MUSKRAT RAMBLINGS – February 18, 2010

Muskrat Ramblings
February 18, 2010
London Crawling
Posted by John

Louisa is 16 months old today, and that raises a bit of a logistical problem: the drive to and from Day Care.

We entered Louisa into a terrific Day Care center that was extraordinarily close to our old house…and then we promptly moved across town. We love the center, though, and Louisa loves her friends there, so transferring her someplace else is something we’d rather not do at the moment. And who knows – seeming flaky in her very first school choices could possibly hurt her chances at Harvard down the line. (YES, I’m a first-time parent. Why do you ask?)

This does, however, leave about a half-hour of drivetime to fill, to and from Day Care. We’re well past the point where Louisa was easily entertained by dangling jingle-bunnies (which sounds like it should be – but isn’t – a euphemism), and individual books are difficult to pass back from the driver’s seat: trust me – at this point in my life, I don’t bend…I snap. But my daughter tantrums (at a two-year-old level, I should add – GIFTED). So – how to avoid?

MUSIC! Louisa adores music: dancing to it, swaying to it, clapping to it.

“Peter, Paul and Mommy,” on the other hand, was our sole “Children’s” CD – and was driving me nuts. Can even the Decemberists match the soul-sucking depression of “Puff The Magic Dragon”? The beloved children’s classic taught an entire generation of kids not only that magic exists, but that it dies, sadly and alone. Life – in the Land of Honalee, anyway – is ultimately solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Thomas Hobbes had nothing on Little Jackie Paper, trust me.

Now, I know that there’s some great kids’ music out there. They Might Be Giants alone have been getting raves. But music is possibly the only form of my geekery that I can share with Louisa. Gaming? Still relegated to “Peek-A-Boo,” I fear. Sci-Fi? Apart from C-3PO and R2-D2 appearing on Sesame Street, it’ll still be several years before I can start introducing Louisa to “Firefly.” Nope: music dork-dom is the sole aspect of my geek life that my daughter can also get down to. So I wanted her to groove to songs that were already important to me.

Which means I’ve been challenging myself to come up with playlists (I still prefer the phrase “mix tape,” but alas…) that Louisa will love, but (and this is important) which are not comprised of “kids’ songs.” And it’s been a ton of fun.

OK, SURE, there are a couple of naughty words scattered amongst these musical nuggets of my life. But how hard is it to yell “DARN” very loudly over the offending phrase when Gilbert O’Sullivan sings “I don’t give a damn”?

Now, when Louisa gets a bit older, I’ll probably pull some of the songs for content. But heck, I was 10 when “Squeeze Box” was released, and it was quite a while after that time when I finally discovered it wasn’t about an accordion, actually.

So anyhoo, my first attempt to indoctrinate Louisa into my world of music geekdom:

Candy In the Kitchen – Blair
The newest song on the compilation. I’m guessing it’s sadder than its infectious beat lets on, but the central image of a young girl dancing in the kitchen to Whitney Houston is solid and joyous.

Get Down – Gilbert O’Sullivan
Ah, one of the highlights of my pre-punk musical youth. Louisa absolutely loves the song on a couple of levels: (a) it’s just plain, hook-laden fun, and (b) “Get down” is a phrase she now knows we yell at our cat Doozer, when he gets up on the counter.

The Love Cats – The Cure
Every child must have this song. MUST.

Octopus’s Garden – The Beatles
Possibly the most obvious entry in this first compilation. But the fact that Louisa can say “Octapus” – or at least, “Octaboo” – meant I simply couldn’t leave it off.

Our House – Madness
Well, even I wasn’t going to include “House of Fun” now, was I?

Antmusic – Adam & The Ants
Looking in the rear-view mirror, watching Louisa bounce from side-to-side to some post-punk new romantic giddiness , wow…a poppa could not be prouder. Well, I could, actually. But the Jam comes later.

Best Friend – The Beat
In the US, the band were known as “The English Beat.” Please shudder now. This is simply one of the catchiest ska-revival songs of the late 70s, and utterly necessary, even if you don’t have kids.

Linus And Lucy – Vince Guaraldi
Well, for heavens sake, why not?

Ask for Jill – The dB’s
Nobody did power pop like the dBs: and great power-pop makes for a happy kid in the child seat.

Superball – Aimee Mann
I believe that Aimee Mann hates this song. Or at least considers it one of her fluffiest pieces. Louisa would disagree.

Squeeze Box – The Who
I’m a Who purist. My love of and devotion to the band strictly predates “Who’s Next.” But for my daughter, I will make allowances.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Beatles
Yes. Obvious. But at least I’m using the alternate version, from “Anthology.”

Funny Little Frog – Belle & Sebastian
Something I discovered in putting this compilation together: most bands have “animal” songs. Even the alternative music scene is a veritable bestiary of zoological references, similes and allegories.

The Jam – Boy About Town
“Ooooh, like paper tossed in wind, I glide up street, I glide down street…” My. Daughter. Grooves. To. The Jam. Wow…

Mr. Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra
There is no sin in loving ELO. Three albums in a row – A New World Record, Out of the Blue and Discovery – moved the group out of prog rock and into the mainstream, but were some of the greatest commercial AND critical successes of the late 70s. They still sound great today. How can you listen to “Mr. Blue Sky” and NOT be happy?

Shiny Happy People – R.E.M.
Another song it’s impossible to be sad to, and possibly my defining example of a “Kids’ song that’s not a ‘Kids’ song.” Don’t believe me? Check out “Furry Happy Monsters” on Sesame Street. Dang. Now I’m thinking this should lead off the mix…
possibly my defining example of a “Kids’ song not intended for kids.” Don’t believe me? Check out “Furry Happy Monsters” on Sesame Street. Dang. Now I’m thinking this should lead off the mix…

All Is Love – Karen O and the Kids
A lovely sing-along from the “Where the Wild Things Are” soundtrack. And the closest Louisa will get to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for a few years, at least…

Happy Birthday – Altered Images
Pure pop heaven. ‘Nuff said.

It Must Be Love – Madness
Who knew that the song’s lyrics would become even more adorable when theysung by a new daddy to his baby daughter? Especially when he can’t sing? “And I never thought I’d feel this way/ The way I feel/ About you.” Indeed.

Tenderness – General Public
Bright, bouncy, and designed to be played at UTMOST VOLUME. Which I don’t do. Babies have tiny little ears. (But they’re SO cute…)

The Caterpillar – The Cure
Sure, ending a kids’ compilation with the line “kiss me dead” is a tad…well…odd. But did you even realize the song ended that way in the first place? Its “cata cata cata cata cata cata caterpillar girl” lyrics
are hard to shake, and I JUST DON’T CARE. Yeah, someone’s prolly gonna pop up and tell me it’s about acid or ecstasy or murder or boy bands or something. Don’t care, don’t care, don’t care, don’t care. My daughter’s dancing. To Robert Smith.

Look, I’m a realist: I absolutely understand that at some point in the next dozen years, some god-awful post-Jonas band will come along, and sweep Louisa’s taste in music off its incredibly adorable tiny little feet. I will shudder at the thought of their pap, and she will regard my Ramones, Jam and Clash the way I – for a while – regarded my dad’s taste in music: old. OLD!

But you know what? I never really hated the music my dad liked. And after I got over myself, I discovered it was really pretty remarkably cool.

Anyway, at least for a while – at least for a half-hour drive each way, to and from the Day Care center – my beautiful little baby daughter and I have the same taste in music.



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