Saturday, December 17, 2011

Accidental Kidsongs: Je t'aime moi non plus

Jane Birkin with Serge Gainsbourg: Je t'aime moi non plus (vinyl)


I bought my first record when I was five years old (this masterpiece, if you want to know). Before that, I loved playing my grandmother’s singles – of which I remember only a recording of the Slave Choir from Verdi’s Nabucco – and, once I was given my own little record player for my fifth birthday, I liberally borrowed my mother’s singles, which were kept in an album with plastic sleeves.

It certainly was an eclectic collection. It included Manfred Mann (Ha! Ha! Said The Clown), Gilbert Bécaud (Nathalie; German version), The Archies (Sugar Sugar), The Peels (Juanita Banana), Trini Lopez (America), Al Martino (Spanish Eyes), Esther & Abi Ofraim (Noch einen Tanz; a deliciously sinister number in which a couple observe the death of the woman’s rich husband), Chris Andrews (Pretty Belinda) and Jane Birkin’s “Je t'aime moi non plus”.

My brother and I played them all, as well as later additions, such as The Sweet’s “Poppa Joe”. And my mother evidently saw no cause for withholding Birkin’s orgasmic stylings from us. I assume that she calculated, correctly, that her sons would not realise exactly what (never mind who) was going down on the song. So we cheerfully played the song with its lovely organ (the instrument!). I don’t know what we made of the lady’s noises. Maybe she had a sore tummy from sucking on too many lollipops. Whatever it was, we had no idea that there was such a thing as sex, and if we did, we had no idea what it sounded like. We just really dug the tune.

I’ve read that on the recording Birkin didn’t fake her orgasm; if it was faked, then Birkin certainly would trump Meg Ryan.

This is a vinyl rip, which is superior to the sterile digital rendering of a CD rip.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Accidental Kidsongs: Lucky Star

Madonna: Lucky Star

My first music memory is of climbing over the front seat in our old blue station wagon as we pulled into our driveway when I was about 4 years old to turn up the volume because this song came on the radio. I exclaimed loudly "I LOVE THIS SONG!". Of course, that dates me since it's been years since they've had all sorts of car restraint laws for children, but back then I could show my love for a song by doing that.

If you think about it, it makes sense for a small child to like this song. The lyrics are very simple and pull from from a nursery rhyme, and it is easily sung along with. There's not much risque about it either, considering it's from an artist known for pushing the envelope for her sexual image, so it all works out pretty well and my parents didn't mind getting me the 45 single of it.

It still makes me smile when I go through my old record collection and come across this single, as I was so young when I was listening to it that I used to have to harass my mom to tell me which side of the record the song was on every time I wanted to hear it. She got sick of me asking so she drew a star on the side where the song was so I didn't have to ask her anymore. So now when I see the record I see the star my mom drew on it almost 30 years ago because I couldn't read yet and I wanted to listen to my favorite song, and it always makes me smile.

Accidental Kidsongs: Skin Lake

Judge Dread: Skin Lake


I grew up in a time when The Beatles and Motown dominated the world of music. My parents were both amateur classical musicians, so they were intent on making sure my brothers and I had every opportunity to learn to love classical music as well. We had Peter and the Wolf in the house, and we went to a theatrical rerelease of Fantasia. And, for the most part, it worked.

Fast forward forty years. When my son was about four, he discovered classical music through a side door, so to speak. He knows more about classical music now, four years later, and I don’t think he even makes the connection, but here’s what happened. My wife and I both love ska music. Before I became a blogger myself, I started collecting mp3s from other people’s blogs. I tended to grab all of the ska I could find, and I would put the songs together on a series of discs I called Ska Boxes. Skin Lake is on the volume that became my wife’s favorite, volume III. So, my daughter was amenable, and we would play these in the car, as we still do. There was and is plenty of other music we play in the car as well. We always thought that my son wasn’t paying any attention, but we did notice that he liked to make up his own names for songs. One day, he started asking for “The Hick-it Song”. Huh? Now, to this day, he will ask for something over and over until he gets it, or we convince him that it ain’t happening. Over the next week, we realized that our sanity depended on figuring out which song was “The Hick-it Song”. Finally, I realized that he was picking up on the sound effect that ska artists make sometimes. As soon as I told my wife this, she figured out which song it was, and our lives were saved. Despite this harrowing experience, the song and the disc it is on are still favorites in my family. The melody, of course, comes from Swan Lake, and was also turned into a different ska song by Madness. The words are probably not much more appropriate for an eight-year-old than they were when he was four, but what can you do?

