It’s all about fandom this week: how Adam and Ed are karaoke nerds, and how they are nerds in other ways as well. Adam claims to not be a comics nerd–will he pass the “Challenge of the Nerdy Songs?” They share the nerdiest karaoke-related things they’ve been a part of, and then want to share a give-away with you–-instructions in the show--and if you're the winning entry, you’ll get a Kindle copy of guest Douglas Wolk’s newest book All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told, and they’ll read the winning submission on a future episode.
Wolk talks about his latest book, of course, but this is a karaoke podcast–they found ways to work that into a karaoke-focused discussion: the appreciation of different kinds of art (and karaoke is an art), and how karaoke looks in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and in the comics proper. He’s got great advice for anyone who wants to get into comics or karaoke and shares the best place for a top-notch karaoke experience in Portland, Oregon. There’s also a little “inside baseball” when he talks about how he created the theme music for his podcast “The Voice of Latveria.”
As always, you can find more info on the website (https://www.sungpoorly.com), and on social media–the show is @sungpoorly on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and now even Tiktok. You can reach Adam and Ed via email by sending a message to email@example.com. The discussion continues at The Greatest Song Ever Sung (Poorly) Podcast Facebook group.
Theme song: "Gasoline" by Ben Dumm and the Deviants. Make sure to check out Ben's newest music at The Ben Dumm 3.
Comics writer, critic and journalist Douglas Wolk is the author of the Eisner- and Harvey Award-winning Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, and the host of the podcast "The Voice of Latveria." A National Arts Journalism Program Fellow and USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow, Wolk has written about comics, graphic novels, pop music and technology for magazines, newspapers and sites including the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Believer, Slate and Pitchfork. His latest book All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told is about his experience reading 27,000 Marvel superhero comic books.
Adam Wainwright: Welcome back to the greatest song ever so poorly. It's a karaoke podcast. That is a direct result of what board of meets fandom, I'm your-kind-of Hulk-Hogan-but-not-really-brother Adam Wainwright.
Ed Cunard: Ooh yeah, and I'm Ed Cunard, trying to keep with the same theme.
Adam Wainwright: Now, we're going to be doing a full podcast where we just do wrestling impersonations while talking about karaoke? Oh yeah.
Ed Cunard: I'm officially out of wrestling, impersonations. I can half do Macho Man, and that's it.
Adam Wainwright: No, that was pretty good, Ed. And tap out. I liked the I'd have to tap out reference too. See, we can do a wrestling podcast. Now I'm intrigued by what a wrestling karaoke podcast would look like, what the shape of that would be.
Ed Cunard: I guarantee you there's at least one professional wrestler who really loves karaoke that we can get on this podcast.
Adam Wainwright: There has to be, there has to be at least one. Like half of what they do with the wrestling is just performing in front of the crowd. I mean, you know what? I would wager that a lot of wrestlers are really damn good at karaoke.
Ed Cunard: Yeah, I could see that, that seems like it would be true.
Adam Wainwright: Okay, Ed, did you have a phase in your life where you watched wrestling?
Ed Cunard: Absolutely. Ages five to, I dunno, 15.
Adam Wainwright: Okay. Great. So of the wrestlers that, you know, from your era, who's the one that you would
say was probably the absolute best at karaoke.
Ed Cunard: From my era... it would have to be the Honky-Tonk Man, right?
Adam Wainwright: That's a good choice, the Honky Tonk Man. Because you see I'm going with the Heartbreak Kid. It has to be Shawn Michaels.
Either that or the Undertaker, just because I bet the undertaker would be that motherfucker that would get up there and he'd be frightening.
And you'd be like, oh man, this is the Undertaker. He's a million feet tall. I'm intimidated by this dude. And he'd break into like "Sailing Away" from Styx or something like that. And it would be the best thing you've ever seen your entire life. And then he'd walk away into his undertaker ways and disappear into like a shadows of a smoke machine or some shit.
Ed Cunard: That would be epic.
Adam Wainwright: I derailed this conversation well before we ever got started on it. So Ed, what are we actually doing today? Can we just get right to the main theme? I mean, there's no way you have a challenge for me today. We've done this too long. There's no way you can bring another one up.
I think we're going to be talking about some real nerd shit today because we talked to Douglas Wolk about his new book. So we're going to keep the theme of the episode. So let's just hop in. There's no way you
have a challenge for me today.
Ed Cunard: Well, Adam, I wouldn't say that
Trivia Bed: ["CHALLENGE OF THE NERDY SONGS"]
Adam Wainwright: Wow. I think our audio beds just keep getting better every time.
Ed Cunard: Massive shout out to Dr. Kevin Snow of Marywood for doing his "Super Friends" impersonation to do that for me while I was out in Scranton.
Adam Wainwright: That was pretty great. Like I said, they're going to get better every week. We're going to have to start getting like celebrities that come on and just do our audio beds, not talk to them about karaoke. Just do audio beds for us.
All right, Ed. So you have a nerdy challenge for me. I get it.
Ed Cunard: I do. All of these songs, reference comics in some way. I know you're not a comics guy, so we're Not focusing on that part of it as much.
Adam Wainwright: Okay.
Ed Cunard: It's 10 questions and one bonus. Where do you think you're going to fall?
Adam Wainwright: I always like to think that if you're doing, if you score anywhere over a 50% in life, you're doing a little bit better than everybody else at life, or at least half the population. So I'm going to go with a six.
Ed Cunard: Okay.
Adam Wainwright: And I'm going to definitely miss the bonus question.
Ed Cunard: We'll find out, I guess. So are you ready for the "Challenge of the Nerdy songs?"
Adam Wainwright: I am as ready as Clark Kent when somebody cries for Superman.
Ed Cunard: I think you're going to do just fine. So, question one
Adam Wainwright: right.
