I believe that my responsibility as a father is to educate my children. This morning, as my 11 year-old son was boarding the school bus, he lolly-gagged at the bus door, holding up the line. "Halen!" I said. "Get out of my dreams, and into the car!" He looked at me all confused-like, and I said, "Oh, it's a Billy Ocean song, It's super cool. I'll play it for you when you get home. You'll love it. Or else you're grounded."
About a year ago I made a playlist of about a hundred songs from 1985-2005, songs that I remember hearing on the radio when I was growing up, or songs that were popular when I was in high school and college. Songs linked with all the beautiful memories of childhood, and the horrible, putrid moments of adolescence that seem life-ending at the time but that end up being beautiful memories themselves when you're older. They're not all great songs -- a song doesn't have to be well-written, or well-recorded, or brilliant or earth-shaking to make you feel good when you hear it.
I have some Saigon Kick on there, a one-hit wonder, if "Love Is On the Way" was even a hit. I'm honestly not sure. They played it a bunch on the radio in my little hometown but that station also played Belgian synth-pop, so maybe it's not the best barometer for hits.
I sprinkled in some Beach Boys because, as you may remember, they hit paydirt in 1988 with "Kokomo," which, like many songs on my playlist, is so stupid that it's like hugging a well-used teddy bear every time I hear it. One night me and Bing were having a sleepover and for some reason we ended up sleeping in the downstairs hallway outside the laundry room, which seems super weird looking back on it now, since the floor was concrete. Bing passed out but I couldn't sleep, so I went and got my radio and "Kokomo" came on in the middle of the night (probably because it was so bad no one wanted to hear it during the day) and to this day there are no words that, in my mind, rhyme better than "Bahama" and "pretty mama."
There's some Cardigans, "Lovefool," made popular by Romeo + Juliet in 1996. Shakespeare's star was fading in the late-20th century (not really, but I need to establish this made-up fact for literary purposes), but after the summer of '96, all the guys re-realized that chicks dig iambic pentameter and pencil 'staches, and Shakespeare's fortunes were revived. Phew! Fortunately, we can now enjoy at least another century of incest and tragic suicides.
I am unashamed to admit that "Tubthumping" made my playlist as well -- it's probably the most popular song ever by a band of anarchists. My kids think it's pretty annoying, and so does Rolling Stone magazine, and so does Chumbawamba. But I don't. And I am the only person that matters, apart from Lenny Bruce, who is not afraid, if you were wondering.
I've made my kids listen to the playlist on and off for the past year. They resist sometimes, but a light tazing reminds them to align themselves with my wishes.
But my four year-old, Violet, has found herself a favorite song from the list: "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls, which is obviously an awful song, so awful, in fact, that it's fantastic. One day, after a few months of having the playlist on at dinner and while driving, Shannon heard Violet singing to herself in her room, to the tune of "Wannabe," singing the words, "If you want a big fat Uhhhh, doh-ghee-whoa my fwiends." So, now, around the house when somebody is feeling glum, we ask, "Do you want a big fat Uhhhh?" Oh, man. It's so funny. I guess you have to be there.