Making the most of a new life


Thank you for the music

I was at a gig last night, watching two groups that I really like (Wooden Shjips and Hookworms) and try to see at least once a year. Both bands play quite heavy repetitive music and I really enjoy really losing myself in it. As is quite often on such occasions I find myself thinking about the many gigs that I have been to during the years and my mind naturally goes back to when I was young. As such I always enjoy seeing young people really getting into the music and enjoying themselves without seemingly a care in the world, in a way that only young people can.

Of course this leads me into wondering what sort of music the boys will come to like when they are growing up and what effect I will/ can have on this. I used to find it interesting on the recently lamented Word Podcast that the first question they always asked their guests was “What music was in your house when you were growing up?”. Invariably the guest would always talk about the styles of music that their parents (usually, but not always, their Father) listened to and how it influenced them to become a musician, writer, artist etc….

My parents were not what you might call keen music fans, and owned no more than around a dozen records. However, my Mother had the radio on in the house all day every day, and from that I gained a great appreciation of pop music of the late 1960s and 1970s, to such an extent that I began buying records in earnest when I was just nine years old.

This leads me to place myself under a great deal of pressure because, on the one hand,  I really want to ‘educate’ Jake and Sam in terms of listening to music. I’d love them to like what I like and have conversations about this and that band. However, on the other hand, I also want them to find their own way in life and develop their own tastes, and nothing would make me more proud to see them on stage playing great music, their music – although I’m sure that I’d then be in a state of constant angst that they become exposed to the seedier side of the music scene.

For me this brings up many of the dilemmas that we face as parents. We want our children to be confident and independent, but somehow we want this under our own terms. We fret about whether and by how much we should influence them without stifling them and having the opposite effect.

I guess that the answer probably lies somewhere in between, that we are there to gently guide them when we can and hopefully nudge them in the right direction. For me being young is about being free, enjoying life and not having to worry too much about the future (that’s the job of parents). I hope that my boys can do that in a healthy way; but it won’t stop me from having the stereo on when they’re around!

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The Word’s End

I had a bit of bad news today. Although no one has died or been hurt, my life will not be the same again. It was announced that The Word magazine is to cease production after its next issue. I dare say that most of you have never heard of this magazine (and that is no doubt part of the problem) and will be wondering what all the fuss is about; but to me it was the perfect publication.

I still remember when I saw the first issue on the shelf. It had the singer and writer Nick Cave on the cover and, looking back, I remember it as having a sort of glow around it. Of course it didn’t, but it was such a significant find for me that that’s how I still see it in my mind’s eye. Upon picking it up I felt that it had been put together specifically for me with a great mixture of music, film and tv, current affairs, books, and technology. It was intelligently written and both complemented and challenged my cultural life.

In addition to the magazine there is a complementary podcast that has accompanied me on countless train journeys and bus commutes. It was fantastic, like having a group of like-minded friends having a chat and a laugh in my ears. Around the magazine the editors (Mark Ellen and David Hepworth) built an amazing online community that put me in touch with others who were interested in many of the same things that I am; and all the messages of support and sadness on the Word forum and on Facebook are testament to how much it was loved. All in all The Word has helped me keep in touch with the sort of things I wanted to be kept in touch with, and I feel rather sad that it will no longer be there.

I’ve always been a fan of things cultural, and music in particular; and this was something I was determined to try to keep going when I became a Father. In fact a song, Changingman (by one of my favourite singers, Paul Weller), inspired the title of this blog. Paul Weller originally sang in one of my all time top bands, The Jam, which he split up in 1981. As a teenager at the time this seemed like a huge tragedy, I wondered how I would ever cope with life without The Jam. Of course life went on, and other great music came along too.

As life goes on we learn how to cope better with change, perhaps as we experience more and more of it. What led to us feeling utter desolation when we were young now seems like a minor aberration in the grand scheme of things. So while it’s sad when things that we’ve really enjoyed come to an end other things soon replace them, and I dare say that it won’t be long before I’ve found something to replace The Word. In the meantime it has provided me with great memories, and I think I will be having those 200+ podcasts on syndication on my iPod for many years to come.