a cut. Like if you wrote the song or performed the song or if you have the publishing rights to the song, everyone has to say it's OK to have my my song recorded for karaoke and it's OK to have it performed in each one. There are different moneys that people have to pay.
Yeah, there's a mechanical fee to actually record the song. There's a synchronization fee to sync up the lyrics with it. Any kind of video presentation. There's a performance fee. If it's not done in a key box, which I don't even know if we said a key box is just a little soundproof room that you can rent, that's a private room for you and your friends or whatever to perform karaoke. And so you're not doing it in front of strangers.
You don't have to wait for other people to go. You just go as often as you want. It is. And then it's also it's just way more fun. And most karaoke places have cake boxes now. But if you if you're not in a box, if it's in front of people, you probably have to also pay a performance fee as well, not you, the karaoke person, but either the venue or the club or the company that's actually directing this, because time was you used to have to get an eight track and everything was very tightly regulated.
Now there's centralised servers basically that exists in countries around the world that have these huge databases of karaoke songs. If you go into a karaoke place, it's just hitting up a computer probably in the Philippines or Malaysia or something like that, and it's sending back that song in the lyrics with it onto your video screen and through the sound system. So to keep up with all of that is really, really difficult. And there's a lot of lawsuits that were that were filed.
Probably the biggest one was Sony Music suing KTS karaoke. They sued him for like one point twenty five billion dollars for copyright infringement.
Yeah, I mean, there have been plenty of lawsuits. And the same goes with. I think jukeboxes and any time you have a venue where people perform music, if there are cover songs performed and stuff, yeah, it's a you know, it's a sort of a legal quagmire. And like you said, even more complicated these days when you can be sort of off book and just do like a YouTube version on a Wednesday night at the bar and sort of be off grid as far as people seeking money are concerned.
But if you're a legit karaoke club, obviously you're doing it right or have a legit, real karaoke night with a company coming in. They're doing it right, as in paying all the artists and stuff like that. But there are, you know, some artists who have never signed away their rights. I think Springsteen is one. There are some people who used to, but now the songs have been removed like a few print songs. Bon Jovi, ABBA, Coldplay have removed certain songs.
Yeah, maybe because of complications or because they couldn't get everyone on board. But if you used to sing a song and you come back a few years later and it's not available, that may be why.
Yeah, probably is. So what's weird is that you would think would kill karaoke, but the burgeoning of the Internet and YouTube and just basically people creating karaoke songs at their house and being able to in like a home studio with just their laptop has actually kept it going. So karaoke doesn't seem to be going anywhere, although it does seem to be getting more and more removed from the group. There's a new thing called One Carra, which is a solo karaoke singing box.
There's room for one person in there. And that's all the rage in Japan right now.
From what I understand, maybe it's just like a practice. No, it's just I just want to sing because I want to sing. It's what it's.
No, no, no. I mean, you know, I'm sure there's been a person who was like before I try my chops in front of people, I'm going to rent one of these for my sure.
But I think there's also people who are like, all I want to do is Wonka. I don't want to talk to any of you. Imagine that.
Guys, there are home karaoke machines. Obviously, you can buy there are apps. Now, one of the great delights of my life is when my brother sends me a small song, SMU.
It's a singing app where he will be sitting in traffic and no record of full song. And my brother's a better singer than me and he'll just send me, like, you know, I'll just get a text and it's attached. Like, here's a smile from Scott Bryant. I'm tired of that. It's great. I mean, I have it, too. I don't use it much, but he's he's kind of a small king. And you can connect with other people to do duets and stuff like that.
You don't even know. So there's a whole community around it.
So we I know we've talked about it before, but we can't stop until we talk about my way. Killings and violence in general around karaoke because there has been yeah, there is something called the highway killings, which we talked about in are is tone deafness hereditary episode. But at least six people have been killed in the Philippines during or after a performance of My Way, Frank Sinatra's song, My Way. And there's all sorts of interpretations of why that my ways are really popular song.
