Posts Tagged music

The Don’t Playlist

Good morning, everyone!  I have a problem. It’s not even close to a “big” problem in any sense at all, but it’s still something that affects my life, and I have the keyboard and you don’t so there.

I really enjoy music, and one of my greatest joys in life has been watching my kids learn, like, and ask for music that I’ve shared with them.  Seriously, hearing my daughter ask me to put on Weezer’s “Blue Album” (or “al-blum” as she says it) because they like all ten songs on it warms my heart.  They’re old enough now that we rock out together, discuss lyrics, etc., and it’s awesome.

But…sometimes the artists I like make it hard for me to share their music.  I get it, I really do – they’re not making music for 6 year olds, so there’s no reason for them to think about which songs would be off limits for my kids.  But when Weezer’s second al-blum starts with a song called “Tired of Sex” and the fist-pumping “Why Bother” says, “But it’s just sexual attraction/not something real, so I’d rather keep wackin’,” those songs go on my Don’t Playlist.  And then the fun singalong “El Scorcho” starts off with “God damn” as the first two words, “Across the Sea” references someone touching themselves, and “Butterfly” says “bitch” in it.  So yeah, I can skip around and maybe cough at strategic times, but there’s enough going on with that al-blum that I just skip it all together.  Why bother, indeed.

(For the record, the cough method or slightly changing a word here and there works pretty well.  “Dicks” becomes “chicks” in a song by They Might Be Giants, and “tits” becomes “hips” in “Norgaard” by The Vaccines without any problem.)

I have a similar problem with a group I really like, because they rock my fucking face off (in a good way).  They’re called (ahem) The Front Bottoms.  Now, you might be wondering what a front “bottom” is, and that’s good, because it’s inexplicit enough to slide by and just sound funny.  (Good thing I’m not a fan of the band Pussy Riot).  The Front Bottoms are punky, rocky, and just downright awesome.  They swear and have inappropriate lyrics in most of their songs, and that’s part of the appeal for me as a listener because it’s punk rock, after all.  There are a few songs that are clean throughout that my kids really like, so I play them fairly often (“Flying Model Rockets,” “Summer Shandy,” and “Laugh Til I Cry” if you’re interested).  I know enough to stop the album before the band starts singing about getting high or before the song “Help” comes on, with it’s catchy refrain of, “This is what I want, motherfucker, make it happen for me.”  So it’s more of a song-by-song basis, and that’s great; I love being able to share a band I like with the kids.

The problem is when songs are sooooo close to being ok for the kids.  “Plastic Flowers” is a really good song, with a fun singalong part at the end that I know my kids would love.  But right before that part, lead singer Brian Sella says “Ok, everyone shut the fuck up for a minute.”  Annnnnd, onto the Don’t Playlist.  Damn.  That was a good one.  Same thing with a song they just released called “Joanie.”  Great song, he just happens to throw in a cool but unnecessary “fuckin'” in the middle of a line.  Again – I’m not at all against swearing in songs, and I actually love singing along with both of the parts of the songs I mentioned in this paragraph.  It’s just a little disappointing when I realize that one or two syllables will keep the songs off limits (at least for a couple more years, right?).

The kids will hear, know, and use “fuck” eventually (and often if they’re like their parents…or Grandma), but I’ll let that happen the way it naturally should: from friends at school I’ll think are a bad influence.  And then, my friends, I’ll open up a whole new world of music for them and we can collectively have our faces rocked the fuck off.

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Mistaken identities

I had two amusing experiences at work within the past couple of weeks, so I figured I may as well combine them for a post instead of pretending I’ll do two separate ones.  Deal?

First off, there’s a woman at work who I’ll call Sally Jean.  It’s important that her fake name be a two-parter, because every time she meets someone new, she very intensely tells him or her that she has two names and you must call her by both.  “I was named after two aunts,” she says in her rehearsed explanation, “and I don’t want either one to be left out.”  She’s friendly, but aside from hearing her “two aunts” story a few times, we’d had very limited interactions.  Well, a couple of weeks ago, that changed.  I was walking toward the elevator and she and I saw each other, smiled, and said hi.  “Can I ask you a question?” she asked.  “Of course,” I said, figuring that she’d just asked me one that second and nothing bad had happened.  “What exactly do you do here?” she asked with genuine curiosity.  For the next five minutes, we chatted.  I would mention one of my job functions, she’d ask a follow-up question, and so on. I could tell that she was waiting for some missing piece in my description to make a light go off, but she never seemed to get there.  After, she said, “Thanks, that was really helpful.  Because in a meeting yesterday, someone said that if we really want to succeed, we need to get more people on our team like Peter (insert last name that isn’t mine here).  Did I pronounce that right?”  “Oh, that’s not me – that’s a different Peter,” I said.  She went from praising to confused to embarrassed to damage control in about half a second.  She said something about how it was great to hear about what I do regardless, but it was clear that her inner voice was saying, “Well that was a colossal waste of time then!”  I concur, I concur.  Seems a little odd that someone who cares so much about having two names would ignore the very important second name of someone else, but that’s ok.  I was tempted to just say, “Bye Sally” when I walked away, but I somehow managed to use her complete name.  Must’ve been all the conditioning.