Ed Cunard: While the song isn't actually about any members of the Avengers, this Black Sabbath song shares its name with one.
Adam Wainwright: Black Sabbath, uh, "Iron man
Ed Cunard: Correct!
Adam Wainwright: Okay. Great. See, we're off to a good start. We're we're okay. I just, I've never actually heard that song before, but it's the only one that made sense. Let's go. Number two.
Ed Cunard: Wait, no pause. You've never heard "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath.
Adam Wainwright: I don't think. It's not my era, man. We talked about this. If we haven't, we need to get into it more. That's just not my era. That's not my style. This is one of the situations where somebody was going to hunt me down and hold me against the wall and say, "I will give you $10,000 if you can name one Black Sabbath song," I'd probably look at them with a blank face and be like... But now I know "Iron Man" is one. So, thank you for that $10,000.
Ed Cunard: I am nothing if not helpful.
Question Two: everyone knows the Wu Tang Clan loves their superhero comics. In "Protect Ya Neck," Inspectah Deck's verse mentions which Marvel superhero?
Adam Wainwright: I don't know that song very well. I just, I just don't. Shang-Chi?
Ed Cunard: No, it was Spider-Man.
Adam Wainwright: It's always Spider-Man, I feel. If I don't know any more, it's going to be Spider-Man or some version of Spider-Man. Miles Morales, that's the next one.
Ed Cunard: There you go. This hipster band had an album track that talked about Dungeons & Dragons and comics in its opening lines: "I've got a Dungeon Master's Guide / I've got a 12-sided die / I've got Kitty Pryde / and Nightcrawler too, waiting there for me / yes, I do. I do."
Adam Wainwright: You want me to name the hipster band in this question. Oh man, I'm going to do real bad at this trivia. This is, this is great.
Ed Cunard: I thought this was a band that you liked.
Adam Wainwright: Just because I liked them doesn't mean I know their entire catalog. Uh, hipster bands... Just because it's a band that I like, that's a hips... no, there's no way that Ben Gibbard sang about that shit. There's no way. I was gonna say Death Cab for Cutie. That is not it. I can't even think of what a hipster, what a hipster band... Uh, Bowling for Soup. I don't know.
Ed Cunard: It was Weezer.
Adam Wainwright: Weezer. Okay.
Ed Cunard: The song is "In the Garage."
Adam Wainwright: You're going to give that a hipster band. You're gonna say Weezer's... we need to have other conversations about music apparently on this podcast, if you're putting the Weezer as a hipster band. Like when does that happen? That that happened at some point, culturally.
Ed Cunard: I don't know.
Adam Wainwright: Okay. Okay, let's go. Let's keep us rolling.
Ed Cunard: Let's see if movies are any better for you. Which of these bands was not on the soundtrack to 1994's "The Crow." Was it: the Cure, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails or Violent Femmes?
Adam Wainwright: Violent Femmes.
Ed Cunard: No, it was Metallica.
Adam Wainwright: I don't know "The Crow" that well either, Ed, and I definitely wouldn't know the soundtrack of "The Crow." I was 10 years old when the Crow came out.
Ed Cunard: All right. Which former Beatle wrote a song about Marvel comics villains magneto and Titanium Man.
Adam Wainwright: Paul McCartney.
Ed Cunard: Correct.
Adam Wainwright: Yay. I guessed one of--
Ed Cunard: You got two now.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah, there we go. We're up to two.
Ed Cunard: Alright, this rapper who recently took part in a Versuz battle released a cassette single with the song "Break the Chain" that was polybagged with a tie-in comic of the same name, illustrated by Kyle Baker and published by Marvel comics in 1994.
Adam Wainwright: KRS- One
Ed Cunard: Correct.
Adam Wainwright: Okay, great. I just knew that I didn't know any of the stuff about the title. I just knew he was recently in a battle.
Ed Cunard: Yup. Alright, Question seven: a cartoonist I've sang karaoke with, James Otis Smith, illustrated a graphic novel adaptation of Ted Fox's seminal history of this theater in Harlem.
Adam Wainwright: Oh, it's the Apollo.
Ed Cunard: Correct.
You're doing really well Adam.
Adam Wainwright: Bouncing back. Recovering.
Ed Cunard: Okay. This contemporary crooner, who also had a bit part in "Duets," sang the Spider-Man theme in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies.
Adam Wainwright: The only contemporary crooner I know is Michael Bublé.
Ed Cunard: Yes. Correct. And the bonus question that goes with that, what legendary punk band also recorded this.
Adam Wainwright: Oh, man. That's the version I know from the same Raimi one too. Like that's the one I remember. I can't remember which punk band it was. Like what era of punk?
Ed Cunard: Classic
Adam Wainwright: Classic punk. Like you're talking like eighties punk?
Ed Cunard: And seventies.
Adam Wainwright: Seventies, eighties, somewhere in there. Uh, Black Flag.
Ed Cunard: It was the Ramones.
Adam Wainwright: Okay.
Ed Cunard: Good guess though.
These two superheroes, one from Marvel Comics and one from DC Comics had Broadway musicals, and both of them flopped.
Adam Wainwright: Uh, the one for Marvel comics is "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." The one from DC comics. Oh. Actually know that there's some really good music in the Superman musical.
Ed Cunard: Great job, Adam. You got it. You got it.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah, I know. I know I had that one. It popped into my head. And the only reason I know that is because it was a track that was randomly pulled from an online production of a musical revue that was done last year that I happen to turn into where I listened to a song. I said, you know what? This is actually really good.
And I didn't know what musical it was from, which was wild to me. And I looked it up and it was Superman: the Musical. I can't say I've ever heard anything from the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" musical. But I actually know some people now who have seen it and said it was as bad as they say it was.
A little musical FYI.
Ed Cunard: I figured you'd get the musical one.
