A Guide to Indie Music for Raising Kids


Strange local moment: The car, a return home in early April. A song is playing on the radio. “Excellent,” I think, and reach out my hand to turn up the volume. My hand touches my 15-year-old son’s, also reaching for the dial. She looks at me sideways.

“I am,” I reply. “Are you?” “Yeah.” The song is As it Was by Harry Styles. “I love it,” she said. “Me too,” I add sheepishly. She asks me if I know a particular part of the melody and sings it to me. “Incredible,” she adds.

I decide to stop. It is too great a moment not to be marked dramatically. I leave the car badly parked on the curb, the driver’s door open, the traffic behind me beeping furiously in the evening rain. “Dad,” she shouts, “WTF?” I’m a little annoyed by the language, but given the circumstances – the abandoned car, the traffic, the beeps – perfectly understandable in the situation.

“My job is done,” I shout back, “you are risen. Anything more would be superfluous. Music raised you, especially independent music, around 1980. You learned from the masters. Go ahead and, oh wait, DON’T MULTIPLY! Ok, absolutely no multiplication, but form a group or something. My job here is done.” I get the car back later. Three different parking fines. Going with the timing comes at a cost. But that was a point I had to make.

Otherwise, how am I going to launch my new book, A Guide to Indie Music for Raising Kidswithout a few apocryphal tales for the interview circuit?

So, a little taste…

Part 1: Groups and what you can learn from them

  • The Bay City Rollers: Life is a roller coaster. Be careful what you wish for.
  • ABBA: Workplace relationships are bad news.
  • Fleetwood Mac: That said, they can also be very beneficial.
  • The Blue Nile: Some men are sensitive and gentle souls despite what people say.
  • Amy Winehouse: That said, it’s best to assume that’s not the case.
  • Bowie: We are all different, unique and beautiful.
  • Boyzone: Unless you join the Borg.
  • Westlife: There’s a reason the Borg are so successful.
  • The Go-Betweens: see the Blue Nile, with bells.

Alright, catch your breath here. It’s a lot to take in, the distilled wisdom of a lifetime and all that. I can already see its very specific genre and era, but let’s carry on for a moment…

Life lessons, continued

  • Sex Pistols: A single moment of purity can change the world.
  • Billy Bragg: You don’t need a great voice if you can rhyme “Space hardware” with “Wish you Care”. Amy Winehouse: That said, if you have a voice, things become easier.
  • Brian Wilson: There are people in this world who seem to struggle with so much but are capable of incandescent, illuminating beauty.
  • Daniel O’Donnell: You’re not supposed to understand everything.
  • My guide will also deal with improvised quotes from the great songs of our time. These are useful at social gatherings, debates in pubs and on first dates. Any fool can quote the Leaving Cert Syllabus, but it takes a good fool to embellish their conversation with pop culture quotes.
  • The Smiths: Heavy words are thrown lightly.
  • Elvis Costello: There are some things you can’t cover with lipstick and powder.
  • Elvis Costello: She said she worked for ABC news, it was so much of the alphabet she knew how to use.
  • Elvis Costello: Until I hit the brakes to get out of your clutches.
  • Elvis Costello: Is it worth it, a new winter coat and shoes for the wife, and a bike for the boys’ birthday.

As you can see, there’s a Costello fixation that all editors will struggle to remove from the finished book, but there’s also:

  • The Jam: The audience gets what the audience wants.
  • John Lennon: A working class hero is something to be.
  • The Beatles: And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

I’ll let them find Bob themselves. This, I believe, is inevitable.

It’s random, a bit of a hodgepodge and what can I say, in our village growing up, the female voices were fewer and we got even poorer as a result. But every once in a while someone would write something like Love Will Tear Us Apart, and our little bruised hearts would somehow pull through.


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