Life without music is as difficult to imagine as fish without chips, a bath without bubbles or Die Hard without Bruce Willis. Music is my equivalent of Mary Poppin’s spoonful of sugar, and I can often be seen using my broom as a guitar as I do the housework, singing myself hoarse along with Billy Idol on my headphones. So it was par for the course that I was chirping along loudly to 1980’s classics on my way down the motorway to pick up Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart from the lycée last week (more about Bigfoot here).
On the return trip, I flipped the radio back on just in time for Bananarama’s “Venus”. “Yeah!!!” I enthused as I turned the volume up. “Have you heard any Bananarama before, guys?” I was greeted by an uncomfortable silence, and glanced into the rearview mirror. Concerned glances were being exchanged between sixteen-year-old Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart, who then flashed an embarrassed smile at the gear stick and said “Urrr, no….” before they both collapsed into giggles. “Don’t laugh, or I’ll start singing. And I know all the words,” I threatened. They obviously took me seriously, as they then asked for NRJ – a radio station for brainless French teens in need of a lobotomy. I know, I’m a bad loser.
As Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart guffawed on the back seat, I got thinking about my music idols when I was their age. The Cure, The Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, the Eurythmics. Go on, admit it, you’re nodding your head in recognition, aren’t you? My parents must have found it difficult not to smile at my conviction that any group called The Psychedelic Furs, Adam and the Ants or Fanny could produce anything even remotely interesting, let alone be able to take Robert Smith seriously with his pointed boots, powdered white face and sullen pout, his blackened eyes glaring out from beneath his back-combed bush of jet-black hair.
I realised that like my parents, I suffer from musical and cultural angst when I listen to the rubbish that spews out of Bigfoot’s headphones, and despair that my children may never discover real music. I clutched my steering wheel in horror as it dawned on me that the wheel of life had turned and I had become my parents. They had always said it would happen. Those famous last words rang in my head: “You’ll understand when you have your own”.
When we got home, the boys were keen to show me how wrong I am about modern-day music. They pulled out my laptop and within seconds, an example of something they considered “cool” was on the screen. What I can only qualify as electronic noise was accompanied by a video of tattooed men who were making an admirable effort to dance in unlaced boots and trousers that were at least three sizes too big for them.
Obviously suspicious of Newton’s conclusions on gravity, they were carefully weighed down with heavy chains that made them look more like abandoned pit bulls lifting their legs against fire hydrants in the Bronx than singers. Shuffling around the screen, they shook their arms like overexcited primates and stared threateningly into the camera through white sunglasses with empty frames as big as manhole covers. One by one, they all took turns at stabbing accusing fingers at the camera lens as they did their best to fit as much bad language as they could into one sentence.
Just when I was about to do a runner for the kettle, a pop star mother of two gyrated into sight. My jaw hit the kitchen work surface. Her hair has been bleached since her relatively innocent teenaged debut, and was scraped into a yellow poney-tail on top of her head. She started shaking her booty with the tattooed lads, and I must say she did a very good job of staying upright in her high-heeled, studded sandals. I was, however, a little nonplussed by the rest of her outfit: my resident teenaged Fashion Police would never let me go out in a jacket that didn’t cover the important bits, to say nothing of a leather skirt that apparently had a dual personality and took itself for a curtain pelmet.
The torture session drew to a close. “So, Mum, what do you think?” I stared into my offspring’s enthusiastic eyes, and put down my mug of tea to give my verdict. “Firstly, I don’t call that music, it’s noise. Now let’s see. The lyrics. Ummm…” I dug out the few words I’d scribbled on the back of a supermarket receipt. “Molly’s here, we don’t fight fair/My buzz big, like Lightyear/ Get a grip shorty, you can’t stand here. Well, kids, I’d say the song’s about as deep as the author’s belly button, and has as much impact as a strategically placed Smartie on the great railway track of life. Now, would you like my opinion on mothers of small children parading on internet, wearing nothing more than leather underwear, a pair of tights and high-heeled sandals? If I picked you up at school like that, I’d get arrested before I had the fun of seeing your faces!”
Cue rolling teenage eyeballs. “Now, kids. Let’s talk business. About that CD we’re burning for the car trip. We’re going to start with Queen, The Rolling Stones, the Police and Billy Idol, then if you’ve survived the shock of listening to real music we’ll move on to The Cure, Blondie, The Who and Madness”. I didn’t tell them that if they put up a fight, I’ll let P.F out of his cage with his complete collection of Beethoven. So there.