Ali and I are spending 11th Anniversary at Merriweather Post Pavilion, taking in the My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses concert.
And though, only because its our anniversary and no one takes their kids out on their anniversary, right, my boys are currently in the care of a babysitter, they both think My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses are kick-a#$.
If there’s one thing I’d like to look back upon and brag about in terms of parenting, then it’s that Ali and I have steadfastly refused to allow our boys to listen to sucky pop music.
No, Kate Perry, Justin What’s-His-Name, or Raffi for my boys. No, they like Jack White, the Kills, Wilco and the Dead Weather. At bath time, or just anytime really, it’s the Decembrists. My boys don’t know the words to ‘There’s a Hole in My Bucket’ but they CAN sing along to Bon Iver’s cover of ‘The Outfield.’
Gabriel, my youngest, cried- seriously- when I told him that Jack White was now a solo artist and there would be no more White Stripes albums. Meg White is now right up there with Darth Vader and Trunchbull in Gabriel’s pantheon of villains.
When I look at the gray creeping in to my beard or the extra pound that’s snuck on to the scale or when I spy the fatigued looking wrinkle under my eyes in the morning, my grief is assauged somewhat in knowing that, at least, one day my sons will know I only let them listen to music that was cool. And even if I don’t know how to fix the car and even if I never was in the army, I at least know a good band or two.
Here’s a good piece from the NY Times about one’s kid and the Beatles.
“DO the Beatles have any other playlists besides ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’?”
So asked my 5-year-old as we sat on his bunk bed, staring into his iPod and listening to Ringo Starr sing “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Even on this important year in Beatledom, the 50th anniversary of Ringo’s joining the band and finalizing the makeup of the Fab Four, I decided not to pounce on my son with the obvious correction. For Beatle love must flower on its own terms. I would not tell him that “Sgt. Pepper’s” was an album, not a playlist. That it was an extremely important album. That a genius had produced it.
Instead I told him that the Beatles did indeed have many playlists, they had fantastic playlists, monumental playlists. Playlists like “Rubber Soul,” “Abbey Road” and that magnum opus, “The White …” um, Playlist.
Then another troubling question.
“When the Beatles recorded their playlists, did they record them on voice memo?”
When my son behaves well I temporarily upgrade him from his creaky old legacy iPod and let him tinker on my iPhone. There, thanks to a baby sitter whose name I curse, he has discovered the voice-memo function. He uses voice memo for impromptu jam sessions with himself and crams my phone full of gigabytes until it freezes. Tears often ensue.
“Absolutely not,” I told him. “The Beatles never, ever used voice memo. They didn’t even have voice memo. They didn’t even know what voice memo was.” I went on to tell him that the Beatles put their songs on something flat, circular and black called an album.
“Where is the button on the album that you press to make it record?”
“Yeah, well, you see,” I said, scrambling. “They didn’t record directly on the album. First they recorded on a tape recorder. A tape recorder has a button.”
“But when you use a tape recorder, what do you record on?”
“Oh, like masking tape?” he said, lunging for the art-supply drawer where both he and I knew three rolls of unused masking tape lay. I grabbed his arm before he could execute his plan.
“No, not masking tape.”
“Daddy, you’re hurting me.”
“Sorry,” I said. “But you can’t record voice memos on masking tape. They used something else. Something called recording tape.”
“Where is our recording tape?”
“We don’t have any. Recording tape doesn’t exist anymore.”
Seeing exasperation, he tried a different line.
“Do the Beatles live in a house?”
Oddly enough, this was something I can remember wondering myself, back in the early ’70s, a few years after the Beatles had torn themselves asunder. My own first experience of the Beatles was the film “Yellow Submarine,” in which, fans will recall, an early scene gives the very distinct impression that the Beatles do in fact all live together in a house. A giant house with mysterious doors that open and close at random, with surreal claptrap objects pouring out into corridors and the cartoon Beatles following behind in an old roadster.
“Well,” I said, “I think sometimes all the Beatles stayed in the same house. But I’m pretty sure each Beatle had his own house.”
“Whose house did they go to when they wanted to record playlists?”
“I guess they probably went to Paul’s or John’s house.”
“Because Paul and John wrote most of the songs. But mostly they went to another house.”
“Where was that other house?”
A blank stare. A long pause.
“Can we go to John’s house?”
I knew somehow we were headed down this road that led past Abbey.
“No, we can’t.”
“Because John is dead.”
“How did he die?”
“I don’t know,” I lied.
A long pause.
“Who else is dead?”
“You mean there are only two Beatles left?”
Click to continue.