Glimpses of Family Life by Dave Wood "Perhaps a little soup? "No." "It's oxtail." ""No." "Rice Pudding?." "I said no." "Look, this is ridiculous. You've got to eat something.." "Eat? How can you ask me to eat when our only son has..." "Oh come on, you make it sound as though he'd robbed a bank, or cut a pregnant girlfriend up with a hatchet." "If only it were that trivial." "But all he's done is to buy a Motorhead LP." A spasm racked Pete Taylor's body & he clutched involuntarily at the tablecloth. "All? All? Do you realize what you're saying, woman? I could expect it of those morons he goes about with, they probably don't know any better, but that lad's had the finest musical education that money could buy. He's lived his whole life with my blues collection, how could he turn out like that?" "Oh, for goodness' sake, Pete, leave the boy alone. It's only music." Another spasm. "Only music?! Good God, I knew I should never have married a woman who listened to Glen Campbell." "And what's wrong with Glen Campbell? At least you can understand what he's singing about." Pete could have made a devastating response, but before he had the chance he heard the front door slam & their son, Gavin entered the room. Pete had wanted to call him "Muddy" but his wife Jean had thrown up so many silly objections that eventually, for the sake of the peace, he'd given up the idea. He'd managed to get his own back though, for the past thirteen & a half years, by calling the boy "Sonny". He was rather pleased with himself about that. Relations between the two of them, as will have been noted, had recently suffered a sudden and, for Pete at least, traumatic blow, & as his son came in Pete stopped talking & sought refuge behind the evening paper. "Mum, if I pay for the cotton mill will you embroider some names on the back of my jacket for me?" This time Pete's spasm was made audible by the trembling of the newspaper. "I suppose so, what names?" "Oh, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, AC/DC..." Pete could stand it no longer. The paper hit the table with such force that it tore across the middle. They don't make tables like they used to. "Now look here, I paid good money for that jacket. I didn't buy it so you could scribble all over it." "Oh, don't be so nasty, Pete", Jean intervened. "All the boys do it these days." "I don't care what all the boys do. I'm not having it & that's that." "Let me know what colours you want, Gavin, & I'll get the cotton while I'm shopping on Friday." Pete tried to hide behind the paper again but since it was now in two pieces the task proved beyond him. "All right if I use the record player, dad? "No." "Why not?" "The drive belt's gone & there's something wrong with...." "Oh stop it, Pete. There's nothing wrong with it at all & you know it. Let the boy play his record again if he wants to." "Why should I? As head of this household I am exercising my right to..." "Don't play it too loud, Gavin. I've got a bit of a headache." "Yes mum." "Look, why is it that everybody in this house ignores every word I say? Jean, would you pass me a mirror so I can see if I'm still here?" "I'll just play the first side, mum. I want to hear "Overkill" again." "How you can tell that monotonous drivel apart is what I'd like to know. Every track sounds the same." "No it doesn't, dad. And anyway, blues is all the same." "HAH! What an ignorant remark. Blues all the same! I grant you that in a purely academic sense it is just possible to detect a passing similarity in a handful of the later Jimmy Reed recordings, but..." "And what about Elmore James or whatever his name is? All his records sound the same to me." Pete lunged across the table at his son. "If I ever hear you say that again I'll cut your throat with a mallet. For two pins I'd drag yopu upstairs & scrub your mouth out with carbolic soap." "For goodness' sake, Pete, leave the boy alone. Your acting like a two year old." Acting like a two year old....At those words Pete's mind drifted back the best part of twenty years to the back room of a terraced house in another city, & a so similar scene with his own father. Then, of course, the situation had been entirely different. Pete's father, hampered through no fault of his own by a musical youth dominated by dingy British dance bands had found himself out of his depths & unable to understand the subleties & sincerity of the blues. Pete, on the other hand had kept alive an active interest in contemporary music & had a knowledge of it equal to, if not greater than, that of his son. He was therefore able to see it for the shallow noisy drivel that it was. The situation was a mirror image of that twenty years before but of course Gavin's seduction by the hideous inanities of commercial heavy rock were harder to explain. He, after all, had had advantages which Pete could never have dreamed of. Why, he'd been rocked to sleep in his cradle to the sounds of Chicago & the Delta. It was a mystery as impenetrable as anything concieved by Conan Doyle. Pete's thoughts were shattered by the mindless thumping drone of his son's Motorhead LP, as the band lurched into... Well, what was it? Heavy metal music, Pete was fond of saying, is God's gift to the penniless record collector. Buy one & then sit back & relax. "BLOODY HELL!!" he shouted. "I'm trying to read this bloody paper!". "You've read it three times already. You heard me tell him he could play his record so shut up & leave him alone." "But you don't understand, Jean. Listening to heavy metal music is a symptom of eight serious mental disorders. Do you realize that these kids all bash their heads up the wall? God knows I'd feel the same if I listened to that stuff all day long, but here we have our only son in the grip of some terrible brain-rotting vice & all you can say is leave him alone. How can you live with your conscience?" "It's only music, Pete. Just