So, for years I've been all proud that the only song I can sing ka-rakaroke style is "House of the Rising Sun," as rendered in 1964 by Eric Burdon's the Animals. (The song is a traditional number whose "origins are believed to date back to the 17th century" and has been reinterpreted by many over the years.) But lately, I've been clueing in that this number is not the best route to take in a party-zone/horrible-singing bonanza. The reasons are at least two-fold:
1) The lyrics! Like those of many old folk/blues standards that proliferated in the American South (ever heard the Leadbelly version of "In the Pines," which you likely know from Kurt Cobain?), are a TOTAL BUMMER. Various accounts carry that "Sun" is about "the life of ruin following exposure to an opium den," but I've always thought of it as a tale of a traveling salesman father and a prostitute mother. Either way, the first known recording of the song is downright eerie:
2) The instrumental breaks! Despite how people might repsond when you belt out the first few lines of "Sun," there comes the inevitable instrumental break. They come often in the song, and they are not short. These parts wash over the party-ready crowd like a net of frowns. Worse, you don't know what the fuck to do with yourself when they're plodding along. It'd be one thing if the crowd were screaming for you, but at this point they're already kind of wondering why the hell you've chosen this song. You might as well have chosen "The End" and wished everyone a depressing walk home. Fuck off, guy!