How To Give Your Children a Musical History Lesson

I was driving along with my six year old son in the back seat last week listening to the radio. The station that I had on was one famous for playing golden oldies. During the 1980s when I was getting into the modern popular music of the day, it played songs from the 1950s through to the 1970s. All my friends’ parents had this radio station on. They had it on at home. They had it on their car stereo. It was the station to listen to if you loved the golden oldie music.

Somewhere during the 1990s it started playing music from the 1980s. Mostly Eurythmics. Actually, always Eurythmics. Sure they played other songs and bands from the 1980s but whenever I heard a song from the 1980s, it always seemed to be the dulcet tones of Annie Lennox and shiny soulful strumming of David A. Stewart’s acoustic guitar. Thorn in my Side anyone?

Now days they still play songs from the past, but it’s sprinkled with modern hits from the likes of P!nk, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift but more often than not, it is playing songs from my youth. Last week as we were driving along Europe’s The Final Countdown came on. I turned it up a little and called out loud enough for my son to hear;

“I love this song”.

Yes the teenager in me was excited to hear it on the radio. As I sang along I did the action of the drums during that “buddum, buddum, buddum, boom” bit (we were stopped at the traffic lights I might add). And even though we were driving as the solo played, I was mimicking the sound of what is one of my favourite all time guitar solos.  I would normally play air guitar to that solo, whammy bar and all when I’m not driving (as I just did as I listened to the song in preparation of writing this). And of course, as the chorus was playing, I was singing at the top of my lungs.

By the time the final choruses were sung after the solo leading into the outro, my son was singing along. As the song ended I heard this little voice pop up;

“Dad, I love that song. That is a really good song”.

I could have cried.

“Tell you what mate, I’m going to make you a mixed tape of all my favourite rock songs from the 1980s”.

“Cool but what’s the 1980s?”

Hopefully the concept of years, decades and periods of popular culture will sink in with him soon, but for now, it’s time that I sat him down and had the talk. I need to teach him about all the cool music. All that fine music that got us from 1954 through to where we are today. But firstly, the hair band period of the 1980s.

I started compiling a list in my head. In addition to Europe’s The Final Countdown there has to be Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. Add in the Guns n’ Roses classic Sweet Child O’ Mine and Van Halen’s Jump and now we’re getting somewhere. I started thinking about all those glam-rock, hard-rock, glam-metal, soft-metal bands that I grew up with that got me into wanting to be a musician myself. Although they formed in 1970, to me, Queen were very much part of that 1980s hard rocking genre that lead me to like Van Halen and eventually get obsessed with the whole genre through my love of Bon Jovi.

And I guess you could also include Michael Jackson in that because for many, Eddie Van Halen’s solo in Beat It lead them to appreciate the skills of that man. Once his tapping solo was heard front and centre in what was a monster hit for Michael Jackson early on in 1983, by December of that year when Van Halen released Jump, we were all used to those fast paced notes.

I kept thinking of more bands from that period that I was into. AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Warrant, Roxus, Kiss, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, The Angels, Extreme, Cinderella, Ratt, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Skid Row, Heart, Vixen and dare I say it, Winger. Then I started thinking of each band’s signature tune. Although some of these bands had profanities in their lyrics, mostly towards the latter part of the period where glam-metal reigned supreme, many of these bands were pretty clean cut as far as their lyrics were concerned. That is, there were no four letter words in most of their songs, especially their hit singles. But having said that, the genre didn’t get the added title of cock-rock for no reason as many of their lyrics were sexually charged and packed full of innuendos to make the late Sam Kinison blush. Well, maybe not…

I started to think about which song I would pick from each of those bands starting with Poison. I really want to use their signature song and am leaning towards going with one of their rockier numbers rather than a ballad, so even though Every Rose Has Its Thorn would be the song most people think of when they think of Poison, something like Nothin’ But a Good Time would be what I would want on the CD I’m making him. But I’m not too sure I want a six year old singing;

“They say I spend my money on women and wine
But I couldn’t tell you where I spent last night…”

While I was initially sad that grunge killed glam-metal dead, I was just thinking about this recently; grunge gave those among us who love to rock out a conscience. It made us think of other people and not ourselves. It made us young boys realise that girls and women were not just objects to ogle at. I can’t turn my back completely on the music that I grew up with, because while I listened to songs like Mötley Crüe‘s Girls, Girls, Girls and Warrant’s Cherry Pie, I grew to realise that there was more to life than checking out semi-clad young ladies, and more to women than them just being the object of men’s fantasies.

So maybe I should pick those songs that are the lesser of the machismo, overtly sexual lyrics and hope that, like me he appreciates the style of music first and foremost. And since thinking about doing this, I have wondered whether I should do to him what happened to me in the late 1970s; my musical history lesson started with Elvis, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Maybe I need to make him a mixed CD based on the songs of the late 1950s and 1960s before progressing to the 1970s with Led Zeppelin and the golden age of The Rolling Stones.

I’m still going to plan that 1983 through to 1990 glam-metal CD for him. It really was my own golden age of music. Well, it is the period where music jumped from being in the background and nothing could beat it. It was the period where, when I wasn’t “slaving away at school” I was having nothin’ but a good time. And I want to share this with this sweet child o’ mine.

And why not, after all, his little three year old brother has an affinity for rock n’ rolling all night, and partying every day. I really wish that kid would just go to sleep when we tell him to.

So tell me, which bands and what songs would you add to my list of the golden age of glam-metal, cock-rock, hard-rock bands?

One thought on “How To Give Your Children a Musical History Lesson

  1. Aerosmith – Love in an Elevator

    My boys love it when my husband and I crank old school Greenday, Bon Jovi and Def Leopard in the car.

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