Monday, October 10, 2011

Various Artists - Punk Rock Baby

It's true what they say - a baby changes everything. The birth of the first child is a very traumatic experience for new parents. Everything you've ever taken for granted in life, all of the relative freedoms and spontanaity you've enjoyed up to that point, is gone forever. While that sounds like a bummer, it really is not, because believe me, what you get back in return when you see that little person for the first time is worth a million times more than the things you think you're "losing" in your life. The arrival of Number One causes you to begin to think outside of your needs and the needs of your partner, and start thinking more about and preparing for the future, not just for the child, but for yourself as well. It's not just the immediate and long-term material needs - cribs, diapers, baby food, Christmas toys, Halloween costumes and college funds - but intangible things as well - "How can I bring this kid up to be happy and well-adjusted?" "How do I teach her right from wrong?" "What can I do now to influence his life in a positive way?"

Thus, one of my main priorities was to ensure that my firstborn was exposed early on to cool, non-commercial, non-crappy music.

Now, I wasn't about to pull a B. F. Skinner with his box, or John Watson with his Little Albert experiment, on my baby girl (look it up if you don't know what I'm referring to) - I wasn't that nutty about it. But it was my hope that by feeding my daughter a low-volume dose of stuff like The Clash, The Specials, and The Smiths from time to time, that somehow this 'good' music would sort of imprint itself in her brain, so that later on in life she would know enough to reject junk like The Spice Girls, Hannah Montana and the rest of the Disney kid bands. I swear I wasn't trying to turn her into some sort of weird preadolescent goth kid - I just looked down the road into a possible future with she and I living in a house where the walls of her room were plastered with Jonas Brothers and Hanson posters, and the insipid strains of neo-bubblegum dead-eyed 'rock' would come wafting nonstop out from under her door. And I didn't like what I saw. I was intent on altering that timeline!

My efforts started long before the due date. Around six months prior, I began playing a lot more music around the house, putting on as much Cocteau Twins, Lisa Germano and Liz Phair as I could get away with (my wife was tolerant of most of my musical choices, but not a huge fan of most of my favorite groups). I dragged her pregnant self along with me to see bands like The B-52s and The Pretenders when they played at Fair Park in Dallas, hoping that some of the tunes were "sinking in" down there. And after the birth, on the day mother and child were released from the hospital, I made a point of ensuring that the very first song our newborn would hear on the ride home was Stereolab's "Lo Boob Oscillator", my favorite song at the time - I had it cued up and waiting in the CD player.

Now I knew that I couldn't very well have the stereo piped up into the baby's room - it wouldn't have been good for her, and I don't think her mother would have allowed it anyway. We did put a music player in her room, but all it played was stuff like The Best of Elmo and The Little Mermaid soundtrack, at very low volume. Cutting-edge music was all but completely shut out! So I secretly searched for a viable alternative, and found it online on a website based in London, England - Punk Rock Baby, a CD of classic punk tunes reimagined as lullabyes. My problem was solved! I quietly ordered the disc, which was quickly shipped to me, and one evening just before the baby fell asleep, I surrepticiously slipped this album on while Mama wasn't looking.

Actually, the concept was pretty ingenious, and I stood in the baby's room for a while, listening and trying to guess the identity of each song as it came on. Here's the song lineup (all 'lullabyed' by an in-house group led by a musician named William South):

1. Down In The Tube Station At Midnight (orginally by The Jam)
2. Ever Fallen In Love (orignally by The Buzzcocks)
3. Smash It Up (originally by The Damned)
4. London Calling (originally by The Clash)
5. Teenage Kicks (originally by The Undertones)
6. Sheena Is A Punk Rocker (originally by The Ramones)
7. Pretty Vacant (originally by The Sex Pistols)
8. White Riot (originally by The Clash)
9. No More Heroes (originally by The Stranglers)
10. Into The Valley (originally by Skids)
11. Sex And Drugs And Rock 'N' Roll (originally by Ian Dury & The Blockheads)
12. Sunday Girl (originally by Blondie)
13. Hong Kong Garden (originally by Siouxsie & The Banshees)

These are not hard-core punk tunes at all, but very light, soft, delightful renditions perfectly made for the ears and brain of a newborn. My favorites on this disc include "Pretty Vacant" and "Sex And Drugs And Rock 'N' Roll", both of which are shockingly well suited for the lullaby treatment. It took my wife a while to catch on to what was being played, but in the end, due to the nature of this music, she acquiesed.

And how, you may ask, did my efforts turned out? Is my now-tween-aged daughter an aficionado of Sonic Youth and James Chance? Can she speak knowledgably about Bob Marley and Prince Buster? Can she spot the influence of Johnny Marr's guitar work in the music of The Wedding Present and Oasis? Well . . . frankly, no. Nowadays, she loves Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and the Black Eyed Peas . . . she never misses an episode of "Glee" - I was even coerced into taking her to the Glee 3-D movie (a waste of depth perception if there ever was one) . . . and on the wall in her room, there's a giant poster of Lady Gaga.

Damn . . . Oh well - I tried.

If you'd care to make the effort with your own youngsters, or if you'd just like to hear these off-kilter renditions of old classics yourself, here's the disc. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:

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  1. Just listened a bit, very weird indeed, but thanks for sure!
    Apparently they did a few more:

    Oh no...I tried to like it...but...
    Cheers from Berlin!

  3. Big thanks for sharing this! I had the CD years ago, but unfortunately I gave to someone who never turned it back! Thank you so much again! Cheers from Sofia Bulgaria!