Music from back in my day

I recently purchased three new albums on CD…and I realised that for my kids, at least three elements of this may not make any sense by the time they are teenagers. I mean who the hell will still buy music?…and if they do why buy an album when there’s only one song that they really like? And CD’s? CD’s?! For Christ’s sake Dad, you’re embarrassing us and yourself.
So I wanted to write some timeless advice to my kids about how to enjoy music, no matter technology brings…and why they shouldn’t throw out my CD collection when they eventually put me in a home (although this can pretty much be summarised by ‘there’s a CD of the Dandy Warhol’s debut album signed by the whole band…you don’t want to know what Daddy did to get it…but it’s probably worth some money now’).


In the past bands have released the ‘best’/’most likely to move units’ song off their album…in the hope that you would purchase the whole album. That was basically the choice, if you wanted to buy a single song, you bought the single…if you wanted more than one you bought the album. But of course nowadays you can simply grab individual tracks from an album, and ignore the rest. This is CHEATING!
Look, I like chocolate, and I like eggs, and I’m willing to tolerate flour…as individual ingredients they range from tolerable to delicious…but all combined, they can make an amazing cake (or a horrifying breakfast). And that’s what the band wants you to eat (the cake that is…not the breakfast). They have structured the album to be enjoyed as a whole, not broken up into individual elements and digested in isolation. So even if you don’t like some of the songs on the first listen, you should always buy the whole album. If for no other reason than there will be songs that on the first couple of listens don’t do anything for you…but suddenly start to grow on you, until they are the songs you want to listen much more than the song you originally bought the album for.

Hi Fidelity

No doubt by the time you read this, you will have no problem streaming enormous audio files at full quality anywhere you want (unless the NBN got scrapped and you have an elaborate network of strings and cans), but in my day we had to make a choice between high quality sound that took a long time to arrive, and lower quality sound that was there whenever we wanted it. We thought about this for about 6 seconds, and decided that we wanted our music now, now, NOW! and so the mp3 was born.
Now I’m not one of these people who demands that you listen to everything on vinyl*, and on a stereo* that has valve powered amps* and was designed by some German artisan who died while making it…but I do beg that you at least listen to music at the highest quality setting you can get, and that you get yourself some decent headphones. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to a song through decent headphones or speakers and heard a whole new parts of the song I’d never heard before.

The music you listen to from age 16 to 22 will be the best music ever

Now clearly this isn’t true, because everyone knows that the best music ever made was released from 1991- 1997 (which coincidentally was when I was 16 – 22), but I’m sure that you will believe something to the contrary. Because the music you listen to from 16 – 22 will be the soundtrack to your teen angst, your first love, the inevitable first break up, freedom, repression, sex, drugs and haircuts that you will regret for the rest of your life. But most importantly, you will have large amounts of time to totally immerse yourself in music. You will have time to listen to songs over and over again…and it’s this repetition that will hardwire the songs into your brain and inextricably link them with the incredible emotions you are feeling and give these songs a potency and resonance that words cannot describe.
Nonetheless I will tell it’s rubbish and demand you turn it down, and, if my worst fears are realised, will insist you listen to music from 1991 – 1997 so that ‘you can hear some real music’. I apologise in advance.

Go see live music

No doubt by the time you are reading this, you will be able to access any concert anywhere in the world, and listen to it in crystal clear audio and with HD vision. But this is not the same as being there. You won’t feel the entire audience being won over as Beth Gibbons lays her soul bare by singing one line in ‘Over’ with such passion and intensity that 10,000 people at Festival Hall think she is singing to them, you won’t feel the sheer power of Dana Colley playing two saxophones at once, you wont feel the euphoria as DJ Shadow drops the beat on Organ Donor and every person around you collectively loses their shit. You won’t feel it, because you weren’t there, you weren’t part of that moment.
So get out and see as much live music as you can. Because one day all of this will have past you by, and you’ll be writing blogs about music to your kids instead of going out and seeing a band.
If genetic selection is true, then you will hopefully have inherited my love of music and your mother’s musical talent and will be able to actually play music AND have a fantastic music collection. But even if you don’t, music should be one of the most important things in your life. So whether you stream it, or play it, or it is fed directly into your cerebral cortex via a chip, expose yourself to as much music as you can and remember if a music style exists, then there is someone out there who is doing it well enough for you to listen it…you just need to find them. And most importantly, if anyone other than Daft Punk tries to make music with a vocoder or autotune…you just ignore it…just ignore it.


