As Oliver Letwin has so ably demonstrated, attitudes have changed a lot over the past three decades. One way they have changed struck me again over Christmas. The generations are a lot closer.
Daughter, at most birthdays and Christmases, makes me what we used to call a mixtape, burning off 15 or so tracks she feels I ought to hear. Given her taste is excellent, and given that most of the stuff she listens to sounds awfully like the sort of thing I was listening to 30 or 40 years ago, this is always a treat.
Most of it I have never heard of. Sometimes I surprise her. Tracy Chapman, Fast Car? Got it on vinyl somewhere, dear. The Civil Wars? Yup, got that.
My parents hated pop or rock music, or any other manifestation of popular culture, with a vengeance. My mother particularly loathed it. They were brought up in the War and by the time Elvis took a walk down Lonely Street, in 1956, they had a house and a mortgage, and I was on the way.
The 60s must have seemed like a noisy party taking place next door, to which they were not invited. As a result I had to listen to my music to a background of bitter and derisive comments. “This is insulting rubbish.” No, it’s Frank Zappa, or Hendrix, or Led Zeppelin. Some people think it’s rather good. “They’re all long-haired gits. They should have their hair cut and be put to work on the roads.” (Actual quote.)
This is rather an unfair way to treat adolescents. They acquire a sense of identity from the music they listen to, the popular culture they consume, the clothes they wear. They should not have it crushed under foot.
The fact that Daughter and I can swap music and films, introduce each other to new ideas, seems to me much healthier. I played her The Smiths, The Decembrists, The National, for the first time. She makes me mixtapes. We attend, as a family, the same music festivals.
This is probably because popular culture has been around for so long that it is inter-generational. There is the danger, as I have suggested here before, that my generation encroach on the next one, co-opt their culture and deprive them of that sense of identity. There is also the danger that people like me come over as the oldest, saddest swinger in town.
But it is a lot better than the alternative, as I know.
Anyway, here is the Christmas 2015 playlist:
Why Are You With Me/Mark Eitzel
Top Notch/Manchester Orchestra
Sweater Weather/The Neighbourhood
Small Hands/Keaton Henson
She’s So Fine/The Easybeats
Red Light/BabyQueens feat. Joker Starr
Neon Lights/Molotov Jukebox
Milk Carton Kid/The Milk Carton Kids
Hey You Bastards I’m Still Here/Mark Kozelek & Desertshore
Geordie (Child 209)/Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer
Don’t Let It Get You Down/Johnnyswim
Christine/Christine and the Queens
Bottled Up Tight/Luke Sital Singh
No, I’d never heard of most of them either.