PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASH
If you want to get to know someone, go on a long drive with them. And if you want to get to know them really well, let them pick out the music for the entire trip.
Though better than the monotonous journey westward to Toronto, the drive out to the Eastern Townships is not especially interesting, save for the new Madeleine Parent Bridge and the mountain views on Highway 10 once you get past Exit 121. These highlights, however, punctuate a whole lot of boring.
Last Friday I invited my youngest, who had the day off school, to accompany me out to Sherbrooke to visit my mother for her birthday and in doing so, was privy (or hostage) to the playlist on his phone.
Contrary to my adolescent musical experience that was built primarily on commercial radio station indoctrination or – if I was lucky – the influences of an older family member who had the money to amass an extended vinyl collection, my kids’ tastes draw from a much richer pool. Not only has the internet opened their ears to a vast selection of new indie performers, I’ve discovered that the gaming community has dipped into bygone eras to pull out long-forgotten classics for use in soundtracks of post-apocalyptic themed games.
For five hours (a two-and-a-half hour drive each way) I was treated to the strains of Frank Sinatra singing Blue Moon, Come Fly with Me, My Way, and that was just the tip of the vintage iceberg. These games are also using lost classics sung by Cole Porter, The Ink Spots, and Bob Crosby and the Bobcats. “No, not ‘Bing’,” he assured me. “It’s ‘Bob.’”
The optimistic, golly-gee aw-shucks sounds of post-World War II music of many of these songs is in stark contrast with the dark and gritty scenes of the game that takes place in the 23rd Century in what’s described as an ‘atompunk retrofuturistic’ setting, echoing the 1950s era’s optimism coupled with the fear of nuclear arms. It’s strangely adept in this setting and, if a generation of teenagers learns an appreciation of music that was popular before even I was born, I’m all for it.
The influences of the game led my boy and his old soul to explore more forgotten one-hit-wonders of previous decades, so many that I’m beginning to feel ripped-off having grown up with the drivel of commercial radio – the only option we had at the time.
He has since discovered a 1960s song featured in a Stella Artois commercial by French singer Liz Brady, voicing a go-go themed hit called Le Palladium and a 1959 hit Nessuno by Italian singer Mina Mazzini both of which are pretty catchy. Google them, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
This latest generation has the benefit of instantly accessing all the hits of the past, seemingly without the stigma that comes from actually enjoying your parents’ music. Well, one parent anyways.
“That’s an amazing song,” I confirmed when he started blasting Earth, Wind & Fire’s September while we were making supper one night, though my husband said he’d never heard it before.
“Where were you in the 70s?” I asked incredulously.
“Not with you,” he muttered.
The final surprise on the voyage home with my son came after passing through the tollbooth and heading back into Vaudreuil-Dorion when the opening strains of the disco classic ‘Get Down Tonight’ came up on the playlist.
Life with teenagers has its challenges and surprises but I can honestly say that if someone told me in the 70s that in 40 years, I’d be driving down the highway singing KC and the Sunshine Band with my 16-year-old, I wouldn’t have believed them.