And then the last one: the Spin Doctors, best known for "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" also had a hit with "Jimmy Olsen's Blues." That song's chorus gave their debut album its name, "Pocket Full of [blank]", which would be a bad thing to have if you were Superman.
Adam Wainwright: This may be the easiest one you've done. It's a pocket full kryptonite.
Ed Cunard: Correct. Correct. Adam.
Adam Wainwright: So I bounced back, right, Ed?
Ed Cunard: You finished out with six, so you hit exactly where you thought you were going to.
Adam Wainwright: That's what I'm here to do. I'm here to hit the mark right on and do no more and no less.
What I really liked about that Ed... Let's just pause for a second and discuss what I really liked because the show's about us when it really comes down to it. It's not really about karaoke or anybody else it's about us.
So what I really liked about that was I feel like you dumbed it down enough for me to actually sound like I know things, but kept the content of the questions smart enough that people that are on your level are really going to appreciate some of the references you made. And that's a brilliant plan. That's a tough line to walk. Congratulations on that. Nice work. You were dropping names like you, when you were walking out that content I'm like, oh no. Oh no. Oh no. He just said like seven things. I don't understand. And then it's like "oh, Superman wouldn't like it. Oh, kryptonite. Cool. Got it."
Ed Cunard: Not everyone as much of a comics nerd as I am.
Adam Wainwright: Well, some people definitely can is what I learned from our conversation. Yeah. Some people definitely are. But I mean, that's awesome though. I mean, and I think it ties into karaoke in several ways, wouldn't you agree, Ed?
Ed Cunard: I would. Being a very big fan of something to the point where it becomes almost a part of your identity is something that lots of fandoms have, whether it is comics or karaoke or the Pittsburgh Penguins. I'm sure you would call yourself a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Adam Wainwright: Uh, just a little bit, just a little, little fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Steelers and Pirates to a certain extent.
Ed Cunard: Whereas I know that the Steelers are playing when I get a reply, chug snapchat from you.
And I'm like "oh yeah, There's a football, there's a football today. Yeah.
Adam Wainwright: There's a football, a football is being thrown somewhere in the world today and men are being paid millions of dollars to throw that football. But you're right. It does turn into an obsession. And I think it all kind of ties together. Like we said, nerdy shit but this is also about obsession just a little bit, and there's no other way to describe what Ed and I still have with karaoke.
It definitely developed when we were at our heyday. I mean, that was the height of an obsession right there. like somebody hit me up on seven different social media platforms when I just met them kind of obsession, is what we had with karaoke.
Not that that's ever happened to me.
Ed Cunard: I don't think I've lost that feeling either.
Adam Wainwright: I haven't either. It's just, it's changed for me. It's just been tougher for me. Like it's laying dormant right now. I think if the door were open and people were like, Things were to open more in, you know, I'm in such a weird position right now. I just moved to New York City and while New York City's opened up, just talking to my fiancé, it's clear it's not opened up the way it was. While restaurants and bars may be open, they're not having these events that they used to. Might be a trivia night every now and then, but there's no karaoke anymore. Like there's a karaoke bar, but I don't see places advertising karaoke on any nights of the week. It doesn't seem to be a thing.
I would have to go to a place that's strictly made for karaoke and like, that's cool, but it's not really my thing either. I like the bar surprises and stuff like that. So, I mean, hopefully we'll get to the point where that becomes another part of like daily life here in New York, but it's just, it's just not there yet. Speaking of it, you've been able to feed this obsession a little bit recently cause I'm going to make sure we shop this out. So why don't you tell the people how you've been feeding your obsession recently and the major thing that recently happened?
Ed Cunard: My local karaoke bar reopened.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah. Yeah. It's a big thing Ed. Tell the people .
Ed Cunard: It's the closest thing to a queer bar. Our town has. It's a mix of college students, grad students, local folks, absolute fucking weirdos, and it is a wonderful environment to be in. And it just feels so good to have it back.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah, I can imagine. I can't, I can't wait to go back and visit too. I mean, it doesn't, it's never had that connection like you have with it, but I still loved every time I got the chance to go out there. And when I am home over the holidays, which I will be, I'm hoping to, you know, I'm hoping you'll tolerate me coming out to sing some karaoke with you and maybe do a live show? I don't know how that would work technically, but we might have to try it. If it's a mess, it's a mess and we won't release it. And let's say we tried it and it didn't work, it might be something.
Ed Cunard: Yeah. maybe we'll see.
Adam Wainwright: Let's get back to the topic at hand. So we're going to talk some nerd shit now. Let's dive into it. I want to know what's the nerdiest shit you've seen at karaoke or something that could be considered karaoke because I have mine or at least my absolute favorite thing that I've experienced at some nerd shit.
And I want to hear yours.
Ed Cunard: Right now, my favorite thing is the thing that we're airing at the end of this episode, which is just fantastic. But if we're talking about something that happened in person...
Adam Wainwright: "In the meat space," I believe is what the kids say.
Ed Cunard: Do the kids call it "the meat space?" Okay.
Adam Wainwright: On the really, real they call it the meat space. Yeah. That's canon now: it's the meat space.
Ed Cunard: I have seen somebody do the Pokemon theme. So I guess that's going to have to count.
Adam Wainwright: That's a deep nerd shit, right there. That's some obsession nerd shit to the max right there. And I love it. I really do. How was the performance? Did they lean into it that they like have a Pokeball, prop or something like that, that they just threw at a random patron. Cause that will be fucking awesome.
Ed Cunard: There were no props and I'm just going to have to assume that they did it accurately, because I don't really know that much Pokemon stuff other than the Pokemon Go app.
Adam Wainwright: I think just in the Pokemon go app, you probably know more about Pokemon than most at this point though Ed, because they keep expanding that thing. I would guess you know more than you give yourself credit for.
