Recently, I tweeted:
Gen X parenting…. Singing Add It Up while holding your baby makes you feel creepy, at best.
I sparked a small discussion, but it makes me wonder … to what extent do you sanitize/censor your music library when your kids come along? A fellow tweeter sympathized, saying she had an awkward moment with her three-year-old and Exile in Guyville.
I grew up pretty sheltered. I was a kid in the 70s and 80s. My mom didn’t listen to much music at home, so the only time I heard a radio was at my grandmother’s — easy listening.
Here’s how sheltered I was as a kid, and maybe this will sound like something out of Freaks and Geeks. It was 1982, I was in eighth grade, and we were in an elective class. Teacher allowed us to have the radio on while we were working…
With the heartbreak open
So much you can’t hide
All the girls went crazy, I remember it. Squealing, seriously.
Don’t drink don’t smoke, what do you do?
Wait, what? Are these girls drinking? Are these girls smoking? Only old people smoke!
But don’t get the wrong idea. I found out what station they were listening to and went home and turned that on, right away. I mean, even to my sheltered ears, Adam Ant sounded fresh and cool.
Then later in the year, in music class, we were supposed to form groups, pick a song, and do some kind of assignment around it. Our music teacher, Mrs. Wright, was also my homeroom teacher, and I had her for an elective. She was also young and cool, so she was an easy person to talk to.
I don’t remember what the assignment was, but I remember the song my group picked. Because I had some kind of rapport with Mrs. Wright, my group picked me to pitch her the song:
“Mrs. Wright, we have our song.” I was embarrassed; I knew sure she wouldn’t fall for it.
— Yes, Michael?
— um… — I wanted to be really quiet, but I knew my friends wanted to hear me say it, so I nearly shouted — It’s by AC/DC.
— I know about AC/DC.
— You do, really? — You never think your teachers are cool when you’re in the eighth grade.
— Yes, what’s the song?
I knew I was doomed. — Big Balls. Uhm… it’s about parties?
My friends snickered, and so did most of the class. I must have turned eighteen shades of red.
— Michael. I know that song, and we both know it’s not about parties. I can’t believe you asked me this. Come up with a different song, and don’t mention this song to me again. (She was a little red-faced, too.) Now, I might have fallen a little in love with Mrs. Wright that day, but that’s not the point.
I fear Julian may have the exact opposite experience, hearing the kinds of things at home that he can’t just go out and repeat.
Baby was a black sheep. Baby was a whore. Baby got big and baby get bigger. Baby get something. Baby get more. Baby, baby, baby was a rock-and-roll …
Uh, yeah. I have a certain understanding of that song, but it’s layered by years of other Patti Smith songs, reading her poetry and memoirs, and understanding what the song’s trying to communicate. I can’t begin to understand how I’ll introduce Julian to it, or for that matter, half the other things we listen to.