Sunday, September 05, 2010

Music and holidays

We’d finally passed Paris, despite the shatnav taking us round the north and west (Bois du Boulogne is pretty pleasant) even though we were approaching it from the east, and were speeding on south beyond Orleans on the A10. The kids were asleep in their seats and the stereo was keeping us going for a bit longer before we’d pull over into an aire for the night. Some bearded nu-folk was hitting the spot. I didn’t notice early enough that the road was bollarding into one lane yet still presumed I’d be able to get past an HGV – when it became clear that neither that or slowing down in time to get behind it would happen sheer panic set in and we were ready to exit at Grassy Knoll. After we stopped knocking over bollards and earning damages on our hired Campervan, naturally I looked for excuses and ruled that the Fleet Foxes had lulled me into a false arcadia quite impractical for fast nocturnal driving. I switched to some metronomic beats and variable moods and modes straight away.

The incident of colossal misjudgement indicated that, even more so than at the campsites, music played a central role in the petrolhead’s dream journey up and down France. We were able to connect my partner’s iPod Touch to the stereo and I’d bought the usual raft of CDs; there was also the music accompaniment of the ‘shut up and watch’ DVDs for the kids – more than enough to spur us on as we guiltily clocked up 2,300 miles, speeding up gaia’s autogeddon. Got the soma? Right, let’s go.

Emerging as key was the playlist my wife compiled for the four year olds, a bit of Justin Bieber, Alexandra Burke ft Flo-Rida, Eliza Doolittle, bit of Jacko (it’s true, kids love Jackson, especially Thriller era), a bit more Bieber, Tinchy, JLS and other curios. The kids knew of and were into this stuff beforehand but after 10 days they were really into it, conclusively pointing to top-down parental direction of taste. It was fascinating to see how my wife was sometimes more into the selection, egging them on to their slight bemusement and, if she was driving, having to be told to calm down. Not all of her selections worked – the slick 50/60s vibes of the insouciant Doolittle passed them by a little, but at certain times we’d frequently have to fend off the plaintive requests of ‘can we have Justin Bieber’ from the back. When we relented, wide beams appeared on their faces. The Biebs is highly bland, high school musical fodder without the programme vehicle, so it was apt breaking news that he’s going to be the lead in a biopic about … himself. Get thee to North Korea, you superannuated twat.

At our first site, Lac Laouzas in the Haut Languedoc, neither parent or auntie or uncle were willing to fight for floorspace with the eurocampers the one time my daughter wanted to cut loose on the dancefloor. We preferred more staged occasions, for example back at our pitch when we compelled them to dance as they might in our lounge back home but this time for the benefit of their auntie and uncle. However, attempts to put musique pour les adultes on did not quite work – if I’m trying to enforce the vibe for an album of Carlton Paterson’s dubs in among the pitter-patter and clatter of clutter that is the self-catering camping holiday, then it’s not going to work. By the time the kids had finally settled down and the right ambience arrived around 10pm, music was frowned upon in the first site, bar a bit of auto iPod.

(neither child could be pressed into entertaining for the benefit of adults)

The top fives then
TWINS (yes I know there’s two of them and they should have 10)
Justin Bieber ft Ludacris - Baby
Alexandra Burke ft Flo-Rida – Bad Boys
Mr Vegas – Heads High remix
Original Scooby Doo theme (off George’s iPod)
John Williams – Jaws theme (with augmented melodrama supplied by the adults)

Eliza Doolittle – Pack Up
Justin Bieber ft Ludacris – Baby
Any Abba
AR Rahman – Jai Ho
– Pojo Pojo (off an old Café Del Mar)

Kowton and Narcossist Fact mix 60
Link - Amenity
Mr Vegas – Heads High rmx
Fleet Foxes – Blue Ridge Mountains (despite the inducement to crash)
Actress – Always Human

Summing up the continued greater focus on the kids, on the second site, a municipal place at Lac Salagou further down Languedoc, we did get genuine, unchoreographed musical joy outside of the main mode, that slightly sterile milieu of playing recorded music to help us concentrate while we drive the machine. The café nearby had live jazz-funk cover bands on that really caught their attention and compelled them to dance, and we filmed great takes of our daughter posturing like a mini-Jagger with a Micky Channon whirl and the boy working more martial moves with a bit of pre-breaking thrown in.

(generic holiday shot, at Les Falaises d'Orque en route to Clermont l'Herault)

Nevertheless, the auto is my principal space where I get some sonic intensity now, despite the contradictions of being strapped in and it really being subordinate to the far greater focus of actual driving. The volume button is close to hand for the big moments, flicking between tunes easy, and the kids are firmly part of this experience – we liked a bit of Scratcha on Rinse en route to nursery before the signal went when they got the licence, and they are mostly past the music meant solely for babies and toddlers (they did enjoy an audio of George’s Marvellous Medicine as we wound back up through Burgundy hoping to find a suitable site before dark). When a rock tune comes on, I forget I hate the bombast and we’re all going for it like the bohemian rhapsody scene from Bill and Ted. It’s something I don’t think we had in my family growing up, music as a focal point for shared experience (parents did not have a record collection and it was mostly sterile chat on Southern Counties Radio), but the early signs are there’ll be none of that vacuum this time.

I look forward to the date when I can formally bequeath them my record collection (complete with nineties/naughties shit dance filler) in a pointless but nonetheless symbolic handover ceremony and they can do the musical direction. Until then, altogether now: 'baby, baby, baby, ooh/baby, baby, baby ooooh/wont you always be mine?'.
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