Controversy Wednesday: REALLY GOOD, REALLY INAPPROPRIATE MUSIC

10 Aug

Ahem.

WARNING: If you are easily shocked, this might not be the best post for you.  Run along now, shoo.

The raisons d’etre for this blog post are a little obscure, so I’ll give a little context in three parts.

1) The other day, whilst driving across town with a fussier-than-usual Seabass in tow, I turned on the radio and hit upon an old favorite, Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song.”  As Seabass grew more and more fussy, I turned the volume dial up and up and up until it drowned him out.  (This is often the only way I can get Seabass to relax in the car for any drive that exceeds 10 minutes in length.)  Finally, he stopped whining and stared out the window.  As we drove with “The Lemon Song” thumping, I started to pay attention to the lyrics:

Squeeze me, babe, ’till the juice runs down my leg

Squeeze me, baby, until the juice runs down my leg

The way you squeeze my lemon, ah

I’m gonna fall right outta bed, ‘ed, ‘ed, bed, yeah

As Robert Plant howled and moaned these words, I shot a nervous glance back in the rear-view mirror at Seabass.  Does he understand?  Does he sense the innuendo? Unnerving.

2) I was preparing dinner in the kitchen last night with the local college radio station on in the background when Seabass ran in from his bedroom and started “dancing” (bobbing, shaking, lurching) to the beat.

“Do you like this song, baby?” I laughed, putting my knife down and starting to dance with him.  I went to turn the music up and realized it was a song I used to sing karaoke to in college: Eric Clapton’s Cocaine.”

Hmmm.

Boo Boo Records, San Luis Obispo

3) Like every Wednesday, we attended the kids’ music hour this morning at my old workplace, Boo Boo Records.  If you’ve ever been inside, you know that it’s packed to the gills with old concert memorobilia, record covers, and music posters.  I’ve stared at the walls for years and somehow missed a giant LP called “Butt Candy” by The Sidekicks until this morning.  I noticed it sometime between singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and “I’m A Little Teapot.”

Part of me wants to grab Seabass and run away from this stuff.  I mean, it’s completely inappropriate to talk lemon-squeezing, cocaine-snorting and butt candy at his age…or any other, really.  And I can already see his little wheels turning, trying to sort life out.  It makes me want to vacuum-pack him to preserve his sweet innocence for as long as possible.

But there’s another part of me that loves Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin so much (um, I could do without the Butt Candy, though) that I want Seabass to enjoy dancing to their infectious rhythms no matter what the words say.  They are, after all, our rock and roll heritage!  And it’s not my fault that they put dirty words to face-melting solos and tasty licks.

I always appreciated that, even though my parents were born-again Christians, they never stopped rocking to good music.  (Mom and Dad met in a rock band in the 70s, so it’s in my blood.)  My brother and I grew up with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, the Eagles – even Cheech and Chong – and have not only lived to tell about it, but have become respectable members of society…with excellent taste in music, I might add.

Enough outta me – what do you think?  Sterilize your kids’ upbringing to preserve their innocence or give them a comprehensive cultural education and run the risk of exposing them to something disturbing along the way?

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10 Responses to “Controversy Wednesday: REALLY GOOD, REALLY INAPPROPRIATE MUSIC”

  1. Kendra Williams August 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    I am for expose and process with your child at their age appropriate level. In my days (junior high) I really got into hip hop/rap, who cares about NKOTB, I wanted to hear NWA, Too Short, Public Enemy, and the likes. The rule was I had to listen to the entire album/tape with my father, before I was allowed to listen to it on my own. In many ways it was a great social justice/sociology lesson, we would discuss racism, sexism, and all other isms that the music covered. Music is so powerful, why would you want to hide your child from expression.
    Now I am a mom, and I love to clean the house to old school rap and hip hop (so sad that it is now considered “old school”) while picking my daughter up and bouncing to the beat as Easy E shouts “straight out of Compton”, knowing she and I will have the same open discussion as my Dad and I did when is older.

  2. Monika August 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    I’d rather my daughter listen to songs about cocaine and lemon squeezing than some of the absolutely terrifying kids music out there. (Raffi? Please God, no.)

  3. Oma August 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Use common sense – though you were raised with all sorts of (awesome) rock and roll (and Evening at the Improv…) there was an incident where I took back a Vanilla Ice album because I felt it was in appropriate – you were in Jr. High and I wasn’t thrilled about how women were ‘used’/described – maybe it was your age or what I was seeing in your peer group? I did explain to you why at the time and you came with me to choose something else. I love how Kendra’s dad handled it – that’s some good parenting right there.
    Loved this post!!!
    Oma
    Ps: that little guppy’s got some serious moves…he loves his music!!! (even his old Oma’s uke!)