* Just Google these and stop trying to make me feel older than I already do!

An open letter to my pregnant sister in Beijing

Any week now my sister is going to make me an Uncle, thus granting me the highly coveted male familial quartet of Father/Son/Brother/Uncle (a feat only achieved…by a dazzlingly high number of people…mostly men).
Regrettably she is over in China, and so I haven’t had the chance to pass on all my accumulated knowledge on what it’s like to become a parent for the first time…but I know she reads this blog, and I needed a topic for this fortnight…so this is what we in the industry call a ‘twofer’.
Now I’m No Expert But, here in no particular order are some things I wish I had known before I became a parent, but I didn’t find in any of the books I pretended to read about becoming a parent.

1. Sleep
You will want it, miss it and crave it. You will become obsessed with your child’s sleep. Complete strangers will ask you about your sleep. And do you know what? Not one of these things will actually help you get sleep.
There is no point comparing the amount of sleep you used to get before you had a baby, because that was a totally different time. Just as you can’t yell at your husband about having to make your own lunch, because you didn’t have to when you were 7 years old. That time has passed…and so to has having long stretches of unbroken sleep. Complaining about it won’t result in more sleep…but it is immeasurably therapeutic.
One of my clearest memories of when Josh was a couple of months old was talking to my boss at work and mentioning how many times I had been up the night before trying to get him to sleep. My boss had teenage kids and just looked wistfully into the middle distance and said ‘I would do anything to know where my kids were at night.’
Just know that there does come a time when you get to sleep through the night again, and that in the interim you will be freaking tired…but will find amazing reserves of energy.

2. Your child will be fine
One of the wonderful results of having very little sleep and being thrust into a role you have had very little preparation for, is that you suddenly start aging your baby 10yrs but giving them their current behaviours. ‘Oh my god I’m going to have the first child who sleeps in their parents bedroom until they’re 20’, ‘Oh my god our child is going to be the only child who still has a dummy at 10’, ‘Oh my god, my child is just going to scream every time he doesn’t get what he wants’. These are all things I thought about our first and second children, it’s only now with the third that I am able to relax and just enjoy my time knowing that they will develop at their own pace.

3. Accept people’s offers of help
A very large part of you will just want to just form a little cocoon around your new family and keep the rest of the world at arm’s length. Not least because you have no idea what you’re doing and don’t want someone to come in and tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
But if someone offers to bring around a meal, or clean up, or hold the baby while you have a lie down…take them up on it. They will feel great knowing that they’re helping you out, and you will feel great having one less thing to worry about.

4. Get ready to have your world view changed
Your respect for single parents will increase about 400%…your shame about your behaviour towards your own parents will increase about 8,000%…and the frequency of you crying while watching movies/news reports/Octonauts will be awkward for your fellow film viewers/colleagues/6 yr old nephews.
Also, have you heard that amazing new album by that hot new band? No, neither have I…however some of the Hooley Dooley’s early stuff is sublime.
In the last three years I have never read so few books, but listened to so many podcasts.
I’ve never been so consumed by own little part of the world, but had so many moments of noticing true beauty in the world around me.
And I’ve never felt so insanely out of control of my life, but felt so content.
Best of all you can start any sentence with ‘As a parent…’ and non-parents have to pretend that this actually somehow makes your point more valid.

5. Go in and look at your baby before you go to sleep
This is not out of some paranoia that they might have stopped breathing (although, to be honest….you will do this a couple of times), and not because it is the one time when they’re not expecting you to do something for them.
But because there is nothing more beautiful than the sight of your own child sleeping.

So let’s see that’s everything I know about parenting in less than 850 words…yep, that sounds about right.
Babies are contrary things, so just because something works one day…doesn’t mean it will work the next. But by the same token a failed strategy one day may be the perfect solution the next. Just go with your instincts, you’ll be right more times that you’re wrong. Why? Because you’re an amazing person, and you’re going to be a fantastic parent!