Monday, June 29, 2009

Tell Me Something New

We would be washing the walls and the woodwork or something, and my dad would snap on a record. His favorites were The Stranger and Darkness on the Edge of Town, damn near anything by The Who, The Beatles, or The Turtles. Off the Wall. Zeppelin II. Songs in the Key of Life. Pet Sounds. Van Halen. Madman Across the Water. He didn't gravitate towards the deep cuts or unusual takes, just anything and everything. And with every song, he would tell me something new.

"You know this song? It's about wishing you were still a little kid and causing trouble. Because sometimes getting in trouble is fun." And then he would laugh, loud and roaring, because he laughs at everything he says. "Don't tell your mom I said that, she would kill me. What's your favorite part of the song?"

"Ummmmm...the part about Christmas!"

"You know the part where they say, 'you nasty boy'?"

"You nasty boy," I sing it. I probably shake my butt, too.

"Well, a couple of years ago, this guy's sister," and my dad points to the cover of Off the Wall, "wrote a song where she used that line as the chorus."


"Because Stevie Wonder is so good at what he does that people from all over thought that to prove how much they liked him, they should put parts of his songs in parts of theirs, like a secret just for people who liked him too. And now you know the secret."

At like eight years old, I knew fucking all of them. I knew that JohnEntwhistle wrote "Boris the Spider," I knew that the cover of Pet Sounds was shot at San Diego Zoo, which was the exact same zoo in the commercial with all the people feet walking by a rock and then there are paws instead of feet, I knew that good drummers always die, I knew that "Ramble On" talked about that big red leather book on our fireplace that had a scary map inside and I was not allowed to touch it because it was a big deal and "sometimes, Mom is a nerd."

I had my favorites, which in retrospect are all angrier and sadder than normal eight-year-old music, and I didn't realize it until I started listing them about thirty seconds ago. "Levon" and "Adam Raised a Cain" and "The Stranger."

When I cleaned with my mom, it was different.

"What's this song about?"

"It's about a nice girl named Barbara Ann."

"What's this song about?"

"It's about a boy who wants to hold hands with a nice girl." She wasn't trying to keep me from learning things, she just listened to different music. Plus she's not much of a storyteller, and my dad never shuts up.

So when I'd ask my dad, "What's this song about?" I would get:

"Well about twenty years ago, America started a war with Vietnam, which is a small country in Asia, and lots of people thought it was wrong. So a bunch of college kids thought they would gather together and show everyone they thought the government was wrong for making people fight in a war that they didn't want to fight. Well, some soldiers were there, too, and they were supposed to make sure the students didn't get out of control. But they shot and killed four students. It could have been an accident, or maybe it was on purpose. But it was really sad, and it was all over the magazines, and there were pictures of people getting shot. People all across the country were pissed off. And then Neil Young decided to write a song about it, and he got his three friends," and here is where Dad would count on his fingers, "David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash to help him play it. And they called themselves Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The song is called 'Ohio' because that's where Kent State University is. And now, because of this song, everyone will remember those kids that died."

I think I paid far more attention to my dad's lessons during movies and songs and television shows than I ever did in school.



Anonymous said...

Very cool post. Your dad saw the bigger story in things, and that's to be admired.

And so are you, for listening . . .

M. said...

you are so freaking cool.

Ginny said...

Uh oh.

The other day, we're in the car, and "Man in the Box" by Alice in Chains comes on (one of my top 10 of all time). And I'm on the verge of starting a rant about what made this group great, vis a vis the whole Seattle grunge scene, when my cranky 6 year old says,

"I hate this song, and I hate this band, and I especially hate this guy's singing!"

To which I calmly replied, "Well guess what?He's dead, so I guess you WIN!"

Can you get your dad to call me, teach me how to do this right?

Kono said...

you had a most excellent dad. Tin soldiers and nixon's coming/were finally on our own/this summer i hear the drummin/four dead in ohio... i grew in cleveland about 45 minutes from Can't Read Can't Write Kent State, a small reflection on their admissions policy.

Mongolian Girl said...

Songs in the Key of Life is my #1. Of.All.Time.
Also? WOuld you mind if your dad adopted me?

OneZenMom said...

Awesome. Your dad rocks.

Gwen said...

Your dad sounds like a really cool person. I think it's great that you have such a good relationship with him. I would have done anything to have my father talk to me that much when I was little. Or even now.

Anonymous said...

cool dad = cool kid

Mister Crowley said...

Rass: Your dad rocks. It's really sad, but my old man used to be a complete rock n roll freak as a college student...then he got married and forgot all about it....oh well.

Ginny: You can just tell your kid that he's unlucky to be born in a musically underprivileged age. (RIP, Layne)

Thanatos said...

That's awesome. Your very own wikipedia/imdb/

Anonymous said...

beautiful! i would have loved this...

we got something like this, but in reverse... dad would try to listen to our music, and then ask us what it meant... he was pretty cool, but not encyclopaedic...

Mia Watts said...

Music and Dad is reduced to "Bald Headed Woman" by the BeeGees (More than a woman, to my child ears) and if ever I had cussed, I'd have been spanked/lectured.

Nothing deep nor meaningful.

Le Meems said...

Baaaaarbara Aaaaaaaan i wannaaaaaa hoooooooooold yeeeer haaa-aand. Rockin an Rollin, Barbaraaaa Annnnn.
Ba bA bababa, Barbara Ann. Oh man.

Well I'd rather clean with your dad too. Stories are awesome and you obviously picked that up from him.

Kitty said...

I'd love to go clean woodwork and walls with your dad.

Amazing post, Rassles.

A Free Man said...

I like your Dad. I'm like your Dad.

Boris the Spider is one of my kid's favorite songs, largely because of my pantomime that goes along with it.

Chris said...

Maybe your sisters are jealous. (Sorry, reading ahead) It sounds like you and your dad have a pretty special bond.

My dad was all Charlie Rich and (Ladies and gentlemen, Mr.) Conway Twitty. But he taught me other stuff. I miss him every day.

Blues said...

Wow. All I could get my dad to talk about was scripture.

But occassionally if I put on a little Janis Joplin or something like that you can totally tell he knows all the words and he can hardly stop himself from belting it out.

Then I'm sure he repents for like two hours for listening to Satan's music.

Rassles said...

Brian: It's hard not to listen to my dad. He is very loud, and very demanding. I wonder where I get that from...

Mae: Back at ya.

Ginny: Whatever, that is awesome. Stupid six-year-olds and their disrespect.

Kono: He would be delighted to hear that someone thinks he is awesome.

Mongo: I don't know if you want him around. He's going on this Fountains of Wayne kick right now and it's obnoxious.

Zen: Yeah, he's okay.

Gwen: Well, obviously I don't write about when we yell at each other and glare with seething hatred and incomprehension.

Nurse: Holla.

Crow: I don't think my dad forgets anything about music.

Thanny: Yeah, and now I'm that person.

Daisy: Well, if he's open and interested in your interests, that a novel-full of awesome.

Mia: My dad is like all anti-BeeGees.

Meems: It's one of the many things I got from him. The whole non-stop talking and storytelling thing.

Kitty: Well thank you, Kitty.

Freeman: So you're guaranteed to have a child just like me, you lucky bastard.

Chris: We all have different relationships with him. With me it's art media. With one sister it's sports. And with the know what, I don't know.

Blues: So he's ashamed of his own awesome? What a crock.

Gypsy said...

What a gift that was, your father's knowledge and interpretation of music.

My poppa bear listened to country and 50s pop. I remember him teasing me about how "Hard to Be Humble" was written for him.