Rob Jenkins - 03/27/09
Listening to classic rock has its drawbacks, too

My youngest son's musical education - OK, indoctrination - seems to have hit a snag.

I thought I was doing the right thing by teaching him to appreciate '70s and '80s classic rock - you know, as opposed to today's tunes, with their violent and suggestive lyrics. Now he wants to know what "hot-blooded" means and whether "fat-bottomed girls" really do "make the rockin' world go round."

This all started back in the fall when my son, then 10, requested an iPod for Christmas. His mother and I told him no, he wasn't old enough yet either to take care of such a small and fragile device or to walk around in public in a catatonic state.

So then he asked if he could borrow my iPod occasionally, just to listen to it around the house. Sure, I said. I figured, what the heck, he might even benefit from being exposed to all those great bands: Boston, Foreigner, Journey, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles. I know I sure benefited, although my therapist is less certain.

Anyway, the experiment worked fine for a while. I can't tell you how satisfying it is to hear your 11-year-old belting out, in his adorable little falsetto, "I close my eyes, and she drifts awayyyy-ay-ayyyy!" while fingering his air guitar. I'm thinking, "At last, I understand how Mozart's parents must have felt."

But then the questions started. "Dad, what does 'never made it with the ladies' mean?" (Answer: "It means, son, that he, um, never really got into scrapbooking.")

"Dad, what does he mean when he says 'come on baby, do you do more than dance?' What else does he want her to do?" ("Sing, son. He wants to know if she can sing, too.")

"Dad, what's a levee? And why were those good ol' boys drinkin' whiskey and rye? What is rye, anyway?" (After he understood what a levee is and just how much drinking goes on in that song, he wanted to know if it was set in New Orleans.)

"Dad, what does it mean, 'they had one thing in common, they were good in --'" ("All right, give me that iPod, son. Now.")

Fortunately, I'd downloaded quite a few songs that either have nonsense lyrics, like "Blinded by the Light," by Manfred Mann's Earth Band ("little early birdy came by in his twirly-whirly"?) or just have lyrics that no one can understand, such as anything by Led Zeppelin.

Some songs even fall into both categories. Here's how my son renders Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody": "I'm just a little still-a-wetto, I'm a man, got a moose, got a moose, can you do that thang and go." Which, when you think about it, makes about as much sense as Freddie Mercury's original version.

So all in all, my experiment in musical enrichment hasn't been a complete failure. Somehow, I think Fanny would have approved.