Clogged Drains and Emo Swoops: A Family Tracklist

I thought David Bowie was cool always and everywhere, but apparently opinions are divided.

By Michelle Martin
Published May 25, 2009

I don't need to stop up my ears with a couple of iPod buds. With my family, I've got a naturally built-in soundtrack. Take last night.

While attempting to unclog the kitchen sink the natural way, and seriously contemplating a more dramatic and slightly less natural method at the suggestion of my husband, I was kept surprisingly calm by the sounds of my daughter's latest musical fad as she sat at the kitchen computer completing one of her last assignments before graduating from high school.

This is one of the ways I stay on top of things. Heck, I even know what an emo swipe is - though I once made the mistake of calling it an emo swoop and now my kids will never let me live it down, even referring to it as such to confuse me.

The only time they teased me more about pop culture was when I showed them a YouTube clip from the last rock concert I attended: David Bowie's Serious Moonlight tour. They took exception to his high-waisted white baggy pants. I thought Bowie was cool always and everywhere, but apparently opinions are divided.

The cool kids at work don't give me a hard time like that. One young man even told me how impressed he was that I know a lot of the latest music - forgetting how entirely possible it is that someone who looks my age might have children at home who are not much younger than him.

The soundtrack in our house isn't always cheering, though. And I'm not talking about the bittersweet symphony of people practising guitar, and piano, and listening to music on the computer all at the same time. It's just that the song choice sometimes leaves something to be desired. Once, my twelve year-old was teaching himself Lady Madonna out of the Beatles Easy Piano Songbook.

Fine. Except he was just learning it, so the pace was extra slow. And I was slogging my way through some chores as he played. Though the Beatles broke up when I was only five (yes, I blame Yoko), I know the lyrics to all their songs. And I could hear it in my head while the mop kept time with David's molasses beat:

"Tues... day... af... ter... noon... is... ne... ver... end... ing... Wed... nesday... morn... ing... pap... ers... did... n't... come... Thurs... day... night... your... stock... ings... need... ed... mend... ing..."

I didn't have the heart to tell him to knock it off, he was working so hard himself.

We actually support all musical endeavours in our house, to the point where my husband and I have sacrificed our old guitars to the kids. Along with his late uncle's acoustic, my sixteen year old gets (lucky him) an old, very pale imitation Gibson - a birthday gift from my folks when I turned fourteen. He deserves it - he made me feel so young the other day.

He was riding shotgun in the van and we were singing along to some classic rock on the car radio. Suddenly, he told me we should start a band, and I could be the lead vocalist (as wicked as his guitar licks are, he's not really a singer). At first I thought he was joking, and I expected to hear the phrase "emo swoop" next. But, no. He thought it was a possibility.

I laughed it off. How would a cutting edge band make it with a lead singer whose wardrobe comes from Eddie Bauer?

Perhaps Luke was, after all, trying to humour me. Maybe he thinks that when I listen to the live version of Heroes I'm after my lost youth. Me, I just want something to make washing dishes go more quickly.

If he suggests it again, though, I think he should be made to watch an episode or two of the Partridge Family. That'll put him off the idea for good. Either that or I'll have to find the easy guitar version of Echo Valley 26809 (I've actually got the LP with that song somewhere in my parents' basement...).

Wait a sec - is it just me, or did Shirley Partridge wear a blond emo swipe?

Shirly Partridge Emo Swoop
Shirly Partridge Emo Swoop

(By the way, drain's unclogged. Baking soda and salt really do work. You just need to be patient, is all.)

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton. The opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own.


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By LL (registered) - website | Posted May 25, 2009 at 20:07:07

Shirley Partridge with an emo swoop. LOL

Don't worry about it. David Bowie is still considered very hip. That type of genius is timeless. Say what you want about emo. The cool thing about it is, like Bowie, it challenges gender stereotypes.

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By Some chick that likes bowie. (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2009 at 02:13:31

really random but I'm a only 15 and just found david bowie I love his music ALOT my friends think I'm silly for listening to his "old" music. But music as we know isn't really that old :/ my mum also thinks I have crush on him, but i really just like his music. his like an idol sort off.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2009 at 09:10:34

Actually, my own kids do like his music a lot-- they just thought the earlier costumes and personas were silly. He is a genuine musician, and they don't go out of style. If you want to see something interesting, check out the youtube video of him at the concert for New York following 9/11. He's singing Simon and Garfunkel's America, accompanying himself with some kind of electronic concertina.

One of my daughters is seriously into old jazz vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald. If you really want to scandalize your high school chums, check her out!

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By McCool (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2009 at 11:05:54

I still think Miles Davis epitomizes cool, in both its positive and negative connotations. One of those negative connotations is the idea that one person, or one musical form is cool. Positively cool is the idea of being open to, learning about, and enjoying as many different styles of music as possible, even the noble efforts of those we don't come to dig. Experimentation and knowledge are cool.

Those Friday Art Crawl electronic sound concerts on James St. N. are ultra.

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