The other story I wanted to tell happened just a day or two later.  A lot of my days are spent in meetings, so sometimes I really enjoy spending part of a lunch hour either sitting outside or walking around the park next to my office while listening to music or a podcast.  On that day in particular, I eventually settled into a seat at an outdoor table with a great podcast playing in my ears.  It was NPR’s “All Songs Considered” podcast, with an episode devoted completely to music from the 90s.  I spent all of my high school and college years in that decade, so the music was beyond nostalgic for me.  Every time they played or even discussed a song I knew, I recalled where I was and with whom at the time in more specific detail than I expected.  It was fantastic.

One of the things I liked was that they would not only talk about the songs and artists they liked, but they occasionally slipped in snippets of ones they didn’t.  The “unliked” ones produced the same – or even stronger – flashbacks.  Near the end of the podcast, one host played a second of “Every Morning” by Sugar Ray when the others weren’t expecting it.  “Oh man, we haven’t even talked about Smash Mouth yet!” a host said in response.  “That wasn’t Smash Mouth,” I said aloud, chastising the person who couldn’t hear me.   It was at that exact moment that I realized I wasn’t alone.  A woman sitting just a few feet away from me looked over confusedly before turning back to her food.  I didn’t say anything or offer any kind of explanation; I just took it and went back to my listening.

I can’t help but wonder how she might explain that scene to a friend or loved one that evening:  “I was just sitting there eating some food, and there was this dashingly handsome man right next to me listening to music.  After several minutes of silence, he suddenly spoke out of nowhere, and it sounded like – I swear to god – ‘That wasn’t Smash Mouth.”‘ He seemed a little perturbed about it too.  Then he was quiet again and didn’t say another word before getting up and leaving.  What the fuck?”

What the fuck indeed, lady.  If people leading a music podcast don’t know the difference between two groups from the 90s with inexplicably long stints in the public consciousness due to crappy yet catchy songs, then they don’t deserve to be my shepherds through the fields of nostalgia.   Maybe that other Peter is up for the job; I’ve heard good things about him.

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A new personal record

As I write this, it is the evening of November 16th, and I have not yet heard a single Christmas carol. Not one! A few years ago, I heard one on the last day of August and nearly shat myself. But this year, my figurative pants are clean.

On one hand, I think it’s pretty impressive because I know they’re out there being heard by millions of people a day. On the other hand though, I think I have a pretty clear carol-free plan intact (albeit unintentionally). Check it out: in the mornings, I listen to my iPod or sports talk radio. I spend my day largely inside an office that doesn’t pipe in any music, and when I drive home, it’s more of my music and/or sports talk. If I were to go to a mall for lunch or stroll about outside plazas, I’d be opening myself up to the over-the-top carol blasting. The only semi-regular part of my life that leaves me susceptible to these tunes is when I go to the market. I just did that a couple of days ago, and somehow they weren’t playing any song involving snow, reindeer, or jollyhood.

I’m sure my streak will end soon, especially since I’m not purposely avoiding places in which I may hear seasonal music. Even if that day is tomorrow though, I consider fewer than 45 days of Christmas carols a win. Bah humbug?

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Music for small ears, Part III

It took me a while, but I’m back to talk about the third section: Cool Kid Songs.  In case you couldn’t tell by this category’s name, it’s also my favorite of the groups.

I have to have a quick aside first, if you don’t mind.  One of our kids’ music cds has a version of “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).”  I’ve heard that song more times than I can say over the course of my life, and yet I just really listened to it for the first time last week.  I know it might sound stupid, but I turned to my lovely wife and asked, “So they’re picking bananas at night?”  “What?”  “They go home when daylight arrives,” I said.  “I guess so then,” she replied while nodding.  I always thought of it at a happy “sing in the sun” type of song celebrating the day (o).  Instead, I guess it’s more of a “I’m tired of picking these fucking bananas all night so hurry up and tally me banana so I can get some rest” song.  Tally me banana, indeed.

