Music for the Generations

It is not as if we needed yet another article concerning the growing generation gap between parents and their children, but now that I am experiencing the gap from the parent point of view, I have decided to enter the fray and comment on the growing generation gap between myself and my children as it pertains to their horrendous taste in what passes for “music” these days.

Now I don’t want to be judgmental, but the music kids listen to today is unadulterated .

When I am driving my children to one of their activities, it strikes me that I, a formerly carefree individual who had inordinate amounts of spare time to do nothing but lie on the grass on a sunny day and listen to the radio, am now spending upwards of 18 hours per week driving my children to one of their activities.

Anyway, they always ask me to tune the radio station to one that plays “their” music. The radio stations they want to listen to have meaningless names like “Kool” and “Xtreme” and “Stupid Rap Music.” Not like our old radio station names like “CFGO” and “CKOY” and “WXYZ.” And they want to listen to bands with really weird names like Chumbawumba and Avril Lavigne. Not like in my days when bands had proper names like Mott the Hoople and Grand Funk Railroad.

All this is to say that I was listening to my oldest son listen to some of his music as we were doing the dishes together, which in and of itself is a three-fold miracle of sorts. One, I agreed to listen to the music that my son listens to; two, we had some time to do some father-son bonding; three – and perhaps the greatest of the three miracles – he was helping me with the dishes.

As we were washing and drying the dishes, and listening to modern music and bonding, it struck me that the music he was listening to sounded very much like some of the music I used to listen to in the 80’s. This isn’t that odd because, as I am sure most of us can recall, the 80’s were not the greatest period for contemporary music, and this is the same situation we find ourselves in today with regards to contemporary music.

The music my son and I were listening to were being performed by bands that have a mix of male and female vocalists, which reminded me of a boy-girl band with a similar sound from the 80’s called The Human League.

So after we finished the dishes, I went to the one place in our home where I am sure we all store our old records – the basement, and fished out my sole Human League record-playing album. I brought it upstairs hidden behind my back and said to my son, “If you like the junk you’re listening to now, I’m certain that you’ll like this junk behind my back that I used to listen to.”

I ushered my son over to our stereo and, after wiping off a half-inch of dust, pressed the “phono” button on the receiver. My son, staring in fascination at the green word “phono” displayed in the receiver display window, asked, “What’s ‘phono’ Dad?”

“That’s short for phonograph,” I replied.

“What’s that?” my son asked.

“A record album,” I replied.

“What’s that?” my son asked again.

I brought out the record album from behind my back and proudly displayed it to my son.

“Wow,” he exclaimed, “that baby must have about a million minutes of music on it.”

As I began extracting the album from its static free sleeve (remember those?) using the ancient album handling tradition of thumb on the edge and fingertips in the middle, my son made a grab for the record. I quickly pirouetted and my sons grasping hand glanced off of my backside. “Oh no you don’t,” I said, “you’ll get your finger prints all over it and besides, you don’t know how it works. You’ll probably try to jam it into the CD player for all you know about record albums.”

With the record safely set on the turntable spindle, I lowered the arm to the first track and sat down on the couch next to my son to listen.

“That’s horrendous,” was my son’s instant reaction.

“But it’s just like the music we were listening to while doing the dishes,” I retorted.

“Well, yeah, but it’s really really old,” he said.

So that’s how we ended our little father-son bonding session, the generation chasm still present. But I won’t give up. I will continue to regale my children with tales of yore in the hope that, one day, they will have their own children and their own generation gap to deal with.

As an aside, give yourself twelve parent points if you spotted the flaw in the “tuning the radio statement in the fourth paragraph. In today’s digital world, the last time anybody “tuned” their radio dial into anything was when Dwight Eisenhower spoke to Alexander Graham Bell when they invented the telegraph.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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