There are about 2000 CDs in my house (and this is after a recent cull), various cupboards rammed full of vinyl and 65 days worth of music on iTunes, all lovingly collected over a period of around 20 years by my music geek husband and I. Everything is nerdily alphabetised apart from the compilations, which are organised by genre. We have playlists for every possible occasion. Much of our early relationship revolved around music – listening to it, talking about it, going to see bands. Even Richard’s career was built around it (not mine though, hence the heated discussion of October 2006: “I don’t care if you work in the music industry Richard, you cannot wear ripped jeans and a band t-shirt to my school harvest festival service”).
Why then, in the last 6 months, have the only albums played regularly in our household been ‘Postman Pat – The Album’, ‘Shakin’ Stevens – The Collection’ and some generic 70s disco compilation that neither of us is prepared to accept responsibility for originally owning?
I’ll tell you why: We had a child.
It is at this point in time that I would like to refute my husband’s claim that having a child doesn’t automatically rob you of your taste in music. I would also like to take this opportunity to mock him for stating that having a baby would be “a bit like having a cat”, but we’ll save that one for a rainy day.
Richard was convinced from the outset that he could educate Rory into having a varied and superior musical taste by playing him a different classic album every night. There he would sit in our darkened music room (which now contains all the commercial plastic tat that we swore our child would never be allowed to play with), his infant son in the crook of his arm as he fed him his bottle and talked him through the finer points of Johnny Cash.
“I think he liked that one”, he’d say hopefully as Rory stared blankly into the distance and occasionally did a bit of sick. But the truth was, the only music that Rory responded to in the slightest for the first 8 months of his life was when one of us would sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot to him while we attempted to rock him to sleep. I never did like that song, and standing in the middle of our pitch black living room at some ungodly hour, singing it over and over again to my insomniac baby in the certain knowledge that everyone else in the country was asleep at that moment in time, the bastards, remains the loneliest point in my life. I would happily never hear it again, ever.
One morning somewhere around Rory’s first birthday, I came downstairs to find my husband and child pogoing around the kitchen to what could only be described as a savage assault on my eardrums. It turned out to be the Mrs Goggins song on the Postman Pat album (link handily provided so you can listen to part of this oral assailant yourselves), kindly donated to us by one of the record labels that Rich consulted with. I had never seen my son so elated. Listening to the album further unearthed such gems as Robot Rampage, Stop That Cake and a song about a parrot who likes bananas done in the style of mediocre Brit Poppers, The Lightning Seeds. “MORE, MORE! MORE PAT!” shouted Rory, and, delighted that he was, for once, not throwing fruit at Mr Tumble on the telly or putting his cheese on toast in the washing machine, we were only too happy to oblige.
Since then, he has developed a penchant for Shaky (Richard’s guilty pleasure) and the theme from Shaft. He is also fond of The Wheels on the Bus, Five Little Peas and the theme tune from Raa Raa the Lion. Oh, and the Bing Bong Song. I’m made to sing that particular piece of torture at least 50 times a day. Any attempts to educate him otherwise have failed entirely, apart from when I attempt to take him to Rhyme Time at the library, where he brings shame upon us by doing knee slides across the floor and muttering “no like this Rhyme Time, I want rock and roll”, then taking himself off to sulk in the box with the tambourines and shaky eggs in it.
Rich and I have adapted to this pretty well and humour him whenever the occasion permits. We dance to buskers on the street, I belt out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the top of my voice as we skip down the road to playgroup and it’s not unusual to see all three of us spontaneously break in to the Footloose dance routine in the middle of B&Q. I think Richard has accepted that his son's musical education might have to wait a few more years.
Except I have a secret: When Rory was just a wriggly baby bump, I discovered that I could stop his constant punching and kicking and squiggling about by singing to him. It had to be a certain song though, and the song of choice was Bob Dylan’s Abandoned Love. It’s a song that reminds me of the last few months of my teacher training, specifically of sitting in the car with my dad as we drove through the North Yorkshire countryside one morning, both of us singing along, windows wound right down, my dad joyously providing air harmonica. As well as that, it’s a song that I associate with being pregnant even though the lyrics have no relevance at all. When Rory was born, I continued to sing it to him, but only when we were on our own. It usually stopped him from crying when nothing else worked. As he’s got older, it has become our song. He climbs on my lap and asks for “the mummy’s tummy song” and I put it on (he favours the Everly Brothers cover version, controversially) and both of us sing along while he throws his arms around my neck. “Heart telling me, LOVE YOU STILL” he bellows into my ear before launching into an air harmonica impression that his grandfather should be proud of.
“I love you too Rory,” I say, kissing his forehead.
He smiles up at me and touches my face and I think how lucky I am to have this beautiful, warm and clever little person cuddling up to me.
“Now sing the Bing Bong Song, mummy,” he says.
God, children are annoying.