because he doesn't like blues there's no need to get so upset. We can't all like the same things. He's got to make up his own mind." "Well naturally I understand that. I don't say he has to like everything I like - I'm a little more mature than that I hope. Good grief, no-one respects other people's views more than I do. You won't find ME ridiculing somebody for liking Smokey Hogg but you see Gavin ISN'T making up his own mind. He's being manipulated by the music industry moguls who are marketing this rubbish like shampoo. It's all very psychologically motivated & researched. It's not about music at all really, it's all about image. The kids are sold the image & the "music" is only incidental. Thank God I never fell for that." "Why do you get so angry about music, Pete? It doesn't worry me that Gavin doesn't like Glen Campbell." Pete looked heavenward and sighed. "jean, will you never understand? I'm talking about music, not that emasculated commercial treacle. If I thought for a second that Gavin liked Glen Campbell I'd disown him & have him put away. The only thought in Glen Campbell's mind when he makes a record is to make it bland enough to sell to millions of frustrated housewives." "Oh, perhaps that's why I like him then?" "You can't equate that sort of commercial slime with the blues." "Why not? I bet nobody ever made a blues record without hoping to sell a million copies of it. As far as I can see a commercial record is one that people want to buy, seems a bit daft to try & make records that nobody wants." "You just don't understand, Jean. Great blues comes from the soul. Every note is torn out of the guts & hurled into the face of the listener dragging it's bloody entrails. Every word has at least six levels of meaning. Every time the drummer hits the skins he's striking a blow against three hundred years of slavery. The Blues is the great uplifting cry of a proud, unvanquished people. The last thing in the world that a blues singers has to think about is tawdry commercial considerations." "Ah, I think I see it now. The greater the blues, the less commercial it is, & the fewer copies it sells. That's why you're always paying those ridiculous prices for rare records. I hadn't realized so clearly before the connection between scarcity & quality." "Oh well, Jean, if you refuse to be serious about this I shall my hands of the whole affair & abandon Gavin to his fate." from across the room came a cry of "Hooray!" "But don't blame me when he comes home crippled through drugs with his skin all blotchy & his hair falling out." "So THAT'S what happened to you!" "There you go again. You just won't take this seriously will you? Our son is having his head squeezed dry of sense & all you can do is make jokes about it." "Well, I promise the minute his ears start drooping, I'll do something about it." "That's right....carry on laughing, but you'll be sorry. It won't give me any pleasure to have to say I told you so when he's a gibbering idiot with bloodshot eyes & a nervous twitch." "Every boy has the right to take after his father." "On the other hand he'll probably go stone deaf long before he reaches that stage & end up selling matches in Piccadilly Circus. I've tried my best & if he wants to go ahead & destroy his life that's alright by me. A man can only do so much for his kids & then they're on their own. God knows I've treated that boy like a Charley Patton 78. I've never raised a finger to him except to tickle him under the chin." "You tickled him a little hard when he broke that old 78 of Leroy somebody-or -other." "Don't mention that, woman! No man is expected to take that amount of provocation with a grin." "He was only two." "Then he should be grateful he lived to be three, this is how he repays me." "Look, why don't you just face the fact that you're nearly forty & that you're living in a different world to the one you were living in when you were eighteen? Kids have got to find their own music or it doesn't mean anything to them. It just depresses you to think that the world has moved on & there are kids growing up who don't get off on obscure blues singers. Knowing the names of sixty artists who only made one single in the back room of a laundry in 1952 isn't a badge of faith for them like it was for you, & when your son turns his nose up at it you're like a chief rabbi who's boy comes home with his yarmilke painted green & announces he's going to marry Mary O'Grady." "But Jean, I've spent half my life building up the best blues collection this side of Mill Hill & I'd always dreamed one day I'd be able to say to Gavin, son, all this is yours. Treat it wisely & well. Now what's going to happen to it all? What if I was to die of a broken heart tomorrow, which is far from unlikely, who would look after my records? They'd be sold in a week for a tenth of what they're worth & it will be just as though they never existed. All seems kind of futile, doesn't it?" "Don't be so morbid, Pete. And don't exaggerate. I'd keep them at least a fortnight." "You should be thankful I'm not a Muslim, because after a remark like that I'd be entitled to say "I divorce thee" three times & throw you into the street." Jean broke into song: "Well, I woke up this morning, & my husband had a turban on his head He said "I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee, then he kicked me out of bed..." "It's times like this I know how Dr.Livingstone felt among the savages." "Gavin, said Jean, "fetch me a chicken bone out of the dustbin, I want to shove it through my nose." Gavin grunted, nodded his head, & loped out of the room like a chimpanzee. And in the comforting darkness of his mind Pete "Guitar" Taylor, his face contorted with a deep, misunderstood passion strode forward to the mike, let loose a few screaming, searing notes from his battered Gibson & sang... "Every day...Every Day I have The..."