(That’s me on the far left)
Help! My kids hate punk rock…
To be fair, this statement could apply to anything from my youth that my kids blatantly refuse to appreciate.
A little background: When I was in late high school, say 16-years-old (1985-6), I discovered punk rock.
I had been an avid music listener since I was young. My father had played in rock and R&B bands (think James Brown, not Whitney Houston) in the 60s and early 70s, so music had always been in my life.
When I was in my mid-teens, I started playing guitar, abandoned it, and then went back to it again. I fell in love with hard rock music, fashionable at the time, because it was generally guitar-based, and that was what I was all about.
After a brief stint in a metal cover band with some friends, I started to branch out, playing with other people from my high school who turned me on to bands I had heard of, but never heard. While punk rock wasn’t new to the world, it was a brave new sound to me, and I embraced its aggression, speed, and volume. Plus it was really easy to play and write, and you could have messed up hair and clothes.
So it became a part of my aesthetic, and would stay with me in one form or other my whole life. Sure, as I got older I eschewed the hair or the clothes a bit, depending on my mood at the time, but the idea of doing what you really wanted to do, even if that wasn’t necessarily the safe route, and you had to create it all yourself to be who you wanted to be, stayed with me. Maybe that’s born of Western middle-class entitlement, but I wouldn’t have joined Sloan, gone on tour, and be who I am today without punk rock.
Now, given that a form of music would have such a positive impact on my life, you would think that I might want to show my kids that. They might be curious as to why or how I came to be who I am. Maybe there is something that would attract them, a message or an energy in the music that would exhilarate them. Maybe they would want to pick up a guitar and start their own punk rock band. So I decided to sit them down and play them some songs that were important to me, and catalogue their reactions.
I thought I’d start with Washington D.C.’s seminal hardcore band Minor Threat. Touting a straight-edge aesthetic (no booze, no drugs, no casual sex), I figured they were the most kid-appropriate band to play.
“Out of Step”
The fact that singer Ian MacKaye uses the word fuck twice in the first 10 seconds (admittedly I forgot about that) didn’t go unnoticed.
Marshall (10): “Weird. Really loud, and heavy metal music with people yelling.”
Me: “But it’s punk rock music.”
Marshall: “Ok, but it sounds like those heavy metal bands.” Which heavy metal bands he was referring to I don’t know, but…
Ivy (7): “Yeah, it sounds like heavy metal.”
Me: “But it’s not heavy metal, it’s punk rock.”
Ivy: “Yeah, but heavy metal.”
Ok. Moving on, I decided to go with more “classic” punk, The Ramones. I had a bit of an issue with The Ramones when I was a teenager. Since they were from mid-’70s New York, and lumped in with other “punks” like Blondie and Talking Heads (neither being remotely punk), I often ignored them. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I fully grasped their importance.
Marshall: “Sounds really cheerful, until they start singing.”
Ivy: “I think that it was better than the other one. But it’s still really loud.”
Me: “And you don’t like the loud?”
Ivy (ignoring me): “But it’s good music, but it’s really like…BOOM!!” She then erupts into laughter claiming that the Taylor Swift video on the muted TV goes perfectly with “Blitzkrieg Bop.” I don’t agree, but keep it to myself.
The Clash were next, but only because there was a Clash tape, London Calling, in my son’s room when he was a baby, and I used to play it when trying to get him to nap. Such is my opinion of The Clash: music so boring, kids might nap to it. Not a fan, but they might like it…
Marshall: “It doesn’t sound like punk rock, it sounds like the radio music you and Laurel (step-mom) always try to listen to.”
Me: “You mean before you guys whine so much we eventually put on the station you want?”
Marshall: “Yeah. Like that.”
I was going to play a Sex Pistols song, but the name of the band itself elicited such a chorus of snickers and elbowing back and forth that I gave up before I even cued a song up. Keep in mind, these are two kids who can’t keep a straight face when I tell them I’m going to Regina. This also meant that Circle Jerks, Millions of Dead Cops, Dead Kennedys, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Dayglo Abortions, Suicidal Tendencies, and our neighbours Fucked Up were off the (turn) table as well.
Eventually I played them a bunch of hardcore punk songs that Sloan has released, some original, some covers, which they were more into, although mainly because they could have a good laugh at their dear old dad screaming his head off at someone other than themselves.
Ivy (laughing hysterically): “It sounds like Daddy’s angry!” Not sure why me being angry is something to laugh so hard at, although it would explain why I have very little control over anything that goes on in my own home.
Finally, because of the name of my blog, I played them a tune by the Rastafarian punk legends Bad Brains. Did not go over well.
“I Against I”
Ivy: “It sounds like heavy metal.”
Head firmly in my hands, I almost start weeping in frustration. Of course, she’s kind of right; there is a fine line at times between metal and punk, as there can be between many types of music. Genres blend, and that’s how music moves forward, for better or worse. I’m not sure if this means she has a better grasp on different styles of music than I thought, or a better grasp on how to drive me crazy.
What am I to glean from this experiment? Am I doomed to be the uncool dad, despite the fact that I’m pretty much the coolest dad there could be? Is it natural for kids to even think their parents are cool? Perhaps it’s dangerous. How do we move forward as a species unless we rebel against what came before us? Actually, that sounds like a lyric I would have written in one of my punk bands in 1987.