Ed Cunard: What's yours. That's what I want to know. Cause you seem so excited. You must have a great story.
Adam Wainwright: It's tough to how to classify it because it's not like a stand out moment or something like that. And something that happens yearly, but I got to experience it in person. So back in 2016, my brother and I won the lottery and we got to go to San Diego Comic Con.
We got to go to the international Comic-Con in San Diego. We had Thursday and Sunday passes and we filled in the other two days. But on Thursday night, the one thing I circled and I could float around and we got to see some cool panels and experience the art room on the showroom floor and got to take it all in.
And it's a great experience. And I hope I get to go back at some point in my life. I really do. Even me not being immersed in the comic universe, it's still something to behold, something we've seen as something that was really, really cool. The one thing I circled on my calendar, there was one of the last things that was happening in the ballrooms that I wanted to make sure I had a seat for.
So I sat through, I think, three panels before then. I'm gonna say I sat through three panels just so I could make sure I had a seat for this. They had a Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog singalong with the attendees for Comicon. And this is something that goes on every year. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and they bring up the best Doctor Horrible.
They have a costume contest for the best Doctor Horrible and the best Captain Hammer and they give their best riff. And then everybody sings along to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. And I know it's not traditional karaoke. I know. It kind of falls into the concert karaoke realm, but I would place the singalong vibe that was there and everybody getting involved as something amazing.
Like it's the same way that as much as you hate Journey, you jump in and sing along with Journey, or you sing along with Bon Jovi or you sing along with Queen when it comes on only this time, there was about a thousand people gathered in a ballroom singing along to a. The entirety of Dr. Horrible, hosted by Dr. Horrible. You know, somebody dressed as Dr. Horrible. And to me, that is some of the nerdiest shit I've ever seen and taken part of that I absolutely fucking loved
Ed Cunard: That had to be, amazing. I can only imagine.
Adam Wainwright: Oh, I want to go back. I want to go back and just experienced on, hopefully that continues to stay a tradition. And it had been for a number of years by the time 2016 rolled around. I definitely want to go back. I want to this the next time though, I wanna prep well in advance. I want to enter the Doctor Horrible costume contest and try to do my best Captain Hammer. And it's simple to win the people over when a Doctor Horrible's introducing themselves and trying to like do their best Doctor Horrible impersonation is just for Captain Hammer just to walk up and shove them out of the way and introduce themselves. So that's what my plan would be is that I would talk about it beforehand because I wanna make sure it's consent. It's an act with whoever's dressed as Dr. Horrible, that I would walk up and just kind of shove them out of the way and introduce myself because that's what Captain Hammer would do.
Ed Cunard: That sounds so much fun. The other connection for me with comics nerdery and karaoke is that prior to you, the only time I really went to karaoke was with my comics friends in New York when I'd be out there. My friend Alex had a store in Brooklyn that would have parties and we would go to karaoke afterwards.
There was the MoCCA Arts Festival. We would often go to karaoke after that. And that was actually part of the thing that I looked forward to about going out there a couple of times a year was just getting together with some of my friends and listening to Brian Cronin maybe singing some Bob Dylan or... who knows what else happened those nights 'cause those were, those were big drinking nights for me. There was something always really fun about that. And that is probably the prequel to my karaoke fandom. You are the main event for it.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah, it feels good to be the main event, it really does. It's great, but this is how it turned into an obsession, but we're talking to make a connection. For me with sports, let's say, cause this is what I can talk about. And you can talk about it from the comic side and kind of lead us into what the next phase of this episode is going to be. Karaoke can be like an obsession. If you're just getting started, it's learning about a lot of the stuff we've talked about on this podcast. It's learning the ropes. It's learning the entry points. It's learning the etiquette. It's learning the ins and outs. And I look at that as the same way as you learning a new sport, becoming a fan. You want to learn the players, you learn the rules, you learn the behavior that's tolerated, what's not. You learn what the big moments are and how to celebrate and engage in them. And for karaoke, I look at it kind of the same way. You want to learn the ettiquette. You want to learn the ins and outs. You want to get up there and do it. You can't become a fan of something until you turn in or actively participate, until you go to a game.
I think there's a lot of parallels and my love for karaoke has become as diehard as my love for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and sometimes the Pittsburgh Pirates. And if you know me, that is really saying something because these are things that I love, I just love to be a part of that community. I love to dive in and know that I have something in common. And I can't tell you how many times when I'm wearing a piece of Steelers gear that somebody comes up and talks to me about what happened that week. And it's a stranger. I feel like you have that same connection at karaoke. When you step up and you can sing a song and somebody walks up and says, Hey, you did a great job.
Do you know this one? Do you know this one? And it's initiates a conversation over a share love of a thing. And to me, that's a beautiful thing. It really is
Ed Cunard: That's great. Fandom does let you become a part of something, lets you become part of a community. And that's one of the things that I love about it and what I love about karaoke. And I know, you know, you do too, and that's why I'm really excited to talk to our guests today. Douglas Wolk just wrote a book called "All of the Marvels," which chronicles his reading every Marvel superhero comic published between 1961 and the two thousands. And it's a great book.
Adam Wainwright: Ed. Can you pause for a second right now? Because I have a question. How many, how many comics is that?
Ed Cunard: That's approximately 27,000.
Adam Wainwright: Oh my God. I struggled to read that many words.
Ed Cunard: Yeah. I mean, 20 words is sometimes tough for you.
Adam Wainwright: See now that's mean, and an exaggeration
Ed Cunard: That is, but Adam, to make up for that, let's give somebody the gift of literacy. I would like to get emails at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us what Marvel superhero you would want to do karaoke with and why, and I'll buy somebody a Kindle copy of Douglas's book. And the reason I have to buy a Kindle copy is because Amazon is actually sold out of his book right now. Other retailers have it, but Amazon completely sold out as of this week, which is pretty fantastic. Gives you an idea how good that book is. Right.
