I was about ten years old when I discovered that not every household played The Beatles and ABBA Gold on a regular basis. In fact, most families I knew didn’t.
I was shocked.
For a child who had grown up with wall-to-wall Beatles and Beach Boys, the idea that other kids were being introduced to Bon Jovi and Duran Duran just did not compute. Although both those groups were present in the family record collection, I don’t remember them being played until I was a little older. I can only guess that my parents waited until my music tastes had been sufficiently moulded and I was safe from musical acts which met with less approval (Mötley CrÜe and Foreigner, I’m looking at you). From an early age I would have music played to me and I’d be asked who I was listening to. If I heard male harmonies, I’d figure Beatles or Beach Boys would be a good guess (it was rarely Beach Boys - took me a ridiculously long time to learn the difference).
When I was in my second or third year of primary school my dad made me my first mixtape (ok, it was a CD, but close enough), which was full of songs I had been introduced to and loved over the past year. ‘Fenella’s Favourites’ would become an eagerly anticipated annual gift and makes it easy for me to track my music tastes over the years. The first CD was full of artists my parents played – The Monkees, The Beach Boys, Kasey Chambers, The Beatles, Felicity Urquhart and Tania Kernaghan. A LOT of Tania Kernaghan. Having met her at a young age, she was my first fangirl experience and I proudly collected her albums before reaching my teens and deciding I no longer liked country music (a lack of cool factor will do that to a girl).
Almost all my cds are at least eight years old. A true child of my generation, most of my music collection is now digital, so a cursory glance at the cd shelves in my room could give someone the wrong impression (the dozen or so Saddle Club albums were retired with Tania a fair few years ago but beloved Britney Spears, Hilary Duff and High School Musical soundtracks still give me away).
The music dynamics in my home have shifted slightly over the years but the basic rules of control have stayed largely the same. Although my music choices have increased their airplay as I developed my own musical tastes, the majority of the music played in the house has been chosen by my father and that has heavily influenced my musical tastes. If he likes it, it gets a lot of airtime, from countless Beatles albums (including the various remastered copies that have gradually been released) to Hot Since ’82 (‘Restless’ is a notable favourite).
At some point, my opinion of my parent’s music changed from wide-eyed fascination to a simmering tween contempt for anything endorsed by ‘old people’ (there are only so many times you can hear your father singing along to Nelly before you associate the music with age and irritation). Luckily for them, my mother’s tastes swung in to save the day. Early exposure to Fountains of Wayne had been accompanied by the suggestion “You don’t need to sing all the words, maybe say ‘I’ve gotta get my self together’ instead”. This had of course resulted in me gleefully singing the correct lyrics as loudly as I dared (The correct word was shit, in case you hadn’t guessed). Like many kids, I had started by listening to the fast, entertaining songs like Stacey’s Mom, Hey Julie and, of course, Bright Future In Sales. As I grew older, sadder tracks like Hackensack were played more as I began to fancy myself as a deep thinker. Denise was for when I realised that wasn’t the case.
This led me to The Beatles’ greatest rival for Favourite Parent-Endorsed Band: The Darkness. My mum decided to chuck me in at the deep end, showing me the video clips for One Way Ticket To Hell and I Believe In A Thing Called Love. It could have gone devastatingly wrong.
Cut to today and I list The Darkness as one of my all-time favourite bands, beside fellow parent-endorsed (and personal favourite) Belle and Sebastian. Long car trips are no longer complete without my mother and I sitting in the front seat, head-banging and screeching along to I Believe In A Thing Called Love at the tops of our voices, road safety be damned.
My musical independence is still a new and slowly developing thing. I’ve never been much of a radio girl and I tend to come to things late in the game (I got Facebook at 15, at my mother’s suggestion. I think she was trying to get me more involved with other people. Oh, vain hope).
I like to think I’ve improved. 2015’s mix CD was full of names I never would have considered way back when, including The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Gorillaz, The Coral, Chet Faker, Bishop Allen and The Middle East.
Every now and again I’ll play some of the songs that I’ve recently come across. Only six months old! New stuff! A lack of siblings means that the only people in the house to introduce my music to are my parents. Hey, what goes around comes around. Mum’s response is usually a distracted smile and maybe “Yes, it was alright”. Dad’s response? “Yeah, that song’s been out for a while!”
Everyone’s a critic.
- Fenella H-Z