And so, you know, in bar fights happen. So it just was coincidence. Other people are like, no, they really take my way very seriously in the Philippines. And if you sing it tone deaf, you're in trouble. But it wasn't just my way. Apparently, John Denver's Take Me Home Country Roads is one of the bloodiest songs of all time.
Right. Is that a murder trigger? I guess there is a guy in Thailand who killed eight of his neighbors, eight partygoers at his next door neighbor's house, one of whom was his brother in law, because they would not stop singing and they sang Take Me Home Country Roads. And he went over and shot them all dead.
I mean, clearly other stuff going on there. Yeah, he seemed a little high strung, but like it was the karaoke that had had pushed him over the edge for sure. Yeah.
What do you think Frank would say about the moey killings?
You got to lighten up sometimes, baby.
I tell you what, they don't kill people too. Man is Mr. Bojangles.
You got that right, Sammy.
Yeah. And you know, we should also mention, too, that it is huge in the Philippines.
Like anywhere you go almost in public, there might be it's sort of like the go into Nevada and, you know, there's a slot machine like every time you turn around, except there's someone singing in the Philippines for sure.
Yeah. I mean, it's just it's huge in Asia in general. You mean has this great story about how she would kind of, you know, go duck out and go to lunch and sing karaoke and go back to work after dinner.
They're good stuff. Yeah. So you got anything else? You got nothing else. All right. Well, if you want to know more about karaoke. Just get up there and do it. It's not going to kill you and you're going to be happy that you did. I said you're going to be happy. That means it's time for a listener mail, of course.
This is from a new 15 year old fan. Hey, guys, big fan of the show writing to say hi. I just turned 15. I'm from California, started listening in December, so I'm fairly new. But you got so quickly become my number one show multiple times. I've heard you all say that you lose listeners around high school, but I'm here to assure you that there are high school listeners out there.
Anyway, a big reason why I love the show is because all the seemingly boring topics you cover, there's so many ordinary things that we take for granted that have such an interesting history, like barcodes, for instance. That has been one of my favorite episodes so far. I'm glad that Natalie's saying this because that's something that we love about the show, is our episodes like ballpoint pens and barcodes, you know?
Yeah, they seem boring, but turn out to be fascinating. I love it. Just today, I was asked for a random fact. I was able to talk about the failure of the Pony Express, thanks to you guys. Also want to say thank you to everyone and stuff you should know for keeping the show so enthralling yet educational and like so many other listeners, has helped me through the tough times. I can always count on you for laughter, education and tangents, one of my favorite parts of the show.
And then a final very kind correction.
And we welcome those. We of it have been very unkind lately.
Uh, yeah. We've just so it almost feels like there's a new breed of listener who's like, look, I don't know who you jerks are, but I think you're jerks. And here's everything I think that you're a jerk about.
There's been a lot of that. Yeah. I think it's I don't know what maybe the pandemic wearing on people. It could be we've gone through waves of that where we'll get like a new swath of listeners and then like six months later, we'll hear from a lot of them again and be like, look, I'm really sorry about that first time. I really I can't do without you guys.
Yeah, you still don't know what you're talking about a lot of times, but I like it.
I find it endearing now. It's weird. Uh, she not only listen to the Walrus episode, I'm sure you got email about this, but wanted to make sure you knew the beach creatures by the Hearst Castle that you thought were sea lions are elephant seals. And that is Natalie last name, redacted. And she says, P.S., Don't Be Dumb was a great series. Well, that was nice. I don't know that anyone else ever wrote in to correct that.
So thanks a lot, Natalie. Nicely done. Totally. That was a great email, Natalie. Perfectly done. Welcome to the fold and good luck with high school. If you want to be like Natalie and get in touch with this, you can send us an email, wrap it up, spank it lightly on the bottom and send it off to Stuff podcast that I heart. Radio dotcom.
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