WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Squaresville

Sometimes it dawns on you, with no provocation at all, that your parents were totally square when you were a kid.

For instance, I was just doing some math in my head and realized that in 1963 my folks were twenty-eight and twenty-nine years old (Mom and Dad, respectively). A good age, I think, not just to have been aware of Bob Dylan but to have embraced him as probably the coolest thing on the air at the time. The Beatles hadn’t arrived yet, but even the The Beatles might have seemed pretty teenybopper at the beginning, with all those screaming girls. But Dylan was serious and fresh and had forced folk music to evolve away from the stuff sung by Irish lads in thick white fisherman’s sweaters (as Elvis Costello always refers to). He was a force to be reckoned with.

I was only six, but all I remember on the stereo back then was Ray Coniff LPs and the soundtrack to The Music Man. My dad had some Dixieland records in rotation, and at least one disc featuring the haunting sounds of the Scottish bagpipes. But there was no Bob Dylan, no Coltrane, no Monk, no Anita O’Day, no blues. Definitely no soul.

Why weren’t my parents cool enough to get into Bob Dylan?

Instead, as I grew older, Dad acquired several albums by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, which was fun enough for an eight-year-old to bounce around to, but by then AM radio had some pretty great stuff – all of which Mom and Dad were seemingly oblivious to. Mom discovered Tom Jones in there somewhere, and that set us back further, especially when it began to hit me as I turned ten or so that I was living in a musical sensory deprivation tank. An older kid down the block sat on his front steps with a guitar and played “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream, and I’m going, “What the bejesus is that?” And I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in their Sergeant Pepper outfits and went, “They’re different now, aren’t they?”

As I became pubescent and my parents got divorced, I started trying to educate Mom. I’d play my own records on the family turntable, exposing her to Blind Faith and Traffic and Led Zeppelin. She countered with the Partridge Family. I gave her FM radio when we were in the car. She flipped to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”

Meanwhile, when we visited my dad in California, he promptly popped a Liza Minelli 8-track into the deck, and I freaked out. His record collection was eclectic, but he definitely listed toward what used to be called “easy listening” and is now referred to as “torture.” I started praying when I was fifteen that I wouldn’t inherit his LPs.

This is all just one way of saying that I’m glad I don’t have children, because I’m sure I would seem as square to them as my folks seemed to me. The coolest music I have is at least fifty years old and played by people like Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, Sarah Vaughan, Kenny Burrell. No doubt my kids would say I’m hopelessly stuck in the past because I can’t handle Kendrick Lamar or XXXTentacion. And they’d flip their lids when I told them they were just like me when I was their age, as I sit back with The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan on the t’table.

21 comments on “Squaresville

  1. S.K. Nicholls
    March 20, 2018

    When I started hearing that good ole rock n roll being played in elevators, I knew I was officially old.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 20, 2018

      Yes, it’s upsetting to realize that some of your favorite music is 50 years old. 😐

  2. Priscilla Bettis
    March 20, 2018

    Around 2000, my daughter came home from school with a cool, new song from a band called Wild Cherry. She couldn’t believe how hip I was because I knew the words and how to dance to it. It was their ’76 song “Play That Funky Music.”:-)

    Haha, I guess if my daughter likes old people’s music, then SHE’s the square one!

  3. kingmidget
    March 20, 2018

    Yeeeessss. Easy listening. When I got my first radio in my room, my mom put it on one of those stations. It wasn’t long before I had switched it to the Top 40 station my sisters listened to, and eventually to KZAP, the local album rock station in the 70s. My mother insisted that as I got older I would turn away from this music. Sorry, mother, but i didn’t. 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 20, 2018

      I’m afraid that what KZAP was playing back then is considered easy listening now!

  4. 1WriteWay
    March 20, 2018

    Is there music today that is worth hanging on to? I keep reaching back to the past when I want to listen to music. What was it that Quincy Jones said, you quote him a while ago, something like “And God left the room” to describe the way some music is being “created” these days. Damn good thing I don’t have kids 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 20, 2018

      I hear a lot of indie music that I like, but nothing mainstream appeals to me. It’s all gone rappy. Or diva stuff. Thank God for Spotify, so I can listen to just about anything I want and avoid the radio altogether. 😉

      • 1WriteWay
        March 20, 2018

        The only new music I hear is in my yoga classes… yeah, it’s not just chanting and sitar 😬

  5. John W. Howell
    March 20, 2018

    Before I retired I supervised a bunch of twenty-something lawyers. We were on a conference call and as usual, before business, the discussion turned to leisure time activities and this time it was music. One of the young women asked me the last song I had listened to on the radio. I think it was an effort to get under the old codger’s music habits and perhaps to see if they ever heard of the music. I responded “You are a Tourist, ” by Death Cab for Cutie. Total silence. I did say my favorite group at the time was Wheezer. More silence. I think I had invaded their private space music-wise.

  6. Eric the Gray
    March 20, 2018

    My father thinks Beyonce’s name is Destiny Childs.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 21, 2018

      Ha! I bet there is someone out there named Destiny Childs by now. Poor kid.

  7. Proseccotrail
    March 20, 2018

    Wonderfully written piece. Personally I can’t fully imagine how I would look at the world if I had grown up without Dylan.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 21, 2018

      Thank you! Makes me wonder if I’m missing out on tomorrow’s Dylan … whoever that might be. 🤔

  8. Proseccotrail
    March 21, 2018

    The kids today say it’s Kendrick Lamar

  9. cincinnatibabyhead
    March 25, 2018

    You just proved my point again. You have a wealth of good music that you have been exposed to. Lots of good writing there. I was lucky, my old-man was listening to Coleman Hawkins, Ellington, Eckstine, Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Boots Randolph! Plus various others.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 25, 2018

      Thanks, CB. Boy, I would have loved a head start on great music as a kid. I was a junior in high school when I first hear the words “Thelonius Monk”!

      • cincinnatibabyhead
        March 25, 2018

        I just found out early that there was secret music outside of the herd like TM.

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This entry was posted on March 20, 2018 by in Music and tagged , .
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