Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Guest post – 500 Words Of Summer – Sinéad Gleeson

Last but by no means least, the final entry in OTR’s 500 Words of Summer series. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of other voices on the blog and, yep, I think we’ll do it again sometime. We end with …

Fri, Aug 13, 2010, 09:30


Last but by no means least, the final entry in OTR’s 500 Words of Summer series. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of other voices on the blog and, yep, I think we’ll do it again sometime. We end with Sinéad Gleeson paying tribute to the man who provided “the crazy paving foundation” of her musical likes.

Late 1970s. Pink dungarees. A trip to a murky basement branch of Dolphin Discs in Dublin. What did I want for my birthday? Shakin’ Stevens’ “This Ole House”, thank you very much. The vinyl was spun with an OCD repetition, until I discovered my dad’s record shelves, beginning a grá for music as unshakeable as an earworm tune. I found a 7” copy of “Walking on the Moon” by The Police. The Billy Joel album with the creepy mask on the front. Ry Cooder’s naked lady bullfighter. The covers were as indelible as the music.

This summer, my dad and I went to see Stevie Wonder. Twentysomething years earlier, when I was probably counting my Communion money, he watched Stevie blow the RDS away. As kids, he’d play us “Songs in the Key of Life” – and as kids, we preferred the schmaltz of “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. Youthful enthusiasm made us music sponges, soaking up the good, the bad and the croony. We (thankfully) lacked the inner censor that kicks in mid-teens, when you’re desperate to “Eternal Sunshine” your questionable Bros records now that you were a big Nick Cave fan.

My dad didn’t differentiate. He played us the obvious ones – The Beatles – and Talking Heads, 10CC, Abba, Frankie Valli, Elvis Costello, Michael Jackson, the Average White Band, Rosemary Clooney. He’d play stuff to gauge our reactions, and giggled along with us to “They’re Coming to Take Me Away (Ha Haaa!)” by Napolean XIV (in my teens it was given a sheen of cool by Jello Biafra covering it). He bought music magazines, played bass for fun and could sing all the high bits in “Hey Jude”. He used to make ‘beat the intro’ music quizzes on cassettes, painstakingly editing on two old tape recorders. It got to the point where my brothers and I could identify most songs over a 25 year period by the opening chord.

Resistance was futile: his musical tastes were seeping into my Madonna-soaked brain. My older brother, with his ska and Selector records, made me a Smiths’ fan through attrition. I surrendered after hearing “Hand in Glove” through my bedroom wall for the 400th time.

I compulsively ask every band I interview if, as kids, they had a sibling with a 7” stash or a musical parent. Nine times out of ten, it’s a resounding yes. Our musical choices and biases are not just an individualism. It’s something malleable and prone to seepage from those we regard. In a era before downloads, music blogs and free MP3s, rite-of-passage introductions by the people who put us to bed or stole our Star Wars figures formed the crazy paving foundation of our musical attitudes.

Through the years, I’ve tried to pay my dad back in kind. He harumphed at an REM gig. He liked “Jesus Built My Hotrod”. St. Vincent reminds him of Peggy Lee. He’ll never convince me on Dr. Hook, and I’ll never convert him to Morrisseyism. No matter. It’s too late. I was hooked on his music years ago.

The credits: Sinéad Gleeson is a journalist and broadcaster who writes and natters about music, books and the arts for The Irish Times and RTE. She is a founder and editor of The Anti Room

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