Sunday, 18 March 2012

Songs For My Daughter

Music is important to me.  The daughter of a professional rhythm and blues drummer father and tap dancer mother, I grew up in a home where there was a track for every occasion. 

There was Rod Stewart for the good times.  In particular, Maggie May would often herald the start of a dinner party, followed by Hot Legs when it all went ‘Mexico’ half way through, then Mandolin Wind for the Blue Nun come down and After Eights. 

Then there was Dolly Parton for the sad times.  ‘I will always love you’ was my mum’s anthem, for what we later dubbed her ‘brandy and sobraine’ years.  I always knew we were in for a difficult night if the strains of ‘Jolene’ could be heard thumping through the soft top of her MG Midget when she picked me up from school.

"Repeat after me: Springsteen, good, Bieber, bad" 
Now having my own child - a blank C45 tape on which to make a musical impression - is both an immensely exciting and terrifying responsibility.

What if I mess it up?  What if she turns into a ‘Belieber’ (one who worships at the flick fringe of Justin Bieber) and decides to plant her musical roots in soulless popville forever?      

It is also a task from which I have excluded my other half.  

An exceptional talent and creative force in so many ways, sadly, he is hooked on ‘pub jukebox BritPop’ made specifically during the period September 1995 to April 1996. (I laughed, then realised that this was true – Matt)

In my mind, student union anthems by Blur, Oasis (Wonderwall is the only exception) and, one hit wonder, Space, doth not a child of music make. 

To cement my thoughts on my musical mission, I have short-listed five of my seminal songs below.  

Kate Bush – what can I say, I love the Bush.  Everything from her contemporary dance, leaping about in a leotard ‘Wuthering Heights’ years, through to her beguiling, if a little cuckoo, 2011 Director’s Cut album. 

Whilst I regard every Kate Bush track as an absolute treasure, the ballad ‘A Coral Room’ from Ariel is my ultimate cache. A song about her late mother, the killer line ‘put your hands over the side of the boat, what do you feel?’ puts me on the tears every time.

Jeff Buckley – Lilac Wine.   A heady song about a lilac tree, lilac wine made from the lilac tree and lamenting a lost love (probably after drinking too much lilac wine), this is music to fall in love to. 

And then kiss someone else too. 

Then drink too much lilac wine to. 

Then play outside the window of the person you originally fell in love with to. 

Ah, quite simply, a beautiful, cyclical song about beautiful cyclical love.   Apply sparingly.

Fleetwood Mac – You Make Loving Fun.  Taken from the Mac’s 1977 album Rumours, for me, this song is an unrivaled, for your driving pleasure, giddy up, belter.     

Sung by the gorgeous Christine McVie (although my true girl crush is Stevie Nicks) this is for life’s, ‘spank me on the bottom and call me Shirley’, good times.   

Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go to My Lovely.  A jiggly, sexist ode to a flighty woman (you wouldn't trust her to come back with your change from the bar) this song is musical gold. 

With lyrics such as, “he sent you a you a racehorse for Christmas/And you keep it just for fun, for a laugh ha-ha-ha” this song will bring a hefty splodge of ‘je ne sais quoi?’ to any damp, cold Tuesday.

Ben Folds –  Late.  I was a skeptical, rolly-eyed, latecomer to the party that is Ben Folds’ music. 

But having found him, I’m not going anywhere.  In fact, when he's dishing out the nibbles, I’m going to raid his wardrobe and sleep in his clothes. 

Taken from his 2005 album Songs for Silverman, this song is Ben’s tribute to singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, who died of a self-inflicted knife wound.  

Cheery? No.  A wonderful affirmation that when your chips are down, music will get you through? Absolutely.     

What songs do you play your children?



  1. What a great post, many thanks. I have a very mixed taste in music, one that a therapist would no doubt have a field day with!

    I have a great love for classical and our children listen every weekend. It is one of the very few genres that if playing they won't ask for Wheels on the Bus!

    I grew up in Australia with two older brothers. From a very early age AC/DC and Men at Work has been part of my tape, cd and now iPod selection! My son has found, at the tender age of three, an ability to play air guitar and enjoys a good rock anthem!

    We all enjoy the Rat Pack, a normal background to a lazy weekend breakfast. Mind you, Robbie's Swing when you're Winning has a special place.

    Having worked in the Caribbean for two years my reggae portfolio has grown from just Bob Marley to include Morgan Heritage, Beres Hammond, Peter Tosh and many others. My seven year old daughter loves Bob Marley's Uprising.

    My own personal favourite song has to be Hotel California by the Eagles. It seems to have been playing during most of my life's biggest moments.

    1. Hi Edward, thanks for your comments, always makes blogging much more of thankful task.

      I am loving the Australian influence on your musical taste. Men at Work are part of my musical history too.

      I had the chance to spend three weeks in Australia (mainly Sydney and a brief sojourn to the Whitsundays)a few years ago.

      How amazing it must have been for you to have grown up there. Australian children seem to be raised almost completely outdoors - must cost parents a fortune in sunscreen - but what an amazing life.

      As for Hotel California - what a tune - I also like the Eagles. Perfect roof down music (back in my pre-baby days of course).

      Now, sadly, car music consists of a double CD of children's travelling songs. I was actually grateful when P used the CD player as a money box and rendered the thing useless a few weeks ago.

      We now drive to the sound of the engine :)

  2. Great post, Melissa. Though I'm now eyeing my Blur/Pulp/Radiohead '90s suspiciously. The dance-round-the-kitchen track du jour for the girls and I is Upsidedown by Paloma Faith, a step up from last month's Grenade by Bruno Mars, but a step down from the song before that, Senegal Fast Food by Amidou and Miriam. I showed my 14 yrold YouTube Footage of Billy Idol singing Rebel Yell a few weeks ago. I told her how much I loved him and this song when I was her age. She said, 'Really?! Why?' I then showed her Adam Ant and Robert Smith, at which point she backed out if the room!!
    Your music back catalogue seems much more credible than mine...maybe you should be responsible for my re-education, as well as your daughter's..!

  3. Hi Amanda, thanks for posting your lovely comment. I hope your book is going well.

    Your trip down Billy Idol lane made me laugh. He must look very peculiar to a 14 year old.

    Weirdly, I recall having a small girl crush on Robert Smith from the Cure.

    As well as him being about 40 when I was 13, he looked like Edward Scissorhands crossed with roadkill. Why, 13 year old Melissa, why?

    And please don't write off Radiohead just yet. Although I poke Matt mercilessly for wearing his BritPop blinkers, I am equally guilty of enjoying all mid nineties music.

    I was walking round Co-op earlier and they were playing Halo by Texas. Just so I could hear it to the end, I let Poppy go on one of those kiddie bait Peppa Pig rides. Ah, happy days. Now I'm feeling old.

    Still, not as old as Robert Smith eh?! x