Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Childhood's end

My daughter and I were hanging out in the airport staring at our phones, as one does. We were passing the time by making desultory remarks about stuff we came upon. You know, her: “Check this out." 

Me: “Lol, that’s awesome!”

This continued for some time, until, at some point it became clear to me that, between our other interests – basically politics and cats -  we were both vaguely following the doings going on at Lollapalooza Brasil. Only I was watching the posts from Rancid and she was watching those from Melanie Martinez. And I thought: What went wrong, Lord, what went wrong?

I don’t know why I feel that way. I have always felt that people who try to impose their musical taste on their kids are barking up the wrong tree, although I know a number of people who have done so with some success. Not me though. When she was a baby her dad used to put on the Ramones and make her little feet tap out the rhythm. He said he wanted to make her into a girl drummer – because what could be cooler? But I was like, “Are you crazy? Have you ever met any drummers?” 

I don’t mean to sound unduly harsh. I know some nice ones, but actually being a drummer must be the worst. You’d have to haul all that equipment around, plus, imagine having one in the living room.

 Anyway there comes a point in every baby’s life when they do not want to hear the Ramones, they want to hear Raffi. We did our share of Dan Zanes, Ralph’s World, “Me and My Arrow” and They Might Be Giants, but you can only shelter your children from Radio Disney so long. I am still proud of the fact that I am the only human on the face of the planet who has not seen The Lion King in entirety, but my daughter, of course, has (although not at our house).

Anyway, pity the poor former rock critic with a seven year old music fan in the back seat. There was an era – a long one – when I used to drive around listening to music I despised. Sometimes, on a drive to grandma’s house, I’d be listening to things that made me want to cry, they were so horrible. Then one day when she was about nine she said to me, “Mom…have you noticed that radio has gotten a lot worse lately? They always play the same things over and over!” I had to laugh.

Pop music has been bad throughout the ages, not just in the years between when my daughter was 7 and now, so I’m not going to complain about the barrage of Justin, LMFAO and Taio Cruz that I endured. Anyway, it wasn’t all bad. Sometime in that era, Michael Jackson died, and both her summer camp and her elementary insisted on having school wide tributes concerts, which involved millions of children doing the dance from “Thriller” and “ABC” and other people singing “I’ll Be There,” which is never a wrong thing. Also, Adele. My personal favorite version of “Rolling In The Deep” will always be the New Traditions alternative  fourth grade’s rendition, with the entire audience doing the percussion.

Eventually my daughter began to break out with her own taste in music and for some reason she hit on Melanie Martinez as her favorite artist ever. Melanie Martinez, for those who don’t know, is a former Voice contestant who subsequently carved out a career for herself as an indie artist, writing songs about her spooky feelings and so on. She’s not bad – I like the song“Doll House” – but to begin, she only had one EP out and my daughter listened to it ad nauseum for about 36 weeks in a row. And the thing is, I have a real horror of listening to things that I didn’t choose to listen to. It’s like having to read books that are not of your own choosing.

 And then Melanie went on tour and suddenly, I was plunged into the awfulness of being the bored parent in the balcony, the ones I had seen over the years and always felt really bad for. Melanie’s first gig was at  the Chapel, a tiny club in the Mission that I like going to, so that wasn’t so bad, but then she played the Great American Music Hall and I found myself literally crouching down in the balcony, huddled by the only electrical outlet charging my phone and contemplating my sins. Honestly, my life flashed before my eyes. I think actually met my daughter’s dad backstage at this venue, lo these many years ago. I surely did not see myself, then, as being one of the cadre of the damned. I always thought there was something off about parents who took their kids to shows, anyway. My own parents never would have dreamed of it…but then, I didn’t need them to. I had an older brother and sister and cousin who took me to stuff. And that is why I am who I am.

Prior to Melanie Martinez, I think the only thing I took my daughter to was Nashville Pussy when she was 9 months old and I was working and didn’t have a sitter. I remember because I was still nursing, which I couldn’t possibly forget because, well, Ruyter Suys made me feel selfconscious. It all seemed so damned inappropriate that it was practically what sent me to graduate school. After that, I stopped going to anything. Realistically I know that I am in the minority on this issue and that most people drag their kids to see the stuff they like, Bruce Springsteen, Guns N Roses, the Rolling Stones. But I really feel like kids need to find their own music. It grieves me greatly that my daughter doesn’t like R.E.M. – or “Little House on the Prairie” books, or diving – but she is a person in her own right, not a mini-me. Anyway, how could she ever feel about – experience – the Replacements like I did? It’s not an experiment worth trying.

So she has her own obsessions and I have mine. But to make up for it, the last time we saw Melanie, at the Regency Ballroom, I somehow wangled passes to the meet and greet – you know those things that artists do to make extra money now, where they charge some exorbitant amount to shake hands with their fans? It cost an extra $75, which I did not have or at least was not up for paying, so I called in, like, every last corpuscle of rock critic chutzpah and hustled my kid backstage.

And that was that. I was done. She can go to shows by herself now – or else to things we both want to see – and thanks to headphones, streaming, and all the different ways we can now access music separately, even in the same car, I don’t even have to subject myself to the entire new mix tape of J. Cole, K Flay or Childish Gambino, unless I really want to.

The weird thing is, I am now finding that I want to. I mean, you never know, do you? And when it comes to search, kids have super powers we don’t have. Once she googled “bands with animated videos like Gorillaz” and the computer returned this Finnish act called the Studio Killers, who we both like a lot.


Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen said...

This is always a challenge. I don't have the "I despise listening to things not of my choosing" gene, and probably enjoy more pop than you do. That said, with my first son, who's now 27, I played what I wanted to play while he was around, but didn't make any grand pronouncements about how he really should listen to this. When he started getting into the Warped Tour stuff in the mid-2000s, I'd listen along and try my hardest to resist the urge to say "Man, they're just copying the Clash/Buzzcocks/etc," though I'd make sure to play those bands around him when I got the chance. Today, he and I have pretty similar musical tastes.

That was before Radio Disney, of course. My two younger kids (11 and 8) now listen to plenty of that, and I even enjoy some of it. I didn't hate taking them to see One Direction a year and a half ago.

I dunno -- I figure it's kind of like politics: I make my beliefs and tastes known, and let them take it from there.

KMTBERRY said...

My mother absolutely successfully imprinted all her musical taste in me by just playing her records when I was growing up. I don't think she really cared if I liked it or not- ! It never occurred to me at any point in my life to stop loving Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, Tom Lehrer, The Clancy Brithers, The Kingston Trio, or the Kings Cambridge Boys Choir,

Kevin Salem said...

"If you want your kid to grow up to be a Justin Bieber fan, dress them in a Clash onesie when they're tiny."

gina said...

We had onesies that said Butthole Surfers and Sonic Youth. Plus, C's dad dyed all the cute pink 0-6 month stuff I got at my baby shower black, and it mostly turned this awful purple. She looked like a Dickensian orphan.

Vivien said...

She doesnt look like a dickensian orphan anymore.