Do you have a theme tune to your life? Does it skip through your head as you walk down the street (like John Travolta swaying his hips to Staying Alive)? Do you sing opera in the shower?
When I was born I’m Alive by The Hollies was number one in the UK charts. Quite apt. However I don’t remember it. The song I first remember was I’ll Never Fall in Love Again by Bobbie Gentry, playing loudly as I watched a carousel spin round in a fairground in Ramsgate, on a family holiday. I’m sure you have similar memories.
I grew up in the 70s. When I was about six my Dad borrowed a record from a colleague and played it for me. I fell in love immediately. It was Puppy Love by Donny Osmond. There followed years of crappy pop music that stirred my young, tank-top covered, heart. Sugar Baby Love by the Rubettes, Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks and who could forget David Cassidy taking that bloody puppy for a walk. I waded through David Essex claiming he could make me a star, persevered as Barry Manilow called me Mandy and endured Tony Orlando begging me to Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree. It was a wild ride.
There followed a brief period of me trying to locate the horribly old-fashioned tartan skirts of the year before and cutting them up into lengths of scarves. Rushing home from school to watch something called ‘Shang-a-Lang’. Then came a mercifully brief period of disco music and finally, good sense prevailed. All that pop music and wet balladry hadn’t entirely turned my brain to discarded washing-up water.
They came dressed in ripped jeans with chains attached. Their mouths were dirty and they weren’t pretty. But I was in heaven. My puberty hit at the same time as Johnny Rotten was being rude about the Queen. They came with wonderful names; The Skids, X-Ray Spex, The Vibrators, Stiff Little Fingers, Siouxie and the Banshees. They yelled and screamed, well, like Banshees. They dyed their hair paraffin blue, rocket red, bile green. They wore safety pins in their ears, draped their bodies in bin liners and when they weren’t screaming from a place of deep inner pain, they were using words I had never heard of but sounded BAAAAADDDDD.
I played the black vinyl to a level where my record player (oh the innocence!) shook across the room. I can’t remember my mum and dad having a problem with Sid Vicious dribbling and moaning through Sinatra’s finest or Jean-Jacques Burnel being saucy. They would look at each other with an affectionate smile and agree. “It’s just one of her phases.”
Well it bloody wasn’t. I was a punk to the core and I would die a punk. I would live hard and die fast and I wouldn’t take any prisoners. I should type that out again and replace the words punk with ‘hippie’ (make love and eat quiche), ‘heavy metal fan’ (get down and dirty with leather and studs), ‘Progressive Rockster’ (dream sequences and concept art) ‘Electric Folk Fan’ (yes – really). ‘Opera Chick’, and any other music you can think of. Except country and western (obviously).
And rap. Sounds dreadful, words are crap. But it’s all No.1 Son listens to. Those years when we danced to Andy Williams on a Friday night are definitely over. When he was nine I spent a manic Sunday morning ‘educating’ him. “You can’t know Elvis until you’ve heard the blues. You can’t appreciate Oasis without listening to The Beatles.” Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Undertones. Poor child listened to it all then slunk off at the first opportunity to plug in his ipod and nod his head knowingly to Eminem. It had worked better for my Dad and Donny Osmond.
Recently I saw a light flicker in No.2 Son’s eyes when he heard Time by Pink Floyd. I pounced. I took him through his musical education on You Tube. I made him sit through Robert Plant straining Stairway to Heaven, bare-chested wearing hipster pants and screaming poetry. I sat back after that final note, the last ‘heaven’, expecting tears, proclamations of brilliance. “It’s very old-fashioned Mum”.
I wore liquid kohl and ripped tights. Satin skirts slashed to the thigh. My jeans were ripped at the knees years before it was fashionable. Perhaps I’ll ply my children with Elvis Costello singing Pump it Up! I reckon he’s still got it.
The alternative? Admit defeat and slide into pastel coloured slacks and cashmere cardi’s. Sounds quite attractive actually. Where did I put that old tartan rug?