Music That Drove Your Parents Crazy

My mom was seven months pregnant with me when she went to see Iggy Pop perform. That was in 1987. Twenty years later, he was on his reunion tour with The Stooges and I was back in his crowd, with a much better view of the stage.

US Rocker Iggy Pop performs during the a
AFP/AFP

I'm sure many music fanatics have experienced something similar. Few have listening histories that don't trace back, at least in part, to whatever Mom and Dad had on the record player. It's one of the many imprints they leave on us.

I was lucky enough to have a father who'd kept listening to college radio long after he had received his diploma. My younger sisters and I would dance in the living room to bands and musicians we weren't hearing anywhere else: The Pixies, UB40, Elvis Costello.  But having a "cool" dad wasn't without its embarrassments.

Imagine arriving home with a new friend, one you're desperate to impress, whose very judgment of you could elevate or obliterate your spot on the schoolyard pecking order.  As soon as you step foot inside the door, you hear it, pouring out of the study — the strange, alienating sounds of a creepy and entirely inaccessible artist for an elementary school kid:

YouTube

Without an arty older sibling to pin it on, the best thing to do is usher your friend into a room, any room, shut the door, and pray he or she is polite enough not to ask.

Mom, on the other hand, had the listening preferences of what I would have called a "normal" adult. I can admit, now, that I've grown fond of the musical soundtracks she'd put on endless repeat, but only after years of initial resentment. But seriously.  She used "The Heat Is On In Saigon" as a household alarm clock on school mornings, cranking it full-blast on the kitchen stereo to force her children out of bed.

But at some point, the tables inevitably turn, and your music starts driving them crazy.

Growing up in the early '90s, rap and hip-hop might not have been on at the house, but it was everywhere else. The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff were on the radio, Dr. Dre was on MTV and the Wu-Tang Clan was on the rise.

YouTube

Dad didn’t care for it.  Mom hated it.  Though she wasn't a big censorship supporter, my siblings and I were forbidden to buy hip-hop or rap, or have it on in the house, particularly after 2 Live Crew drew attention for the group's "legally obscene" lyrics.

I never thought much about it until junior high, when I befriended kids who owned portable disc players. We'd sit at the lunch tables and listen. It was amazing and disorienting all at once. I made some amazing discoveries, even if I was also led down some dark roads that led to things such as rapping clowns.  Not clowns in the pejorative sense — literal clowns, make-up and all.

YouTube

I couldn't believe the hypocrisy of my mother. She had raised me in a household filled with music her parents probably associated with the devil, but I wasn't allowed to listen to my music because of some supposedly bad words?  She even frowned upon the relatively tame Will Smith.  So I began smuggling rap and hip-hop CDs into the house. She never found out, because I hid them in the air conditioning vent.

When Andre 3000 and Big Boi went mainstream, everything changed. Outkast's Stankonia remains one of my favorite albums of all time, not just because of its critical and influential credentials, but because it pulled me away from a life of face-paint and Faygo.

YouTube

I don't remember when my mom caught on to my listening habits. Over time I got lazy about keeping them a secret.  Imagine my surprise when she walked in on me watching Jay-Z videos online and acted like nothing was wrong. I guess she figured there was no use in fighting it. Or maybe it really was all in my head.

Either way, our cold war eventually came to an end.  Big bass speakers, however, would forever remain out of the question.

If you're experience was at all like mine, when did you turn the tables? When did your tunes run up against their tunes?  And how did your parents deal with it?  Were you forbidden to listen to certain music or artists?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.