Adam Wainwright: That is. So that's email@example.com. Is that what you said?
Ed Cunard: Yeah.
Adam Wainwright: S-U-N-G-P-O-O-R-L-Y@gmail.com?
Ed Cunard: Were you just trying to prove that you can spell our email address?
Adam Wainwright: I just wanted to make sure that people could spell it. I'm representing the people here and I'm looking out for the people as a whole. And I just realized as I was doing it. When you're articulating the letters and spelling it out, it comes out of your head more complicated. Like when you hit multiple letters that you can just keep wanting to go like, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, but that's not it.
Ed Cunard: No,
Adam Wainwright: So I was spelling it for the people, Ed. I'm just an advocate for the people. I don't know if you're against them, but maybe.
Ed Cunard: you know what? I'm an advocate for.
Adam Wainwright: I don't know, Ed, what are you an advocate for?
Ed Cunard: I'm an advocate for queuing that guitar and getting going.
Ed Cunard: If you're familiar with comic books or music, you may be familiar with our guest, who has been writing about both for over 20 years. Currently, he's the guy behind the "Voice of Latveria", a podcast about Dr. Doom, and his latest book, "All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told" was published in October. Douglas Wolk, thanks for coming on to The Greatest Song Ever Sung Poorly!
Douglas Wolk: Thank you so much, good to be here..
Adam Wainwright: Douglas, we really are so excited to have you on today. Cause it seems like you have the best of both worlds. You have this successful book that was just published and you're a karaoke fanatic. And guess what? We love origin stories here. So whether it's on the page or a podcast, can you give us your karaoke origin story?
Douglas Wolk: Karaoke origin story. I don't know if there's a particular origin story beyond the fact that when I moved to Portland, something like 17 years ago, there was a karaoke bar right around the corner. And my friend Chelsea and I started going there. Every Monday night. And we went there every Monday night for a couple of years and the karaoke bar no longer exists and Chelsea no longer lives in Portland, but I got the bug and I kept the bug.
Ed Cunard: Yeah, the bug is hard to shake once you've got it. So while your book isn't about karaoke, obviously, something you wrote early in it struck me as pertaining to karaoke in two ways. I'm just going to quote it here.
" I realized I'd become able to find something to enjoy in just about any issue, new or old. Sometimes it was a detail that connected to another one on the stories perpetual expanding canvas."
I think that applies to karaoke as well. Like I approach every performance I see in the same way as an audience member, that there's always something to enjoy. What's your take on being the audience at a karaoke show? Do you find something to enjoy no matter what?
Douglas Wolk: Not necessarily, no matter what, but an awful lot of the time. Seeing how the person connects to the song, that is always such a joy.
Ed Cunard: And then also from that excerpt, something that hadn't occurred to me before, until I was reading your book, there's some kind of intertextual musical conversation happening at karaoke, then, isn't there, the way people are interacting with these songs?
Douglas Wolk: Oh, God. Yeah, absolutely. It's the song that you want to sing, but it's the way that you want to sing it. What is the song that you want to sing for your friends who are there to hear? How do you want the audience to respond? How are you picking because of that? That's always part of the dynamic, and that's always fun to see.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah, it really is fun. to see. Seeing that unfold, I think was one of the appeals for me and what kind of hooked me into it. Now Ed's been kind of filling me in here. And we touched on this a little bit before we got into the interview, and I know you've covered this in your book, but I just moved to Queens.
I'm getting settled. This is actually the first time I'm recording from my new apartment in Astoria, Queens. And there's a comic book store that's literally one block away. Step out my side of my house. There it is. It's right there in the corner. I've never really gotten into it. I've never really been able to break into that world. Where do you recommend someone that's curious like me starting, if they wanted to explore the world of comics.
Douglas Wolk: A store is a good place. A library is a great place. Queens has an amazing public library system, which has an absolutely incredible comic selection. If you go to the library that they just built a couple of years ago in Hunter's Point, there is an absolutely phenomenal selection of graphic novels that they have there.
Or start with friends. If you know somebody who's into it, like just get them to lend you something that they like. Because if they like it and they like you, they probably know the kind of thing that you're going to be into.
Adam Wainwright: Okay. That's that's yeah, completely fair. And you know what, it's one of those things with libraries. I think I always forget there's way more than just books at a library. There's so many resources. So thank you for that. That's actually a great starting point. There's one right across the street from me.
Part of me wants to run out right now, but part of me realizes that it's 10:00 PM at night and that's not going to work. And I would be, fruitlessly standing outside a library, knocking on the windows, looking in like a forlorn child. So, yeah. Sorry, sorry for the tangent.
Ed Cunard: Similarly, though, what about somebody getting started with karaoke? You've been doing it for a long time like we have. It's hard for me to imagine people who listen to this podcast regularly, aren't already into karaoke, but maybe some of the people tuning into this episode because you're the guest might say, "Hey, if Douglas Wolk is into karaoke, maybe I should give it a shot."
Douglas Wolk: I don't know about that, but I will say, just go, watch people singing, figure out like, what is a song that you like to sing, "But I don't know how it goes" --that's why the words are on the screen, you'll be fine. Just be there for the song. The song will be there for you. That's all you have to do.
Adam Wainwright: That's really great advice, but now, I want to see worlds collide a little bit here. So we're going to bring your two worlds together with this next question. So we got a glimpse of karaoke in the Marvel cinematic universe and Shang Chi. The movie was in production when you were writing your book and you've got a chapter devoted to the "Master of Kung Fu" series. A), what did you think of the movie and B) given the nature of what we do here? What did you think of the karaoke scenes in particular?
