The girl has discovered Oasis, the Stone Roses, The Smiths and The Beatles. This turns out to be less of a good thing than I might previously have imagined.
If there is anything more tiresome than a teenager who has just “discovered” a new band, it must surely be a teenager who has just discovered a band that you were there for the first time around. Cultural appropriation has a new face and that face is our daughter.
At first her new direction seemed an unalloyed positive. After years of worshipping worthless teen groups, the girl was moving towards a higher class of musical taste, which also meant I could get back to imposing my own preferences on car journeys. The early teens saw a deeply troubling move to impose democracy into my driving music in clear defiance of the “driver is DJ” rules. Denied their democratic right to Bruno Mars, the spawn went on car strike, plugging into their own phones in an act of gross disrespect to Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie. My wife regretted the accompanying loss of conversation but, frankly, it was a small price to pay for my cultural hegemony.
As their taste matured, the case for democracy was revived — we were even prepared to entertain their own recommendations about newer music, released in the era of our dotage — but by then they were too committed to their own playlists. The girl still shows a worrying interest in new groups of whose work I know nothing, but for the most part we had welcomed her embrace of the cool sounds of our generation. (I know it is possible that some of the new groups of whose work I know nothing may in fact be quite good — my wife insists The 1975 are “worth a listen” — but my need to appear at the cutting edge of music has long since dissipated, if it ever existed.)
So this drift to quality ought to be welcome. But we had failed to factor in the teenage temperament. Unable to claim discovery rights, the girl has moved to occupy our space by becoming a truer fan, ostentatiously knowing more about our music than we ever did ourselves. The fact that we have all the albums or saw most of these groups live may be all very interesting but, then again, do we know the names of all Liam Gallagher’s children? Can we recite the album tracks of Definitely Maybe in reverse order? Do we know Ian Brown once gave evidence against an abusive former schoolteacher?
Daily we are bombarded with all the facts about the bands of our youth that we never cared to learn. Our childhood is being appropriated by a stroppy teenager who seeks to best us with Top Trump facts about The Haçienda or the best bands in Manchester. Every now and then we can put her in her place. Her sudden interest in New Order left her vulnerable to a lengthy discourse on Joy Division. But these wins are increasingly rare. At least she’s not yet pretending to be Mancunian.
This is not how it is meant to be. When her taste began to verge on the tolerable, I had visions of playing sherpa to her progress along the rock dialectic, advising on the next band she might find worth a listen and introducing her to the little-known album tracks that true fans pretend to prefer to the hits.
It is bringing out the worst in me. Phrases like “Yeah, I remember the first time we saw them at Wembley” are beginning to pepper my conversation in feeble efforts at one-upmanship, oblivious to the fact that sentences containing the word “Wembley” offer pretty limited bragging rights unless they also contain 1966 or the FA Cup. I want to tell her about the time we saw The Clash in their very first gig at the Black Swan in Sheffield and I still might, but have been holding this one back on account of it not being true. But if she starts lecturing me about Joe Strummer, then it may be time for a reclaimed memory. I suppose I should welcome her cultural advance but she’s not making it easy.
This is the way it goes I suppose. I wanted my kids to like good bands, and then they liked good bands. And heaven knows, I’m miserable now.
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