In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: Songs we felt we had to hide from others.
Every anticipatory parent maintains that theirs will be the child who grows up with a model musical pedigree. The kid who will turn up their little nose at Disney soundtracks to introduce their pre-k playmates to the first Clash album. If they never hear anything but The Velvet Underground, parents reason, how can they like anything else?
Excuse me while I wipe tears (Of laughter? Regret? Hard to say.) from my eyes as I remember how I, too, aimed to be one of those parents. Instead of Baby Einstein CDs, my kids were pummeled with R.E.M. albums. Which would be the most child-palatable Beatles release? Rubber Soul? Sure.
My husband and I tried. We all try. Then you discover that those two geniuses in They Might Be Giants crafted some children’s albums that are both educational and enjoyable to listen to; that the guy who led The Bad Examples has built his own cottage kids’ music industry in Ralph’s World; and that even Robbie Fulks contributed a hilarious song about a disgusting magician to a youth-aimed Bloodshot Records compilation. (Hey, it’s alt-country, how bad can it be?)
Still, we wanted to be the cool parents, the ones who brought the youngest fans to the Weezer concert. So for one of the kids’ birthdays, instead of lame party favors, we offered a mix CD, something fun for families like ours to listen to in their mini-vans. We slaved over the set list. My husband insisted on a song by The Jesus Lizard. I tossed in some by The Monkees and Veruca Salt.
That was the year we also invited the whole pre-k to the party, because everyone was taking off for kindergarten next year. Usually you can count on some random ear infections or visiting relatives to pare down the guest list, but nearly everyone showed up. We had 30 dropoff 5-year-old guests and no insurance waivers. I had also inconveniently decided that cake pops were cooler than cupcakes, not realizing that they were about 10 times more labor-intensive and required insane Rube Goldberg-like setups to get the frosted pops to stand up without getting icing all over the place. They also seemed a little small. So the night before the party I started on another batch, bringing my cake-pop total up to about 100.
As I was elbow-deep in this labor, I listened to the mix CD. And somehow, for the very first time, I noticed that the name of that catchy Weezer song I had insisted on including was “Dope Nose.” All of a sudden, those lyrics I’d never really noticed before—“For the times that you wanna go and / Bust rhymes real slow / I’ll appear, slap you on the face, and / Enjoy the show”—made a hell of a lot more sense. Honestly, my clueless self just loved the irrepressible hook of the song (and so did my offspring, who had heard it 100 times), and I hadn’t paid close enough attention to its possible meaning for its inclusion on a kids’ birthday CD. I could only imagine the dropped jaws of 60 other parents, some of whom I didn’t know very well, as they spied the track list and noticed my secret subliminal message to get their kids to try weed. Why couldn’t I have just gone with something easy like “Buddy Holly” or “Island In The Sun”?
I ran downstairs to give my husband the bad news: “Hey, guess what? You have to re-burn all the CDs!”
He sputtered, “What in the hell?”
“You have to!” I pleaded, desperate after 20 straight hours of cake-pop preparation. “Because right now, we’re just the parents who are promoting drugs and don’t have enough cake!”
Because he is the best husband and father in the world, the discs were updated without the potentially problematic song. The CDs and cake pops were a huge hit. The party went off without a hitch, give or take 30 sugar rushes. And despite all our efforts, given the option, today my children will pick Taylor Swift over The Pixies every single time.