Douglas Wolk: I really enjoyed the Shang Chi movie. It is very much unlike the "Master of Kung Fu" comics from the seventies and eighties. That's fine. I am a hundred percent here for it. I love the fact that the MCU is so unfaithful to the comics. It's just treating them all as one gigantic supermarket. They can take whatever it wants from and make fantastic movies out of.
That's great. And sometimes it's sort of indirect like that and sometimes. More or less direct, like, I don't know if either of you watched any of the "Hawkeye" series, but there's some stuff that is straight out of the comics in there and wonderful, wonderful ways and stuff that's not. And as far as the karaoke scenes go, I'm kind of amazed actually that it is specifically karaoke of "Hotel California," given the famous relationship between Don Henley and karaoke companies.
Ed Cunard: Yes. For anyone who doesn't know, Don Henley hates karaoke.
Douglas Wolk: There was a long time when there was no officially licensed version of any karaoke song written or co-written by Don Henley and... now there's that. And it's in the movie. And I wonder if that is some sort of karaoke in-joke. I have no idea.
Ed Cunard: It would be amazing if it was, I would love the movie even more if that was part of it.
When we were setting this up, you also sent us some panels that we'll post on the website in conjunction with this episode of Marvel characters doing karaoke in the 616. Representing music in a visual medium has to be tough.
How do you feel that they got the karaoke across in those panels that you shared with us?
Douglas Wolk: They get it across because the songs are identifiable and the settings are identifiable. And usually whoever is singing has something to do with the song they're singing. I think there was also some recent issue of X-Force where there was a big karaoke scene with a number of characters and, you know, only needs a little bit just to establish what's going on.
And that's fine. You can't really get music onto the page. You don't really have to, you just kind of have to suggest it.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah, it's always cool to see how stuff like that breaks down. And I want to follow up on a story that you share. Also prior to this. Apparently you've gone to karaoke dressed as Dr. Octopus. What's the story there?
Douglas Wolk: So the story there is that a couple of years ago for Halloween, I thought it would be funny to write a theme song for Dr. Octopus to the tune of the sixties Spider-Man theme song. The Spider-Man theme song has been repurposed in number of ways, like Squirrel Girl sings her own version of it in the first issue of her comic.
And so it's like, okay, let's, let's do the Dr. Octopus one. And I was happy enough with what I came up with that I ended up going to my neighborhood karaoke joint dressed as Doc Ock and just singing that sixty second song and then storming off. It was great.
Ed Cunard: I love that. I love that so much.
Adam Wainwright: I would've paid to be there. Like that's, that's one of those things that somebody needs to tip me off that that's happening over the course of an evening. So I will pay to get entrance, to see stuff like that. I love that. I really do.
Ed Cunard: And you are also a music guy. In a previous book, you talked about one of the big, important live albums, James Brown's "Live at the Apollo." Out of curiosity, is James Brown a part of your personal karaoke songbook?
Douglas Wolk: I can't sing like that. I would love to be able to, I cannot sing his songs in a way that does justice to them. I've tried a couple of times, just not, not happening. Everybody's entitled to a couple of blatant failures. That was one of mine.
Adam Wainwright: Yeah. we definitely all have those blatant failures. I think we've talked about it on this podcast before, but the Beatles are mine, where I'd love to be able to sing the Beatles. I would love to be able to do Beatles songs with karaoke. I've tried a couple of times. I can't. It just, it just can't happen.
I will recognize enough that I'm falling apart severely. And speaking of the Beatles. Well kind of the Beatles of karaoke, but you're in Portland. We've established that. And we've also discovered Portland's apparently a great karaoke city. What are some, even if it's not karaoke related, what are some places people should check out if they're in the Portland area?
Can you talk a little bit more about the karaoke scene?
Douglas Wolk: My absolute favorite karaoke place is Baby Ketten. Baby Ketten is amazing. They have the best song selection. They make a bunch of their own videos. The vibe there is incredible. For a while they were kind of a floating operation that was a bunch of different places every week.
Now for the last couple of years, they've had their own club and it was closed down for a lot of COVID, but now it's open again and they have private rooms and I've been to a couple parties and private rooms in the last few months. And just the vibe there. There are so many amazing singers, and also so many people who aren't necessarily quote amazing singers but are amazing karaoke performers who are there.
And you see people that, you know, and there's, there's just this whole culture around the place. And there's this kind of unofficial vibe, like just don't, don't do the same song over and over. Like, don't do the same song. I try to never do the same song twice in the same place, which meant, you know, during the period where I was going to the place around the corner from my house, that I was getting fairly deep into the repertoire after a while, I think after a week when I did Laurie Anderson's "Oh, Superman," I was like, okay, maybe maybe I can either dive deeper into the repertoire or be willing to repeat myself every couple of years.
Ed Cunard: I love that. I try to at least do one new song a week anytime that I'm doing karaoke, like something I've never sang before. And Baby Ketten's actually on my bucket list of karaoke places to hit ever since I've seen articles about them. And I looked at the song book that the guy put together.
I mean, I've never seen such an extensive Tom Waits collection. Anywhere.
Adam Wainwright: One day, Ed, we're just going to have to bite the bullet and we're going to have to just take our show on the road. We'll record live on location out in Portland and it'll be a heck of a kind adventure.
Ed Cunard: I'll actually just take a vacation for once. It'll be fantastic. The funny thing for me is that before Adam really got me into karaoke hardcore, the only time I consistently went to do karaoke was with comics folks, pretty much every MoCCA Arts Festival or Rocketship event in Brooklyn had some of us going to Winnie's in Chinatown, or maybe someplace in Williamsburg. Is there some kind of connection in these two things? Cause it seems a lot of my comics people really like karaoke.
Douglas Wolk: They're people who are artistically inclined and don't get to perform in front of people very often. And when you get the chance to perform in front of friends, like... comics people tend to spend a lot of time by themselves, hunched over drawing boards. And getting to celebrate with people and getting to make art in a way that lets you perform, that's special.