  4. shotwellwallace August 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    my dad loves music, and liked to play it loud enough to rattle the windows of our house when i was younger. i grew up on a healthy mix of kids music (yes, we had raffi and a sesame street LP in our house), but also ‘real’ music (which is sometimes…or often…considered inappropriate). i cherish the memories of listening to music with my dad at home and in the car, and don’t think that i lost any of my innocence any earlier than i otherwise would have thanks to it. in fact, i’d say that my taste in music was probably greatly improved by him (LOVE led zeppelin!). because of that i plan to do the same for our child. he’s already had a good dose of zeppelin, nirvana, black crowes, black keys, the white stripes, and lots of other folks. at home we tend to set our tv to play either a kids pandora station or the kids music channel on satellite, which he also loves. as he gets older my plan is to play a very active role in helping to explain some things, but i have to admit–i’ll probably censor some stuff too (no explicit gangsta rap will be played in his presence, nor cee lo green’s ‘f**k you’ song, as much as i love it).

  5. Marta August 10, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    No way! I definitely let my four year old listen to our music (though I tend to draw the line on some of my husband’s music, mostly because I’m not a fan of Atreyu or the like so I call it “inappropriate” but sshh don’t tell him!). I think its great to expose SeaBass to a wide variety above and beyond the wheels on the bus.

  6. Linda Z August 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    I love the “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” argument. I don’t really listen to the lyrics… sure. Uh huh. 🙂

    There are plenty of songs out there that don’t demean women or the holiness of sex. No need to be gross!

    Would you offer someone brownies with just a little bit of dog poo in it and say… ya, but the chocolate is amazing, you won’t even taste the poo. Gross, man, gross! Eat the good brownie, girl! Just say no to poo poo!

    • Nurse Becky August 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

      Love your writing! I tend to agree with the Z woman ;o). I just don’t like poo in my brownies–not when there are so many other wonderful recipes that don’t include poo.. 🙂

  7. Harry 404 August 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    Hi Jaime. I knew from the title this was going to be a hot topic with lots of responses. Thanks for bringing it up.

    As a Christian, I’ve been wrestling with this issue, going back-and-forth with what I’ll listen to, for years. Back in my day it was so annoying that Rod Stewart (unlike the Pretty Schlock he’s doing nowadays) had songs like “Hot Legs” and “Stay with Me” that absolutely rocked but were chock-full of dog-poo lyrics (thanks for the metaphor L Z.) E.g. “You know I’ll pay your car-fare home/You can even use my best cologne/Just don’t be here in the morning when I wake up.” Well, at least there was plenty of chocolate, too.

    For a long time I dealt with it by listening to Smooth Jazz. No lyrics, just lots of safe sax.

    When I finally shook myself awake, I realized I’d missed some great bands. I discovered Rage Against the Machine only AFTER they’d broken up. They have got to be considered latter-day descendants, musically speaking, of Led Zeppelin, with their intricate interplay between instruments and the absolute creative genius of Tom Morello’s guitar playing/thrashing/screeching/crunching/helicopter-whooping etc. The trouble with the band is their lyrics which contain F- or S- words in practically every line. (For those unfamiliar and curious you can check out the music, safely, by listening to their cover versions of the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” and Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm”… no bad words there, just great re-interpretations of old-school songs.)

    Back to your original post, Jaime, you chronicle the shift in viewpoint of every parent-who-cares. It’s as if when YOU’RE a kid, you can handle the poo (or believe you can.) When you HAVE a kid you’d like to protect them the poo.

    I don’t have any easy answers. I’ve pretty much handled it A) by commenting on stuff we/they’re listening too with things like, “Great music, but sketchy lyrics, eh?” B) I’m NOT introducing them to Rage Against the Machine (or stuff like it.) If they discover it themselves, fine, but it’s just too much to explain away and I don’t want it to set an example that “It’s OK because Dad listens to it.” (Go ahead, call me a hypocrite.) C) I consciously, deliberately, limit my own exposure to inappropriate content. I can’t help what I like, but I can put myself on a diet.

  8. AKeo August 11, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    This is definitely something I’ve thought about. And there is no way I can keep my child from hearing/seeing dirty words unless we throw out the TV, rip out the stereos, and never venture close to any form of technology. Which is ridiculous. Not to mention the 5th graders on the back of the bus will teach them a few things as well.
    So, I will choose to keep the exposure limited. As he grows we will discuss how some people use bad words, say bad things, do bad things but this is how we react to that. And I will constantly have to gauge whether he is a kid that can handle exposure without being tempted or tainted or if I have to bubble wrap him and build a clean room off the side of the house.

  9. g-mama August 15, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    I love love love this post and feel much better about the Red Hot Chile Peppers Dom and I were diggin to this weekend. Surf Psycho – bring it on!

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