Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Karaoke Machine I Wanted When I Was a Kid

Back when I was a kid, friends of my mom would usually pass their unwanted catalogs to my mom. I LOVED flipping through the pages of Service Merchandise, Sears and JC Penny catalogs. There was usually a little something for everyone in those glossy full color pages coded with letters from the alphabet to correspond the photos with a brief description of the item followed by the price. Our catalogs floated between the kitchen table, living room and bathroom...One cannot understand the satisfaction of shopping from the commode until you've done it. ;-)
This may or may not have been the same catalog I remember...I can't remember what the cover looked like.
So one day, I'm sitting in the bathtub flipping through the latest edition of the big thick JC Penny catalog and I see it...Exactly what I wanted for Christmas...Singalodeon Karaoke Machine with the words "Recording Studio" printed on the front of the unit. It featured a dual cassette deck, which could be used to record one's voice while singing along to a prerecorded tape as well as it had the capability to change the EQ as well as add "echo" to give one's voice a more studio quality sound. What really drew me in was the fact that the microphone that was included with the machine was not the typical Fisher Price looking microphone, it was wireless and looked a bit like the ones used during live performances on the MTV awards at the time. Priced at $129, it seemed like a great price to me but in reality $129 was equal to $265 in today's market. Though it seems that a unit without a CD player may have sounded outdated, this was, to me, state of the art at the time.
Not the same unit, same brand and similar look, except the one I wanted didn't come with wired mics.
I had only ever seen karaoke tapes in the higher end record stores, such as Coconuts, Record Bar and Sound Shop as well as at Panhandle Music, my favorite musical instrument shop in Pensacola. The selection for karaoke music at the time was limited to a few compilations featuring either the hits of the 50's, 60's or 70's. If you wanted something featuring current music, you were pretty much limited to tapes released bi-annually featuring 8 songs of the current year featuring artists that range from Bon Jovi to Whitney Houston to Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. The current karaoke titles were usually something like You Sing the Hits of 1987 and then a followup 6 months later would be entitled You Sing the Hits of 1987 volume 2. At this time, there were maybe 3 or 4 karaoke music labels that marketed and targeted the home user crowd...Unlike today where there are so many versions of one song, choosing a version to sing is as difficult as choosing a song itself. Limited as the selection of karaoke music as it was at the time, I didn't care...I would've made it work and learned each and every song whether it was in my range or not.
I hinted around as to what I wanted for Christmas without being too specific...though my request for a dual cassette deck, wireless microphone system may have been too specific for a shopper that didn't know that I meant all in one and it was only available in the JC Penny catalog. All holiday season, I tried to locate a similar system in every retail establishment I went to. Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Sears, Circuit City, K-Mart, Montgomery Wards and Zayres/Ames and it seems no one carried a system quite like the one I wanted. No one carried a system with a wireless microphone and most of the systems priced in the range of $129 were single cassette units and I didn't understand why JC Penny didn't carry the machine in their store so I could just point and say "I want THAT" and know that I would have a chance to get it. I knew better than to make mention of the systems in the other stores because to me, brands like Venturer, Singing Machine and Sanyo just couldn't compete with the Singalodeon system I'd never heard.

So Christmas rolled along and guess what I got? NOT the Singalodeon karaoke machine, in fact I didn't get anything karaoke related. This was the year that I got everything related to Cub Scouts/Webelos and Boy Scouts. Yup, I got no electronics at all. I got a sleeping bag, a knife, backpack, tent, canteen, as well as the handbooks for Wolf, Bear, Tiger Cub and Webelos...Oh yeah and clothes...everyone knows how much I enjoy having other people dress me. I spent a LONG time wondering how bad I was throughout the year and what I did to deserve receiving a whole lot of stuff I didn't want. I seriously hated the Cub Scouts and wanted to quit shortly after joining but when I got all that shit for Christmas, I thought it best that I at least make an effort to use it...which I did but still hated the Cub Scouts on up into the time I was a Boy Scout.
So did I ever get a karaoke machine? I bought one for myself, though not the same one as I wanted. It had all the same amenities except for the wireless microphone...I used it once and took that big piece of crap back to the store when I realized those mass marketed machines aren't worth the plastic they are forged in. Several years later, I bought my very first big name stereo system for myself, an Aiwa NSX-5200. My decision for this particular unit was based on the fact that I heard how powerful it sounded in the store as well as it came with 2 microphones and the capability to perform, record (with echo) and sound amazing in my own bedroom.
This baby had some serious power to it, it also had 2 additional speakers for surround sound.
I also eventually got my first wireless mic thanks to Radio Shack...it wasn't bad for an FM frequency mic but it was heavy and large...Eventually I replaced it with an Audio Technica Headset UHF System and a Nady VHF system handheld system and to this day, I still love Nady wireless products though they are a little behind in comparison to Sennheiser and Shure. ;-)

While working on this entry, I decided to do a little research on the Singalodeon brand as well as the karaoke machine I wanted and found very little in regards to the brand and absolutely NOTHING on the particular model I wanted, most likely a testament of how amazing the brand's products actually were.

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