Ed Cunard: Yeah, it really is. Speaking of really special things, you've done something really interesting with your podcast "The Voice of Latveria" about Dr. Doom. You have expert guests on, you guys take an issue or a storyline and you do a deep dive, but you've also created some sound bites and some music for that, that I don't know how to explain it, other than it seems very culturally accurate for a country that does not actually exist. And I don't know how you pulled that off.
Douglas Wolk: There's a little background here. The premise in my head behind "The Voice of Latveria" is that it is a Cold War era propaganda shortwave broadcast from, like, Latverian National Radio. It's "Voice of America." So, a lot of the narration at the beginning is kind of adapted from what the introductory narration was in "Voice of America" broadcast in the forties and fifties.
But also there's a little musical hook that I play a couple of times in every episode. And the joke behind that is... do you know about number stations? So number of stations, there are shortwave radio stations. There used to be a ton of them. There are still some to this day that are just voices, reading numbers, voices, reading lists of numbers. And every so often there'll be a little musical tag and they were apparently used for espionage because you could transmit them from anywhere and pick them up anywhere and you wouldn't have anything more suspicious than the ham radio set up. And if you could get the frequency, you could get your encoded message.
And so they'll just be squiggling noises and maybe like a little bit of orchestral music and then like voicing for "3, 4, 7, 1, 3, 4. 3, 4." And so forth. One of the most famous numbers stations, like there've been dozens and dozens of these cataloged, is one that is called the "Lincolnshire Poacher" because every time it repeats their string of numbers, they'll play a little musical tag, which is the English folk tune "The Lincolnshire Poacher" [ hums "The Lincolnshire Poacher"]
So I transpose that to a minor key, played it on a kind of pipe organ setting. And that is the musical tag of the "Voice of Latvaria."
[SOUND CLIP FROM “THE VOICE OF LATVERIA”
Ed Cunard: Wow. That's fantastic. I love that.
Douglas Wolk: It's a lot of fun. And at the beginning of the end of every episode, there's a news broadcast from Latveria, which is how Latverian state radio would report, whatever the events are in the other Marvel Comics published the same month as whatever issue we're talking about on that week's podcast.
Ed Cunard: "The truth as Lord Doom sees it."
Douglas Wolk: Yes, exactly.
Adam Wainwright: That's an incredible idea and amazing to make that come to fruition like that. Thanks for bringing clarity to that. I know Ed's, you know, maybe seeming cool, but in the inside, he is freaking out about how cool all this information is and he's trying to be cool in front of you.
That's what's happening right now. Cause on the inside freaking out just a little bit, and I'm trying to be cool in front of you too because this has been such a joy to speak with you and have you on our podcast today. Right now we'd like to transition it into the game we like to play with our guests called "Hit Me with Your Best Shot."
And what we're going to do is we're going to give you five questions, karaoke related. Just give us your best answer for each one. First thing that pops into your heads, normally the right way to go. And we're just going to go back and forth. At the end, if you'd like to, you'll have the opportunity to fire away and you can ask Ed and I any kind of question that you like karaoke related otherwise. And we solemnly swear to answer honestly. Do you have any questions? Are you ready to rock and roll?
Douglas Wolk: Bring it on.
Adam Wainwright: What is the best thing you've seen at karaoke?
Douglas Wolk: Best thing you've seen at karaoke was a couple of years ago, actually at Baby Ketten. The guy who runs the place did Daft Punk's "Robot Rock." Now, if you are familiar with the song, the lyrics are "rock robot, rock" repeated 256 times. That's it. He blew the roof off with it. Just the absolute, highest energy performance I had ever seen.
Ed Cunard: Wow. That's fantastic. I wish I could have been there to see that. Conversely, what's the worst thing you've seen at karaoke.
Douglas Wolk: Probably a guy at the place I used to go to who, every time he was there, would do the Bloodhound Gang's "A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When the Stripper Is Crying." Every time.
Ed Cunard: We had a guy like that out here. It was awful.
Adam Wainwright: I feel gross just hearing about that, honestly. Yeah, that's definitely. Yeah. That's <uuuugh.> What's the one song you would love to do a karaoke, but you've never been able to find a version of it or a good version of it.
Douglas Wolk: I would do Wynonie Harris's "Bloodshot Eyes" in a second. That's an amazing song. Always wanted to sing it.
Ed Cunard: That's awesome. I love Wynonie Harris. Now let's say that you're in a brand new place while traveling, and you only have the chance to sing one song. What do you pick to make your mark?
Douglas Wolk: If I'm actually trying to make a mark, it is going to be "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" by Sparks. If If I feel like I can hit the high note that night.
Adam Wainwright: I feel like that's a tenuous thing with a lot of songs is like, "oh, am I feeling tonight?" Yeah. Okay. Okay. So our favorite question right here that Ed started putting infographics together for is if you could magically strike one song from every karaoke playlist forever, which song would you choose?
Douglas Wolk: I have a whole long speech prepared about how there are no bad or unsalvageable karaoke songs except "Sweet Caroline."
Ed Cunard: If you would like to do your speech, you're more than welcome to
Douglas Wolk: No, that's, that's it. That's that's the speech.
Ed Cunard: That's one of the reigning champs for that question too.
Adam Wainwright: It is, it is, and well-deserved.
Douglas Wolk: I will say there are an awful lot more people who think they can do "Baby Got Back" than can actually do "Baby Got Back"-- many, many more--but one time in 10, you get somebody who actually knows it beyond the third line. And then you're golden.
Adam Wainwright: Those are always special moments when they knew it beyond the third line. I completely agree. You know what, honestly, I think that was one of the best rounds of this we've ever had. That was amazing. You great stories right off the top of your head, I'm unbelievably impressed with your answers.
Ed Cunard: You were quicker than the Rawhide Kid!
