Wesley Stace has released 17 albums under the name John Wesley Harding. His new Self-Titled, for which he has returned to his given name, was released by Yep Roc, September 2013. He has also published three novels.
When my two kids - now aged 7 and 5 - were toddlers, people said to me: "I bet you make a children's record now." This was never really on the cards, but perhaps as a substitute for that never-to-be-made record, I wrote a novel instead - WONDERKID - about a band who make children's records, a genre now called "Kindie Music". When you're a parent, you spend a lot of time listening to, and singing or making music, with your kids, and thus you spend a lot of time thinking about what music means to them. You also end up thinking, particularly if you're a musician, about the people who make the music your kids are enjoying: hence the novel.
Perhaps our family's greatest musical collaboration so far - and we may or may not become the von Stace Family Singers - is something we call the Ultimate Playlist. It's the twenty songs my kids love most at any given time, an ever-evolving selection, always handy on the iPhone. The songs have come to them from different sources:
- I Like to Move It, Move It (by Sasha Baron Cohen from Madagascar)
- Theme from Ghostbusters
- Hall of the The Mountain King (Grieg, as featured in Little Einsteins: we also have versions of this by Madness, The Wombles and ELO)
- I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You and Rockaway Beach (by The Ramones and both featured in the chase scenes in Scooby Doo)
- The Tra-La-La Song (AKA Banana Splits theme)
- One Way Or Another (by Blondie, as sung by the Rat King in last year's pantomime in England)
- Rock Lobster (by the B52s)
- Don Alfonso (by Mike Oldfield)
Their slightly more corrupt friends:
- Call Me Maybe (by Carlie Rae Jepsen)
- Wrecking Ball (by Miley Cyrus)
By any standards, it's quite a collaboration and something we all take pretty seriously. Occasionally something gets voted off the island (most recently Nellie The Elephant by The Toy Dolls: they'd moved on.)
The other day, my five year old son asked for the Theme to Spiderman, which I happily downloaded from iTunes as performed by The Hit Crew. (Oddly, the Ramones recorded a version of this too.) He then asked me for the Iron Man theme. I looked but couldn't find anything that seemed like Theme to Iron Man, in the same sense that Theme to Spiderman is "Spiderman/Spiderman/Does whatever a spider can" etc. There was nothing along the lines of "Iron man/Iron Man/Can he fly/Yes he can". So we went on youtube together. It turned out that what he wanted was Black Sabbath's song Iron Man.
This was pretty much where I was ready to draw the line, because I hate Black Sabbath. Let me put that another way: I hated Black Sabbath when I was a kid because it wasn't anything like the kind of music I listened to - smart serious music with considered lyrics and acoustic guitars - and because the people who did listen to Black Sabbath looked stupid and wore their hair in a manner of which I didn't approve. And the last thing I now wanted, aged 48, was to have to listen to Black Sabbath in the car at 7.40am. I honestly would have preferred Call Me Maybe (which is totally great, by the way.)
But, in an attempt to be a good father and because I am basically, despite my prejudices, interested in all music (and could only actually remember one song by Black Sabbath, that song being Paranoid), I downloaded a digital Greatest Hits, ready to surprise my son next time he made his metallic request. It turns out - and I apologise for being an idiot, but it turns out it's good to miss out so entirely on whole genres of music in your youth, because to discover it, and enjoy it, without any baggage in your maturity is quite a thing - that Black Sabbath are AMAZING. It turns out that Black Sabbath's first album is a masterpiece; a masterpiece I would possibly never have given the time of day unless my 5 year old son had asked me to download Theme to Iron Man.
Iron Man was our gateway drug, and then (encouraged by an email correspondent, amused by my sudden left turn into metal) we moved on to The Wizard - truly one of the greatest riffs I've ever heard, featuring Ozzy on harmonica, and one of Sabbath's few happy songs: it must be about Gandalf or something - and then things exploded with the leaden evil riffage of Paranoid. Cut to a few days ago, on the school run, just before 8am: esteemed English writer James Parker, quite the Heavy Metal expert, is in the car with us, having stayed the night on his way back from DC. I casually ask Wyn, still five years old, what he'd like to hear and he pipes up from the back, in a very matter-of-fact voice, like he's made the request a million times (though he never had once): War Pigs.
So, sure, my kids will probably get into Bob Dylan - almost everyone does - and we'll be able to talk about how I saw him way back when; and they'll get into some old band having a comeback, or whose song is featured in some ad, and be amused that I have some of that band's old records; and they'll be annoyed that I don't get whatever it is they're listening to; and equally annoyed that I'm not shocked by whatever they hope to scandalize me with (as my parents were, so satisfactorily for both of us); and they'll wonder what to do with all my vinyl when I die.
But before I do, I want them to get me into everything they're listening to. Because if Wyn, aged 5, can convert me to Sabbath now, what on earth is he going to be laying on me when he's 10? And to hear Tilda, aged 7, singing in her sweet, innocent, soprano about what happens when the Wizard walks by, is something that would bring a tear to Ozzy's bloodshot eyes, as it does to mine.