Last post I saluted my dad’s passing with music he might have enjoyed. This month I will move to a happier topic – the marriage of my daughter. Songs often will often become inextricably bound to a memory. When I think of my daughter Brenna who will marry Jeff in a matter of days, I mostly remember silly things from her youth. It is interesting how we have different personalities at different points of our lives often totally at odds to what we once were. I recall thinking with Brenna that I hoped she would always stay that happy uncynical child that could always find fun in life. I’m certain my parents always looked at me and wondered what happened to that kid who over time became more sullen and ground down by doubts and fears especially in high school – a time we either look back with fondness or with dread (count me in the latter). Life does that to us all to some degree – takes a child who has little to worry about other than what and who to play with today, then adds reality. The secret is to find something in life that keeps that pilot light of happiness lit in your core so the darkness stays away. For me that has always been music (and food to some degree – give me an egg roll!). When the voices of doubt and anger start getting louder in the stillness, it has always been comforting that I can play a song and it walls out the unhappiness. Perhaps we will explore that at a later date, but for now let me turn to the songs that bring some sort of memory of Brenna (some intertwined with youngest child Hilary as well). There are so many other songs I used to play for my kids that they liked – I won’t include them all, but I will at least mention “Yellow Submarine” (Beatles), “Happy Together” (Turtles) and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” (Abba) as being faves. I hope we were good parents, but how do you know. I, like any caring parent, only want one thing for my children – a full and happy life. Brenna and Jeff – congratulations!
Girl On A Swing – Gerry & The Pacemakers
This is a very early memory song and one that Brenna will likely not recall first hand as she was just a toddler when we pushed her on the swing and sang “girl on a swing swing high, girl on a swing swing low”, but it certainly takes me back to her childhood. Every family needs to have moments that are special to them and this is one of ours. The song itself dates back to 1966 and was Gerry’s last hit in the U.S. albeit a minor one.
La Bamba – Richie Valens
It would be interesting to know how many young people know songs not of their generation strictly from commercials. Brenna always called “La Bamba” the popcorn song every time it came on the radio because of this commercial for Pop Secret Popcorn. In 1958 Richie Valens adapted an old Mexican folk song and made it the b-side to his #2 hit “Donna”, hitting #22. The Los Lobos remake from the Valens biopic made it to #1 in 1987 which no doubt inspired its use in the commercial.
Java – Al Hirt
Hearing this song always brings to mind the Muppets, but it was also a perfect song to make Brenna’s stuffed toys dance to. I remember making her toy Blue Guy dance and rock to this jolly tune. Of course at the end something crazy would have to happen like having it soar across the room – always the entertainer. We discussed this song in the last post so please feel free to go back and read it. It was an Allen Toussaint composition taken from his 1958 LP The Wild Side Of New Orleans.
Martian Hop – The Ran-Dells
Brenna, Hilary and often Elvis the cat (with me in hot pursuit) would chase around a coffee table to many songs. This silly hit from 1963 was one of our favorites to race to. Space was on everyone’s mind back in the ’60s with the Telstar satellite having been successfully launched the year before. This one-hit wonder group from New Jersey had the space aliens from Mars be friendly (the opposite of what most sci-fi movies painted them as) throwing a sock hop for us Earthlings.
Lollipop – The Chordettes
Here is another very early Brenna favorite. Handclapping, dancing, mouth popping – what more could you ask for? This is the perfect song for kids to sing along to as it is pretty simple. This 1958 #2 hit was first done by Ronald & Ruby then covered by the female quartet the Chordettes from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Sarasponda – Barney
For those who don’t know, there was a TV show popular with kids featuring a purple dinosaur named Barney which aired starting in 1992. It was a pretty tame show that was built around alot of singing and I would have to say is unfairly criticized for being too upbeat. To that I say, why must a child be exposed to woe and misery – they’re children, so lighten up. “Sarasponda” is an old campfire sing-along that supposedly traces back to Dutch spinners who sang it while at the spinning wheel. My friend G Brown hosted the Fox 31 Kids Club back then and got us passes to go to a Kids Expo and see Barney live (along with the Power Rangers). The picture of the girls with Blinky the Clown at the beginning of this post was taken at that event.
Haircut – Craig ‘N Co.
Craig Taubman’s 1992 CD Rock N Together had this muy muy spiffy song about dreading getting a haircut. Reading about him online shows a performer who started putting out kids records in the early 90s but has now moved into releases involved with his Jewish faith. Sort of an intro to rock music for kids – and pretty catchy at that.