Ok, back to the Cool Kid Songs.  A few years before we had children, a guy I worked with made me a copy of a cd called “For The Kids.”  Even being childless at the time, we listened to the cd and really liked a lot of it.  It had artists we dug, including Cake, Guster, and Barenaked Ladies, not to mention songs by Sarah McLachlan, Darius Rucker from Hootie and the Blowfish, Sixpence None the Richer, and the lead singer of Five For Fighting (with an incredibly catchy song called “The Hoppity Song”).  The songs were a mix of known kid songs, Muppet songs, and ones I didn’t know.  In short, it was great.

As a dad, I appreciated these songs much more.  Instead of hearing kids (or fake kids) telling me that they’re happy and they know it for a tenth time, I could choose to rock out to groups I like with songs they’d like.  The same is true with the “Curious George” soundtrack by Jack Johnson.  If you like Jack Johnson’s music, it’s just like getting a new cd of his with the added benefit of your kids probably liking it too. 

When we found out that the Barenaked Ladies had an entire album of kid songs called “Snacktime!,” we got it the very next day.  It’s awesome.  They sing about food, frogs, pirates, likes and dislikes, trees, allergies, and erasers.  Some of the songs could’ve easily been put on their non-kid albums and I wouldn’t have thought twice about them.  And just in case it wasn’t already completely up my alley, they have a song at the end called “Crazy ABCs” in which “a is for aisle,” “g is for gnarly,” “t is for tsunami,” etc.  My favorite is after saying “q is for qat,” Ed tells us that it’s a perfect Scrabble word because it’s a Q word that doesn’t require a U after it.  I laughed especially hard at that since my friend Lisa and I had just been playing “qat” against each other in our Scrabble-type game and enjoying its U-lessness.  “Aren’t your kids a little young for that?” you might wonder.  Well, yeah, but that’s not the point.  The songs are entertaining, and since they make me sing along and dance around for them, they’re exponentially more entertaining to them too. Win-win, baby, win-win.

One more thing to add before I wrap up this month-long series: lullabies.  How can lullabies be cool?  How about if they’re lullaby versions of Beatles songs?  What about U2 songs?  What if I told you that there are lullaby versions of Green Day and Metallica songs?  Pretty damn cool, no? 

So while we still listen to all three categories of songs in a given day, this one is obviously my favorite.  In fact, I think I’d devote a whole chapter to it in the book I’ll probably never write.  It would be about how to maintain your spousal relationship and the primary aspects of your personality after you have kids.  I was thinking of calling it, “How to Have Sex with Children,” but something tells me that might not go over well.  I guess not all wordplay is automatically good wordplay.  Shucks.  I guess I’ll have to give that some more thought.

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Music for small ears, Part II

Hello again.  Since ending my last post mid-train-of-thought, I’ve had an unsettled feeling, akin to how you might feel if you heard the “Shave and a haircut” tune without the “two bits.”  So I’m back and ready to re-dive into the world of children’s music.  I think I mostly covered the section on classic kid songs, so I’m going to move forward now (knowing full well that I’ll probably be jumping back and forth between sections).

I called the second category, “Songs That Might Be Classics But I Didn’t Know.”   On our double cd of kid songs, there’s a good handful of these.  I didn’t know the “Mr. Golden Sun” song on there (though my lovely wife did), for example.  Another new-to-me song is “My Little Red Wagon.”  It’s catchy enough, but part of the song bugs the shit out of me every time.  It’s not the song’s fault either – it’s whoever produced these cds.  (Strap in, here comes a long ass tangent.)

Thanks to these cds, I’ve realized that there’s another thing in this world of which I’m not so fond: adults singing in kids’ voices.  In “About a Boy,” Hugh Grant’s character hates it when people sing with their eyes closed; stand-up comedian and actor Bryan Callen hates carolers because he can’t stand when people smile at him while they’re singing.  For me, it’s picturing grown women in a recording studio talking, singing, and laughing in their best pre-pubescent voices.  That said, these cds already had an uphill battle. 

Back to the “Wagon” song now: the part that bothers me is after the first chorus when the “kids” have a little “impromptu” chat.  “Hey Michael,” says one, “Have you ever thought of painting your wagon green?”  “NO!!” he answers, “It’s a RED wagon!”  Then together: “Yeah!  Hahahahaha!”  Are you fucking kidding me?  That’s what passes for dialogue in this genre of music?  Wow.  When I was three, I made up a joke: “Why don’t you put mustard on a hamburger?  Because you put ketchup on a hamburger!”  I think those are on the same level, though it’s worth noting that I was an actual kid when I came up with that and not a 50 year-old woman pretending to be a kid way older than three.

