This week, I finished reading Rob Sheffield’s latest book, Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love & Karaoke. I’m such a big fan of his earlier books, Love Is a Mix Tape and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, that I fully expected to like this new one, and that’s exactly what happened. Sheffield combines memoir with an encyclopedic knowledge of many strains of popular music, in the process illuminating the music while letting us experience “Rob Sheffield”. “Sheffield” is appealingly modest, enjoys the company of women, and writes about music with a feisty elegance. That his music taste preferences are different from mine in many ways only makes it more interesting to read him.
Love Is a Mix Tape is so heartbreaking that he may have needed to step back a bit, but Turn Around Bright Eyes works as something of a sequel to that book, with a happy … well, I hesitate to say “ending” because it feels as if his new love will be ongoing for a lifetime, but the charming way he writes about the loves of his life (female and musical) make me eagerly await each subsequent book. Luckily, he writes regularly for Rolling Stone, so there is plenty to enjoy between books.
Here are ten songs, randomly chosen, that served as some of the chapter titles in Turn Around Bright Eyes. The quotes are taken from the book, which you should buy and read immediately, if you haven’t already.
1. The Beatles, “She Loves You”. “Nobody tries it at karaoke.”
2. Nirvana, “About a Girl”. “They were mostly rocking the nineties jams – Nirvana, Hole, Snoop, Pixies, Liz Phair, Whitney, the Beasties.”
3. Missy Elliott, “Work It”. “[T]he kind of song you need in your corner to pump you up when you’re trying to put your thing down, flip it, and reverse it.”
4. The Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”. “Jacob made sad clucking noises. ‘I never should have let you listen to that album.’”
5. Elvis Presley, “Heartbreak Hotel”. “When [my dad] was fifteen, in 1956, he would spend hours in his bedroom singing along with Elvis Presley records.”
6. David Bowie, “Ziggy Stardust”. “I sing my first song and turn into Ziggy.”
7. Rod Stewart, “Hot Legs”. “No one ever plans to turn into Rod Stewart. It just happens.”
8. Merle Haggard, “Mama Tried”. “Great karaoke pick: easy, short, fast, to the point, rousing chorus.”
9. Billy Idol, “Rebel Yell”. “My rebel yell can’t be stopped: You give me the midnight hour, I’ll give you the mo-mo-mo.”
10. Natalie Wood, “Let Me Entertain You”. “Nobody watching can tell how profound this awakening is for Natalie Wood, or why she seems like she’s in a trance.”
Bonus Tracks (these are the songs I sang the only two times I did karaoke):
Johnny Cash, “I Walk the Line”.
Ritchie Valens, “La Bamba”.
Extra Special Bonus Track (this is a song I sang as a birthday present for my niece … it was karaoke in everything but location, I suppose, since we weren’t at a bar):
Kyu Sakamoto, “Sukiyaki”. I suppose this is where I’ll confess, for folks who aren’t clicking on the video links, that most of the above links are to cover versions, a virtual karaoke if you will. And I’ll add that when I sang '”Sukiyaki” I did the Japanese lyrics.