Don’t Buy Me No Dad Rock
I recently became a father. I say recently, it was three years ago. It seems like it was only yesterday though, perhaps due to the fact I’ve spent much of the last 36 months in denial — denial about being a proper grown up; denial about what might or might not be lurking in my daughter’s nappy on a nightly basis; denial about what the future might bring as she grows up and becomes a teenager.
But what I’m most concerned about with fatherhood at the moment — something I should have perhaps considered before the whole conception thing — is dad rock. Ever since Father’s Day passed without incident (my daughter is thankfully too young to go to the shops herself, so I still get a say in what I get as token present), the thought of being classified in the ‘dad rock’ bracket has been plaguing my mind. And it goes beyond the thought of being bought CDs with Jeremy Clarkson on the cover (jacket and jeans), playing air-guitar with nicotine stained fingers, while thrusting his denim-clad groin towards some form of military vehicle (tank/plane/missile carrier). What if — oh shit, please no — just what if some of the music I really love starts appearing on these charity shop-destined CDs? What if I’m given a dad rock compilation album that’s full of songs I love
Dad rock — what does it even mean? Anything with a dad prefix or suffix (dad rock, dad dancing, festival dad) is deemed as something that is ‘not cool’. For music, it seems to be nothing more than a marketing term, more often than not used to describe bands from the 60s, 70s and 80s. But it’s not the music of my generation and many of my generation are now dads. Is the music of my generation sliding towards a great gaping hole, dragging finger nails in the sand as it edges towards the Sarlacc Pit of dad rock. The 60s, 70s and 80s have passed through its horrific maw, will the 90s and 00s follow?
The truth is though, it makes my soul curdle when I think that any songs — from whichever generation — have been lumped into a marketing-devised genre that creates yet more generational divisions. But then music is divisive by its very nature — between sub-genres, fans and generations. It’s not a given across the board, but we’re often led to believe that every generation is cursed with a lack of understanding of the music loved by the generations that follow and precede it.
But shouldn’t music be for everyone? How did we get to the stage when dad rock albums became acceptable? Should fans be pigeonholed by age? Should age even be an issue when it comes to listening music? Well, some people seem to think it is. Back in 2007, chinstrap-sporting Glastonbury Festival organiser Michael Eavis moaned about the amount of 30- to 40-year-olds buying up tickets to the event and ruining the atmosphere. At the time, Guardian journalist John Harris suggested people in their 30s should avoid the festival and start attending more age appropriate events. He also recommended that once you hit the big three-oh you should stop listening to certain types of music and instead stick to consuming music made by people your own age. In a more recent column, Harris seemed to do a partial about-face, defending ‘festival dads’ in an attempt to rebuff Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper’s efforts to rid the station of its over-45 demographic and realign it with the nation’s youth.
These kind of beliefs voiced by the establishment (yes Eavis, you are part of the vaguely titled, shadowy, abstract authoritarian organisation only known as the ‘establishment’, or the ‘man’ in some circles) only exacerbates the generational conflict in the music world. Why shouldn’t the over-40s attend Glastonbury and listen to Radio 1? Why shouldn’t the under-20s attend Neil Diamond concerts and listen to Robert Palmer? I’m happy to live in a world where 50-year-old goths roam the streets and 19-year-olds sing-a-long to Motown hits.
Rather than it being a case of constant fireworks, where a music induced conversation ends with the young wanting a Soylent Green solution for the old and the old wanting a Battle Royale solution for the young, in reality it’s just not that black and white. It’s easy for any conversation about the generation gap to start inadvertently steering towards sweeping generalisations that end up firing even more heated debate, but there are oh-so many grey areas.
People will love good music, no matter what generation it stems from. And the dissolution of the old chart format and the dawn of the digital age has helped close the gap between generations.
As for my daughter — chances are she’ll have very little common with me musically. I have very little in common with my father when it comes to music — the man likes Heart for fuck’s sake. I’m trying to establish a vetting process (Dino 5, yes; Gummy Bear Song, no), but in my heart I know my efforts will be in vain. I figure I can tolerate whatever music she likes, as long as she doesn’t give me a dad rock compilation CD.