|At least half our house likes Ike|
That same afternoon a thunder-faced teacher met me at the door to ‘Children In The Shoe’, demanding to know why I was allowing my child to listen to “filthy, obscene” music. “I had to literally run across the room and turn it off!” she scolded. I mumbled that I’d no idea how she had such an item in her possession. This craven lie foundered on the cassette’s label, in adult handwriting, which read ‘Xxxxx’s Favourites’. I suspect it was only my daughter’s generally carefree demeanour that prevented the kindergarten from making a call to social services.
In a few years, both daughters realised their contemporaries were all listening to Shite FM, and for a long time resented me for having shielded them from the common
experience of market-driven auto-pop. My younger daughter, now 14, still refuses to listen to a single note of anything I own, and spends car journeys with headphones rooted deep into her ears. A few weeks ago, though, my older daughter, now 16, casually mentioned that she was interested in jazz music. Did I have any CDs that I could lend her?
At this point, as a parent, you have two choices. You can jump up and down ululating, and high-fiving yourself in the mirror, and shouting, “Yeeeees! She gets it! It’s all been worthwhile - the sleepless years, the crying years, the whining years, the door-slamming years! I did it! We are going to spend the rest of our lives talking about Coltrane’s Impulse recordings!” And she would turn around and walk away and never listen to a single note of jazz music for the whole of the rest of her life.
The other choice is to remain completely calm and take a deep breath. You can do this, Dad. You can no longer attempt to be hip, but you can at least don the pretence of cool. “Sure, I’ll look something out for you,” I said. “No more than five CDs,” she warned, knowing how enthusiastic I can get. And so I spent longer than I should have perusing my collection, and working out what era and style of jazz would best appeal to a novice listener. It was way too soon for Ornette, and even Coltrane. I stuck with Duke Ellington, Ben Webster, Ike Quebec, Sonny Rollins and Charles Mingus.
This morning I tentatively asked her how she’d been getting along with the music. She loves them all, especially Ike Quebec. I resisted the temptation to hug her immediately and tell her just how much I love her. And once she’d gone to school, I also restrained myself from going back to my shelves and taking out another 20 CDs to leave on her desk. Remember, old man, you’re trying to be as cool as a sombre and protracted Miles Davis trumpet solo.
At this point, I remember with some guilt the way I treated my Mum when she used to try and play me bits of classical music when, at the age of 14, I developed a retrospectively embarrassing taste for the rock-classical crossover collective Sky, who had a UK chart hit with a dweeb-friendly version of Bach's Toccata and Fugue. She’d no sooner drop the needle on a piece of Mendelssohn, assuring me that I would certainly love it, than I would skedaddle out, bolt up to my room, and put on the loudest, brashest record to hand. Our house walls were thin enough that I knew it would drown out the beat-free delicacies downstairs. Little bastard.
So Mum, 33 years later, I’m very sorry about that. And I’m sorry about the ‘copulating carrots’ blog entry from last week that you thought was as obscene as Billericay Dickie and Boys From The County Hell sounded to your granddaughter’s kindergarten teacher. It probably wasn’t smart and it wasn’t funny, and I needn’t think I’m too old to have my arse skelped. But you know that eventually I got round to appreciating Mendelssohn. Especially his Meeresstille und Glückliche Fart (hur hur).
You can never please your parents all of the time, or even much of it. But the scarcity of the moments when you do really intensify their worth. Cue strings, or a melancholic saxophone…