Declarations from the driver’s seat
My daughter doesn’t have to ask my expert opinion on music — it’s automatic
I’ve recently become aware of an unexpected option in my car — evidently the driver’s seat can double as a soap box.
I renewed my satellite radio subscription, so we continue to have access to a wide range of tunes you won’t hear on commercial radio. For the daughter of a guy who has very strong opinions about music, every trip to the grocery store, every drive to a cousin’s house and every mundane errand has turned into a master class on music. At least that’s how I see it. I think from her perspective it’s more like “old guy pontificates about things that don’t really matter.”
This is how it usually goes: I’ll start the car, turn on the radio, then flip through all the channels until something strikes me as interesting. That’s when the lecture starts. I’ll ask her opinion, talk about the history of whatever band is playing, or make a weird face and change the station again.
It makes our time in the car fun, though. Instead of riding in silence or having her stare at her phone for the duration, we have a back-and-forth about what we’re hearing. While carting her to a bass lesson in Derry, I kept an account of the music we heard and the commentary it prompted. For scientific purposes, of course.
Me: “These guys were really pioneering for their time, and the guitarist’s name is ‘Dr. Know.’”
Her: “Does he even have a medical degree?”
Bon Jovi (Changes the channel immediately.)
When Johnny Rotten wrote the lyrics to “God Save the Queen” in 1976, there’s no way he could’ve known that some graying dude in New Hampshire would be singing along to it with his daughter 40 years later. Maybe it’s lost some of its controversial gut-punch, but when my daughter plugs in her bass and I punch out the chords on my Tele, I think we could be a safety-pinned Partridge Family.
Me: “No future!”
Her: “You can say that with a straight face at 50?”
Me: “You’re grounded.”
Me: “Tell me what album this song is on and I’ll stop for ice cream.”
Her: “Greatest Hits?”
Clever, but there would be no ice creams of victory this day.
Me: “How do you say Cat Stevens in Spanish?”
Her: “Cat Stevens.”
Me: “Isn’t it Gato Stevens or something?”
Her: *Looks at me with a mix of bemusement and disappointment*
When this band comes on the radio, my true oratory skills come to the fore. It’s a well-known fact I am North America’s foremost Iron Maiden scholar. I have a PhD in Running to the Hills, and she knows that if these guys come on the radio, we’ll spend the rest of the drive talking about the Crimean War, “Young Goodman Brown” or the story of the R101 airship. The way I see it, if the lyrics to “Alexander the Great” helped me pass a Western Civilization test in college, I’m being a responsible parent.
Me: “I first became a fan of this band…”
Her: “In 1982.”
Me: “For the longest time I preferred Di’Anno, but…”
Her: “Bruce Dickinson is superior.”
I’ve taught her well.
Bill Burke is a huge rock star writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. He is also managing editor of custom publications for McLean Communications.