"Dad, this is real rock!"
My 9-year-old son, Billy, had just, for the umpteenth time, switched the radio in the truck to the local "infused rock" station, and was stealthily trying to turn up the volume.
I was teasing him -- while at the same time chuckling to myself, fairly certain that I had had this very same conversation with my parents 20-something years ago.
"This isn't music. This just sounds like angry noise. Why is he so angry? Did someone steal his dog?"
"Dad, that's what rock is!"
"Are you sure? It sounds like they need to learn how to play their instruments."
"This is awesome, Dad!"
I gave him by best curmudgeonly scowl, though I was laughing hysterically to myself. Why? Because the best definition that I can come up with for rock music is whatever it is your parents don't like.
Case in point: Led Zeppelin. Now there's some real rock -- and my goodness, did my parents hate it. Trying to connect with my son's burgeoning interest in all things heavy, I got the Led out for him one day, and cranked up the home stereo. We started with "Stairway to Heaven," a good introduction, I thought, especially because he's been taking guitar lessons, and when I was younger, that's the song everyone learned to play.
He didn't share my enthusiasm.
"Dad, this song is weak. When does it start to rock?"
We moved on. "Good Times Bad Times" wasn't happening. "Black Dog"? So-so. I put on "Rock And Roll," pointing out that it must be a real rock song because it's in the title. I got the same face I get when I make him eat his vegetables.
My mistake, I'm sure, was telling him that this was a band I liked. I remember how shocked I was to go through my parents' record collection and discover that they were indeed part of that generation The Who was talking about, and that once upon a time they listened to more than John Denver and Neil Diamond. It was almost as shocking as coming across the photos from a house party they hosted at some point before they had kids. For all I know, they might have had Led Zeppelin queued up on their reel-to-reel at the time, too.
Anyway, riding home in the truck with Billy, listening to what I could understand of the lyrics on the radio -- which wasn't much -- it seemed that the band's angst had to do with the behavior of a certain young lady.
"Billy, you know this song is about liking girls?"
The next song was a cover of a pop tune from my youth. I pointed out that this was supposed to be a peppy song, and this band had made it sound pretty angry, too.
"Now it's good!"
Ouch. What would George Michael say to that?
The song after that was an actual track from my youth -- some classic AC/DC. If ever there was a band meant to be played at 11 (this is a "Spinal Tap" reference; kids, ask your parents) it's AC/DC. Turnabout is fair play, and I decided to see just how good the sound system in the new truck is. Judging by Billy's reaction, I'd say the sound quality is excellent.
"Dad, it's too loud! Turn it down!"
Now that's real rock.
Will Morrow is the managing editor at the Peninsula Clarion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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