MP3s: 30 of 'em, below the fold.
Back when WFMU's Professor was still producing The Audio Kitchen - the greatest found sound radio program of all time - he threw together a compilation for WFMU's record library called Sing Along With The Music. It featured 21 tracks of people singing along with music, usually in the privacy of their own homes. Those are the first 21 tracks I've included below, and I've added nine more that seem to fit in with the theme.
While it's easiest to refer to most of these recordings as karaoke, it's not that simple. Karaoke usually takes place in bars, with an audience. What sets most of these recordings apart is that they were, for the most part, recorded at home, usually without the intention of an audience ever hearing them. This gives most of the recordings a refreshing lack of self consciousness. Of course there are exceptions. Moritz' version of Bohemian Rhapsody (mp3) definitely sounds like a karaoke performance, and Biz Markie's version of Benny and The Jets (mp3) was intended to have an audience. Those singalong tapes were how Biz built his early career.
But the majority of these recordings were made singing along with records while playing with tape recorders or computers. The Fred Weber tapes ( 1 | 2 | 3 - mp3s) were made in 1949 on a wire recording device while Fred listened to the musical countdown on WNEW-AM. Fred gave the radio and wire recorder his undivided attention.
Many of these recordings were retrieved from thrift shops decades later by The Professor, his cohorts and assorted WFMU staffers and listeners.
Then there are the "mic in track" recordings. For a brief, glorious moment during the heyday of Napster, large numbers of homemade computer recordings were made available worldwide, through an accidental default setting on people's home computers. If people with Napster accounts made recordings on their computers and accepted the recording with the default title of "mic in track" then those recordings were made available to anyone smart enough to search the Napster network for those three beautiful keywords.
1 - Elton Ellen - Dont Let The Sun Go Down On Me - Cassette found in a Brooklyn junk store.
2 - Horse Guy - Singing In The Rain - Called "Horse Guy" because other tapes found with this cache indicate that the singer bred horses.
3 - Fred Weber - Powder Your Face With Sunshine Recorded at home in New Jersey in 1949, while Fred listened to Martin Block's musical countdown on WNEW-AM. Fred talks to the radio, his listeners and his German war bride. Thanks to Pea Hicks of Optiganally Yours for the amazing Fred Weber tapes.
4 - Giggle Sisters - Chug-A-Lug Recording made in mid-Sixties on reel to reel tape and mailed in by a WFMU listener.
5 - Helen & Sylvia - All My Bitchy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight OK, this qualifies as karaoke. Found in an Atlanta Junk Store, courtesy Georgia Todd Butler. Based on Hank Williams Jr's All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight
6 - Talent Show Girl - Inseparable Found in a Brooklyn junk shop. Get past the feedback and talent show girl really belts it out.
7 - Ernest Trotter - Laura - Some dispute about this one. The tape was mailed in by a WFMU Listener who claimed that Ernest Trotter handed him this cassette while peeing in an adjacent stall in a bathroom at a Ohio rest stop. WFMU's Irwin claims that the recording is a fraud. More to follow.
8 - Rocco Family Singers - Hey There - Found on reel to reel tape in a Brooklyn junk shop.
9 - Phoebe Snow Fan - Poetry Man - more from that Brooklyn junk shop.
10 - Fred Weber - I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm - Another gem from Fred Weber's wire recorder, ca. 1949. On this one, he chats with his pal Ed and his German war bride, who you can also hear in the background.
11 - Chris Palestis - Do Ya Think I'm Sexy? - The late Chris Palestis was a WFMU fan who made these tapes at home in the Seventies and Eighties, and mailed them to the station, where they received heavy airplay for years. Chris is possibly the greatest outsider guitar player of all time.
12 - Helen & Sylvia - Under The Boardwalk - Helen and Sylvia in a more subdued performance, again courtesy Georgia Todd Butler via a junk shop in Atlanta.
13 - Mary Mae - Carry On My Wayward Son - Found by R. Stevie Moore in a box of cassettes which were traded in to a New Jersey Sam Goodys outlet for new tapes. Edited By Irwin Chusid.
14 - Phoebe Snow Fan - Harpo's Blues - Another track found in that Brooklyn junk shop.
15 - Ernest Trotter - Blue Velvate - Another track from that mysterious tape handed over the top of a urinal in Ohio.
16 - Elton Ellen - Captain Fantastic - More Brooklyn junk store fodder.
17 - Precious Twins - Aladdin Theme - Found in a Tampa, Florida thrift shop by Audio Kitchen contributor Echoboy.
18 - Miss Iannone - Wishful Thinking - Listener Brian submitted this with a batch of his own family's recordings.
20 - Fred Weber - Some Enchanted Evening - Fred and family dig Perry Como, ca. 1949, back when people still watched the radio.
21 - 20th Anniversary Mourners - Imagine - Recorded by The Professor in Central Park on the 20th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.
22 - Biz Markie - Bennie And The Jets - Released by Grand Royal magazine on a flexi disk.
24 - Rajit - Looks Like We Made It - Rajit is The Professor's favorite bad singer of all time, and this track demonstrates the magic of the "mic in track" phenomenon. Rajit probably recorded this track at his computer, for himself, with no intention of ever sharing it with another soul. But the default settings of his PC and Napster made the track available to the whole wide world the second is was done recording.
25 - Real Brazilian Girls - Feel Me Up Buttercup - Another classic mic in track, from a batch of girls (and maybe one boy) singing in Portuguese,
26 - Carolines Girlfriend - A Kiss For Caroline - My personal favorite. Another mic in track recording from the Napster era, which was obviously intended to be included on a mix CD and mailed to Caroline.
28 - Angry Mom - Strange Infidelity - Angry Mom sits at her computer with her baby and records a quick and good one.
29 - Russian Immigrant - New York, New York - At last, straight-ahead karaoke found in a Brooklyn junk shop.
30 - Thrift Store Annie - Doubleplusgood - Found in an East Village thrift shop. Not sure who did the original though, this is not the Eurythmics tune of the same name.