Crap, now I’m fixated on that cd.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re catchy songs and I’ll continue to sing along and dance to them as long as that makes my kids smile.  That doesn’t mean I have to like all of their artistic choices though.  Speaking of which, they erred on the side of being overly safe and politically correct in ways that no one would’ve thought twice about.  For example, they sing a version of “We Are Family.”  “I got all my sisters with me,” they sing.  Then – where there’s no room and it’s nowhere near in rhythm with the song – a voice adds, “And brothers!”  Heaven forbid we single out the females in a song.  Similarly, they have the “Baby Bumblebee” song that I learned at camp a long time ago.  My version had the speaker get stung, then smash the bee in retaliation, lick it up, and then vomit all over the place.   This one…doesn’t.  I can’t even remember what they do instead, but after getting stung by the bee, of course one of the “kids” throws in, “It didn’t hurt though!”  I think that’s a much worse direction to go in.  Why would we try to teach kids that getting stung by bumblebees doesn’t hurt?  I realize that they don’t follow up with, “Let’s go play with that beehive!  Yeah! Hahahaha!” but it’s still irresponsible if you ask me.  (And yes, I realize that nobody asked me.)

To be perfectly fair, I really like one choice that they made on this collection of songs.  You know “Bingo” (sorry, “B-I-N-G-O”), right?  Well I was standing over my kids’ playmat and being a silly dad for them when some pretty funky disco music came on.  “Aw yeah!” I said, as I wondered what song it might be.  Then the lyrics came: “There was a farmer who had a dog, and Disco was his name-o.”  Nice touch, fake children. 

Ok, I’m stopping here.  I plan on posting something sometime soon about the third category, but since I just said something nice about the music, it’s probably a good place to stop before I think of another part that bugs me.  Have a nice Saturday.  (And Sunday! Hahahaha!)

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Music for small ears

As I look through my posts so far on this website, I feel like I’ve written more about music than anything else.  If I had to guess, I’d say the second most common theme might be my kids.  Therefore, it was only a matter of time before I wrote a post about the music to which my kids are listening.  I think I can break it all down into three categories: Classic Kid Songs, Songs That Might Be Classics But I Didn’t Know, and Cool Kid Songs. 

When it comes to Classic Kid Songs, I find that I hear them a little differently than I did as a kid.  Much like with my Lyrical Breakdown posts, there are new meanings or angles in virtually all of them.  For example, I said to my lovely wife a couple of days ago, “Ya know, I’d be pretty pissed off if I were that doctor.”  “What doctor?” she asked (and rightfully so).  “The one who keeps telling that mom that the monkeys shouldn’t be allowed to jump on the bed anymore.  He needs to transfer that client to another physician because she clearly isn’t listening.  Oh look, another head wound from letting your monkeys do exactly what I told you not to let them do five f’n times already.”  She gave me a look that I’m pretty sure meant, “I love/am concerned that you think like that.” 

Along the same lines, I have no idea how someone plays Knick-Knack.  Maybe I missed that day at recess, but it seems to be a pretty versatile game.  It can apparently be played on a shoe, on a knee, with some sticks, etc.  Ok, buckle in for a second because I’m about to blow the door off this one – I just looked at the lyrics on Wikipedia, and I’m more disturbed than ever.  In the order of least-to-most problematic:

3.  There are 20 frickin’ verses to this song?  That was overly ambitious (as evidenced by the horrible rhymes of “thirteen” with “curtain” and “fourteen” with “autumn”).  Let’s try to forget those ever happened.

2. In verse number seven, the old man plays Knick-Knack “up in heaven” or “on the way to heaven,” depending on how you know it.  Either way, has the main character been dead the entire time a la “The Sixth Sense” and we never realized it?  Who’s this creepy kid playing games with a deceased old man for twenty verses?

1. Oh boy, the creepiness goes both ways it appears.  Looking at the lyrics, “This Old Man” should probably be called “This Pervy Ghost.”  I still don’t know what Knick-Knack is, but the old/dead man plays it on the narrator’s thumb (or tongue, as a scarier alternate lyric says), his shoe, and his knee to start the song.  The pedophile’s getting more daring going up to the knee, wouldn’t you say?  Well, in verse five, there’s an alternate lyric of playing this “game” on the speaker’s thigh.  And in verse nine, he’s on the kid’s spine.  I’m just glad that there are no numbers that rhyme with “uvula” or “anus,” because I’m pretty sure the old man would skip to those numbers as quickly as possible.

Crap, I had no intention of spending that long on one particular song.  To summarize, I don’t really get or like that song anymore.  But do you know who loves that song?  The dog.  That dog gets a bone every single verse (before the old man mysteriously “rolls” home – is he an obese pedophile ghost?).  Good dog, now go learn how to report your owner to the authorities. 

I’m going to stop here for now.  I went a little overboard, so I’ll save the second and third categories for a later date.   If I ruined “This Old Man” for you, I don’t apologize in the slightest.  But if I got it stuck in your head for the rest of the day, I do feel a little sorry about that.

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