Ren & Stimpy – Happy Happy Joy Joy
Oh my, I guess we were ‘progressive’ parents for letting the kids watch the rather edgy humor of chihuahua Ren and cat Stimpy – but it was funny. John Kricfalusi put this show together to air on Nickelodeon in 1991. If Bart Simpson’s “eat my shorts” got uptight folks hot and bothered, this one was guaranteed to push them over the top (but was pretty tame by current animated hijinks on South Park and the like). We had to buy the CD after watching Powdered Toast Man, Mr. Horse, Muddy Mudskipper, etc. This song is insanely inane.
Space Ghost & Brak – I Love You Baby
Just plain dopey is the only way to describe taking a kids sci-fi cartoon and making it into a weird outer space talk show with the dumbest host ever not to mention the even dumber sidekick Brak who gets the sing this song. Would have also included to Brak discussion of dating and eating a pu pu pu platter but it’s not a song. Of course we had to have this CD as well in our collection. Yes, I must say that I believe watching weird shows like these helped make my kids just as crazy as I am – and I’m proud of it.
Cow & Chicken – Opening Theme
Brenna and Hilary always seemed to have the knack of winning contests – mostly coloring (proving the adage that you can’t win if you don’t enter). I don’t recall exactly how Brenna won the chance for our family of 4 to go to the 1997 pool party that Cartoon Network threw to premier Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Cow & Chicken but this pretty rockin’ theme song reminds me of that. The party was alot of fun and they gave us some nifty themed pool toys to keep. Only in animation would a cow and a chicken be siblings.
Johnny Horton – The Battle Of New Orleans
We used to play this enough that Brenna and younger sis Hilary worked up a pantomime routine for me to videotape. Needless to say they killed it with hand gestures and marching. This song might well be the first country song that non-country music fans liked opening the door to exposure to other non-rock goodies – something that today’s youngsters don’t get due to the homogenizing of music tastes which is a true pity. This song was written by Jimmy Driftwood and gave Johnny Horton a #1 in 1959.
Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff The Magic Dragon
This song speaks for itself. What self-respecting kid doesn’t know the lyrics to this Peter Yarrow, Leonard Tipton song? It hit #2 in 1962. This song reminds me of one of the very first concerts we ever took our kids to (Peter, Paul & Mary at Fiddler’s Green). I will never forget Brenna saying to me that she really liked that song (after they performed it) and that she hoped they would do it again.
Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
Well this might not be an obvious choice for a kid favorite, but Brenna mistook the title for “Brenna Girl” and that was all it took to become a must have in the collection. The other misheard lyric (or mondegreen as they are called) for her was “sha la la la la lucky duck”. This was a #10 hit in 1967 for the former singer from the band Them (whose “Gloria” was the first 45 I every owned – and still have).
Toni Basil – Mickey
Even though this song was a #1 hit 5 years before she was born, it was so catchy that it had the legs to endure many years. Basil’s cheerleader video was perfect for girls to dance to and had a great fairground organ riff to appeal to boys. We had pom poms and a tambourine that we would use to recreate the video.
Ace Of Base – The Sign
In early 1994 the Berggren siblings and Ulf Ekberg had a U.S. #1 becoming the next big thing from Sweden to hit the charts after ABBA. This was catch enough for mom and dad but sounded like modern music to the kids.
Spice Girls – Wannabe
A #1 in 1997’s U.S. charts after taking the world by storm the year before, this was a perfect girl-pop song by a British creation from management team Bob and Chris Herbert as the answer to the boy bands popular at that time. 1997 seems to be an important year musically for Brenna as she was discovering music not of her parents (but that honestly still appealed to older folks as well – not unlike the Beatles had done years before).
Aqua – Barbie Girl
This was a big worldwide hit for the Scandinavian group Aqua. Like so many songs that become catchy to the younger set, it was rather suggestive (how about “Whip It”?). In 1997 it got to #7 in the U.S. Brenna had to have the CD which had some other goodies like “Dr. Jones”.
Hanson – MmmBop
Another 1997 single, this one hit #1 for the every so cute brothers Hanson. The fact that Isaac, Taylor and Zac actually have musical chops put them way ahead of most teen pop acts.
Larger Than Life – Backstreet Boys
The Backstreet Boys were the pin-up boy band du jour in the late ’90s and even if you didn’t like them you had to admire how well crafted their records were. This, I am told by daughter Hilary, was one of Brenna’s faves. This Brian Littrell composition was from their third album (Millenium) and frankly sports a pretty cool video.