Douglas Wolk: Lots to be said for the Rawhide Kid.
Adam Wainwright: So you're gonna have the chance to fire away now, if you'd like to, you could ask Ed and I any question that pops into your head and we solemnly swear that we are going to answer honestly. So do you have any questions you'd like to ask us?
Douglas Wolk: What is the longest karaoke song that is still great to do as karaoke?
Adam Wainwright: Ooh.
Ed Cunard: I'm gonna let you go first. Cause I know I might have to revise my answer.
Adam Wainwright: You're going to have to. I'm thinking very selfishly with Ed and I right now, because Ed and I have a song that we do that I think is great every single time we do it, and that's "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang.
If you can do it and you can pull it off, I think it's great every single time. And that's eight to nine minutes, eight to, what, 15 minutes long, depending on the version.
Ed Cunard: The karaoke version is seven minutes and 56 seconds. I think.
Adam Wainwright: So that's, that's my answer.
Ed Cunard: That's what I would have picked too, Adam and I did that sitting at a bar during the last game of the 2016 World Series, because we wanted to do our karaoke song, but we also wanted to watch the game and we're like, well, we can do this without looking at a screen.
And that's how we watched the Cubs win.
Douglas Wolk: Wow. That's amazing. I did once see in New York, the karaoke place that had Television's "Marquee Moon." I was like, okay, I have to do this to see like, is it? Yes, it is the full 10 and a half minutes of "Marquee Moon" with a seven and a half minute guitar solo in the middle of it.
And I was just sitting there going like, are they actually... a MIDI version of the guitar solo. It is a MIDI version of the track and it's just, you're going to sit there and you're going to take it.
Ed Cunard: And sometimes that's how a karaoke night has to go.
Well, Douglas, thank you so much for coming on the show with us. I know you have a lot of projects out there. It's your turn. It's your floor. It's your time on the stage. Tell us what you want the people to know.
Douglas Wolk: I'm going to plug my new and fantastic book. "All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told," whose title actually has a music connection, which we'll get into in a second. But it is my book about reading all 27,000 Marvel superhero comics as a single narrative. It was published by Penguin in November.
I read the audio book too. And so here's the music connection. There is a series of books that actually I wrote, the James Brown book is part of the "33 and 1/3" series. My favorite book in that series is Carl Wilson's "Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste." It is a book about the Celine Dion album "Let's Talk About Love," the one that has the "Titanic" song on it. And it proceeds from the premise, "Okay. Millions of people love this album. I hate this album. What do they know that I don't?" And it's just an inquiry into taste, but it's an inquiry into a taste that is an inquiry into a Celine Dion album. And Louis-Ferdinand Céline is the author who wrote the book "Journey to the End of the Night."
So, a "Journey to the End of the Night," "A Journey to the Ends of Taste." And since I was so deeply affected by Carl's book, I made my subtitle "A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told."
Ed Cunard: Wow. That's fantastic. I didn't think of it that deeply when I looked at it, but that's, that's great. That's a great connection. Douglas, thank you so much for being on here with us. We really enjoyed talking with you today.
Douglas Wolk: Absolute blast. Thank you so much.
Ed Cunard: We hope to see you sitting at a screen sometime soon.
Maybe we'll make the trip out to Baby Ketten.
Douglas Wolk: Please do.
Adam Wainwright: That was so great. Thank you so much. Like, I love this interview. I really did. I mean, you brought some great facts that I think a lot of our listeners are really going to connect with. It was informative. It was entertaining. You really are a joy to talk to you. Thank you so much for doing this.
Douglas Wolk: Thank you so much.
Adam Wainwright: Okay. Listen everybody. Hi, it's me, Adam Wainwright, one of the hosts of "The Greatest Song Ever Sung Poorly." You may know that because you're listening to this podcast and I would just like to state that we have been doing this for almost a full year now. And that may be the best fucking thing I've ever heard happen on this podcast. Like for real, for real, for real, for real, for real. Thank you, Douglas Wolk, for bringing that into my life and bringing such joy to me and all of our loyal listeners who are just so just a dang wonderful. And you know, what, I just want to say, thanks, thanks to you, the loyal listener, for tuning in with us. And you know, I'm going to say "you're welcome" too, because you got to experience that with us. So if you haven't heard we're social guys, so you can follow us on all the socials. We're @sungpoorly on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and our webpage is sungpoorly.com.
And one quick note, I want to bring up about sungpoorly.com. We want to make an effort to be more accessible to listeners of all kinds. So starting with this episode right now, transcripts will be available every single episode moving forward.
And if you have any ideas about how we can be more accessible or meet your needs or any kind of wisdom you'd want to pass on to us, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We're going to be receptive to this. And we want to try to make sure that our content is available to anyone that wants to listen.
Ed Cunard: Or read.
Adam Wainwright: Or read. Listen, read-- anything. If you want our content, we want to make it happen for you. So please don't hesitate to let us know what you want. Hopefully you'll enjoy the transcripts. Ed, who else do we have to think today? I thanked the listeners, I thanked Douglas Wolk for all that wonderfulness. I feel like I'm missing someone who may it be?
Ed Cunard: I believe the person you're thinking of is Ben Dumm, who has graciously provided us with "Gasoline," our theme song. Check out his latest project, the Ben Dumm 3 on Spotify or other music platforms.
And a massive shout out to you, if you leave us a five-star review on iTunes or Podchaser. And recommend this episode to a friend who you think would enjoy it, because that really helps us spread the karaoke gospel.
Adam Wainwright: Hallelujah, Ed. Make sure to tune in in two weeks, when we talk about the healing and therapeutic aspects that karaoke can bring you. That's it. That's all there is a more so until next time I'm Adam Wainwright.
Ed Cunard: I'm Ed Cunard.
Adam Wainwright: And remember that singing off key is still technically singing.