Whoever coined the phrase “Evil men have no songs” never spent time in a karaoke bar.
While Mad Dog Saloon isn't a karaoke bar, the popular College Area pub substitutes as one Thursday through Saturday. That was close enough Nov. 15 for one particularly bad man, who, after singing his song, walked up to a husband and wife in the audience and punched the husband several times in the face, San Diego Police say.
Exactly what prompted the assault isn't known, but it bothered the singer and a male associate enough to hang around after being 86'd from the joint and beat up the couple when they and a companion left a short time later. The attack sent the couple to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Police were still looking for the singer and his partner as of press time, says San Diego Police spokesperson Monica Muñoz.
As bizarre as the attack was, it was merely the latest chapter in what appears to be a global phenomenon. It was also a fairly mild incident compared with the dozens of karaoke-related shootings, stabbings and—in at least one case—mass murder reported in recent years. So-called “karaoke rage” has become so common that a Canadian website ran an story headlined “Top 5 Karaoke-inspired Acts of Violence.”
No. 1 on that list involved a 2001 episode in which karaoke bar owners in the Philippine capital of Manila removed Frank Sinatra's “My Way” from playlists to try to reduce the number of patrons beaten or killed while the song was performed. “The song seems to drive many drunken men to commit anything from slight physical injuries to homicide,” blogger Cory Doctorow reported. The crackdown failed to prevent a Manila karaoke performer from being shot to death by a security guard in May 2007 for singing out of tune.
Reports of karaoke-inspired mayhem have popped up in cities in the U.S., Australia, Bulgaria, England, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. In the Malaysian incident, reported Dec. 5 by The Associated Press, a tuneless karaoke singer's refusal to put down the microphone prompted several audience members to rush the stage and stab him to death. But perhaps the worst incident occurred March 8 in Bangkok, when a man shot dead eight people—including his own brother-in-law—after listening to one too many bad renditions of John Denver's “Country Roads,” the U.K. Telegraph reported.
“‘Country Roads' is a hugely popular song in Southeast Asia and [a witness] said the revelers had been singing it over and over again,” the report states.
It isn't known what song the San Diego singer performed prior to attacking the patrons.
At least one observer believes the carnage might be lessened if fans practiced the same karaoke “manners” adopted in Japan, where karaoke originated. Posting on the website Answerbag in response to an August 2007 Seattle incident in which a woman beat up a singer for butchering Coldplay's “Yellow,” the anonymous observer wrote:
“Don't sing twice in a row, always applaud when the singer is done, never sing a song that someone else has recently sung, pass on your turn if you haven't decided what to sing, and if you think you're singing badly, stop to avoid unnecessary cruelty to those who are listening.”