Accidental Kidsongs: I Want to Hold Your Hand(s)

The Chipmunks: I Want to Hold Your Hand


The Beatles: I Want to Hold Your Hand


My introduction to “grown up” music was served up by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Capitalizing on the success of a seasonal novelty record, “The Chipmunk Song (The Christmas Song)”, Ross Bagdasarian (a musician and actor who can be seen playing the cool jazz guy in Hitchcock’s classic “Rear Window”), working under the nom de plume “David Seville,” recorded a series of Chipmunks albums in the 1960s. By the time I was six years old, my record collection included two Chipmunk albums: first “Chipmunks a Go Go” and then “The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles.” Until then, all the records I'd been given featured kiddie songs or storybook adaptations. And, in fact, many of the songs on “A Go Go” sounded like they were written for the elementary school crowd – “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rain,” “What’s New Pussycat?” and “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” among them. I preferred the music on “Sing the Beatles,” but little did I know I was listening to the same songs my babysitters were, albeit with the vocals sped up. I figured these “Beatles” the album cover referred to were members of another cartoon animal singing group. Even after learning the Beatles and the Chipmunks were not on the same artistic plain, it didn’t register that “I Want To Hold Your Hand” wasn’t meant for children.

Knowing they had been one-upped Alvin and the lads always kept me from thinking of the Beatles as being too subversive.

Guest post by Mt Vernon Mike

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Accidental Kidsongs: A Worried Man

Kingston Trio: A Worried Man


On the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving my mother would usually take the bus to my grandparent's home in southern Wisconsin to help grandma prepare for the next day's feast. My father would pick me and my little brother up after school, and we would drive down to meet them. Our mini two hour road trip would wind south down Wisconsin Highway 26, through rolling hills in the heart of America's Dairyland. Some of the small municipalities would already have their downtown's decorated for Christmas, much to my delight. We would always stop halfway at McDonald's for a kid-approved dinner, and be on our way.

One evening as we pulled out of the Golden Arches and got back on the road, my dad fiddled around with the radio trying to find something to listen to. News? Boring. Early 1980s rock? Awful. So dad put in a cassette: The Best of the Kingston Trio, harkening back to my dad's late teenaged years of hanging out at the rathskeller with his buddies, drinking warm beer and eating cold pizza.

Traditional folk music by it's very nature is easy for kids to pick up. The lyrics are relatively simple, verses and choruses are repeated often, and themes at their most basic level are things that children can relate to. It wasn't long after my dad popped in the tape that we were singing along to "Tom Dooley," "Tijuana Jail," and "M.T.A." My most vivid memory is of my little brother, who was around age six, singing "A Worried Man" at the top of his lungs. "We're worried now, but we won't be worried looooooooooong!" I sang along, and my dad laughed and laughed, as we headed down the highway to our grandparent's house for Thanksgiving.

Accidental Kidsongs: She Is Beautiful

Andrew W.K.: She Is Beautiful


When my first child was born, we brought her all the songs we had been sung, plus our own songs, the ones we adopted together, and defined ourselves as family through: You Are My Sunshine, The Water Is Wide, James Taylor's You Can Close Your Eyes. We sang to her at night, and in the morning; we sang as we played, and walked, and we sang along as we listened to Daddy's folk music and jamband stuff in the rare working hour.

And then one day in the car, when she was about nine months old, I dropped a random CD single that had come free with a can of Axe deodorant into the CD player on the way home from buying it at the supermarket, and suddenly everything between us changed in a heartbeat as the screaming thrashmetal strains of hardcore singer-songwriter Andrew WK's second-best known single brought her to sudden ecstasy.

