It was of course Father’s Day this Sunday just gone, and for this week’s Tuesday Ten I thought it appropriate to use this theme. I think my voracious appetite for music comes from my dad – ever since I can remember there has been a steady flow of “new” music into the house, in a variety of genres.
And, of course, it’s true that we don’t always agree on music. However there are a number of artists that I have got into – even if that was years later – and even a few that I have played a part in getting my dad into. So, here they are.
So, let’s start with music from my dad, as some of this goes back years.
Where to start? Probably one of the few artists that both Daisy and I heard a fair amount of when we were younger – although Daisy no doubt heard a lot more (if you don’t know, her mum is a well-enough known Leonard Cohen fan to appear on TV talking about him, goes to the various fan meet-ups around the world, etc). Bizarrely, though, my first recollection of hearing Cohen’s music was from the Famous Blue Raincoat “tribute” album by Jennifer Warnes rather than his own material, although I was familiar with some of his songs by the time I was into my teens. I’m not a massive fan of Cohen, by any stretch – actually listening to Cohen a lot only really happened for me after hearing Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah, and the Cohen tracks on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack – but it’s not something I’ll turn off and I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t go and see him live in the past year or two.
I was first exposed to hearing Prince back in the mid-80s by my dad, during the period where Prince was pretty much releasing album after album of quite extraordinary material, culminating in the sprawling double-album of Sign o’ The Times, which remains one of the best albums of the eighties in my eyes. A Prince album was also the first album that I bought myself – I bought Lovesexy pretty much on the day of release way back in summer 1988. I don’t listen to Prince as much as I used to – at one point I had just about every album he had released – but I still have no problem listening to it (and still know most of the words, too). Oh, and Prince is another artist that I’ve never seen live.
I’d suspect that Bruce Springsteen is probably my dad’s favourite artist by a long, long way – his almost childish excitement prior to seeing him live last year in London (after probably 30 years of waiting) was a joy to see, and he wouldn’t shut up (in a good way) about the gig afterwards, either. I’m by no means as big a fan as my dad, but Springsteen certainly has a way with a song, and he was awesome in the Superbowl half-time show this year, too (why did it take so long to have him doing that?).
While I love Tom Waits’ material nowadays, this was certainly not the case back when I was a kid. In fact, my dad used to play one of Waits’s albums (usually one of Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs or Franks Wild Years) to shut my siblings and I up in a long car journey! It took me years before I began to properly appreciate the really rather left-field wierdness of Tom Waits – it was probably the first dEUS album that made me take another look. Oh, and if you’ve only ever heard the Rod Stewart version of Downtown Train, Waits’ original version is infinitely superior.
Thanks to my dad, I’ve been listening to R.E.M. for as long as I can remember, probably in fact for some time longer than most other bands, and interestingly I suspect that both of us stopped listening to new R.E.M. releases around about the same time – about eight or nine years ago, with the notable exception of The Great Beyond, which remains one of the greatest songs the band have ever released. Thanks to this long, long association with the band’s music, I think, and my dad’s almost constant playing of it, it’s always been Green that has remained my favourite album, rather than the perhaps more-lauded successors that saw them reach ever-greater success. Of the various singles on this album, though, it’s the furious anti-war tirade of Orange Crush that is the pinnacle for me and I could never tire of hearing it.
Another one that I started hearing in the eighties – the first material of which I remember hearing comes from So, which if you are not familiar with as an album, I’m pretty damned sure you’ll recognise Sledgehammer, if only for the video. It’s more experimental stuff, however (like the frankly chilling Mercy Street) are the tracks that always pop into my head when I think of this album, though. His stuff prior to this is fantastic, too, although something of an acquired taste, I’d think – as were Genesis when Gabriel was part of the band, but I never got into them at all.
Ok, so what about stuff I got my dad into? Surprisingly – to me at least – there are a few things over the years that my dad has appreciated in time that I have played him. I’m sure my dad wouldn’t complain at me suggesting that he is something of an audiophile, and there has always been a top-notch stereo system at my parent’s house. So naturally, it’s not been unheard of for me to take the odd album back to my parent’s to “try” on the stereo there, and every now and again my dad has gone out and bought something on the back of that. But there are other ways too.
There’s something of an irony in my dad liking Pearl Jam nowadays. Back when my stepbrothers and I got immersed in the alternative-rock/grunge explosion in the early-90s – yes, we all wore plaid shirts, torn jeans, long-sleeved t-shirts under short-sleeved ones – my dad dismissed bands like Pearl Jam as whiny rock. So, imagine my surprise when in a car journey with him a few years ago, he puts on the best-of (Rearviewmirror) and is quite happily singing along. Interestingly, they aren’t a band that I have paid attention to in recent years, other than listening to their early material – hence why I’m including the titular track from the best-of here.
This is a band that I’m not sure he had actually heard before I got him both albums one christmas. My dad had suggested that I surprise him with some music that I’d think he would like a couple of years ago, so I went for these guys, and much to my surprise the reaction was overwhelmingly positive – although as I recall he prefers Neon Bible, whereas I far prefer Funeral. Interestingly my next band suggestion for him – The Hold Steady‘s Stay Positive – was also something a success, perhaps not so much of a surprise with it’s clear Springsteen influence…
I’ve never entirely been sure how my dad ended up liking The Levellers – I suspect that their generally “inoffensive” folk rock and highly political lyrics probably had something to do with it, as well as my step-brothers and I again having listened to this band since about 1992. Either way, I reckon that he probably listens to them more than I do nowadays…
Finally, perhaps the most unlikely band that I ever thought my dad would like: Rammstein. But there are unusual reasons for this. My dad spent his teens living in Germany, and has retained a fluency in the language that meant when he first heard Rammstein – probably Sonne on MTV or suchlike, or through my playing of it a lot at the time – he immediately understood and appreciated the black humour that frequently permeates Rammstein’s lyrics. I don’t believe he has bought any Rammstein albums, though…