For the next four months, it was impossible to get into the car with my child without her immediately asking for the "deedle deedle deedle" song, an apt description of the song's keening opener serving adeptly as a coded signal for us to thrash out together with glee as we drove into town. And thus, I knew: this child would be her own beautiful soul, with depths and hidden secrets, a joy to celebrate and respond to. And she would love and recognize good music, of every genre, in a single note, no matter the source - like her father, and his father before him.

(postscript: Since his debut dropped in 2001, Andrew W.K. has gone on to become a successful new age self help motivational speaker, TV host, and nightclub owner. Meanwhile, my oldest child is now nine, going on 14, and she likes novelty and parody songs, mostly. But she'll get over it. We did.)

Accidental Kidsongs: Sugartime

The McGuire Sisters: Sugartime


This is the first song I have memory of. I adored it.

I have a vivid image of myself in my parents' bedroom, playing this 45 over and over and over again on my little portable record player. Since it came out in Feb. of 1958, that puts me at barely age 4. I remember I also had those red and yellow plastic kiddie records but those memories are all gone (thankfully). But this one is so strong that even though I haven't listened to it since then, I still clearly remember the words and some of the parts like that ending "su-gaaa-ah-aaaa-ah-aaaa" at the end.

I never did break the habit of listening to songs I like over and over and over again. Sugartime may have been my first, but my latest is a Korean pop number called Where U At by Taeyang (also of the group BIGBANG). (Like all K-pop, this song's got great songwriting, terrific production quality, and precision dance moves; check it out). To complete the circle, I've turned on both my kids (who are in their 20s, so not exactly kids any more) to K-pop---they both loved SHINee's Lucifer. In fact, my daughter, a school teacher, played it for her second grade class as a reward, and they now have their own accidental kidsong.

I think the music industry and your faithful blogger have both come a long way since 1958.

Accidental Kidsongs: Only You

Yaz: Only You


As two exhausted parents of what could only be described as a "spirited" child, my wife and I looked to Mix CD's of high energy techno-pop from the 80's and vente sized lattes to get us through some days. Our daughter had sleep issues at night and car seat issues during the day. The parenting handbooks all suggested we let her cry these issues out rather than give in. On one such noisy ride, this Yaz ballad came on. Maybe it was the strange electronic noises at the beginning that first caught our one year old's attention. But she stopped crying. When the song faded out we heard a voice from the backseat: "Again". We played it again. Then we heard her little voice sing the line "Only You". At long last, peace was at hand.

Seven years later, this simple song is still a favorite of our daughter's and of  a great many other people as well. It was a #2 hit in the UK originally. Since then, Judy Collins, Rita Coolidge, Enrique Iglesias and an a cappella group called The Flying Picketts have all recorded cover versions. The latter's single topped the UK charts Christmas week in 1983.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Accidental Kidsongs: Lather

Jefferson Airplane: Lather


Nowadays, there is an entire industry built around kid’s songs. Most record stores or sections of much size at all have at least a few titles. Amazon has more than anyone could possibly keep track of. But none of that existed when I was a boy. Even if an artist released an album intended for children, it would be found in the appropriate section with their other releases. So my parents had to use their judgment about what my brothers and I should hear. The artists I was most exposed to intentionally were Spike Jones, Tom Lehrer, and Alan Sherman. But there were certainly times when I heard, and latched onto, something they probably would not have chosen for me. In particular, my oldest brother would bring home the latest music, and strange things could happen.

I was not quite eight years old when Jefferson Airplane released their album Crown of Creation. My brother was thirteen, and not the best judge of what was suitable for his little brother. All he knew was that he had something he was excited about, and he wanted to share it. So he put on the album, and I was immediately taken with the song Lather. I suppose it may have been the concept of a grown-up who I could relate to. I still love the song, but now I get some of the more disturbing details that went right past me as a child. I certainly am not “snorting the best licks in town”, but I still miss my old toys sometimes, and those are the times I am glad I have children of my own.