The other day, as my nine-year-old son Daniel sat on the couch leafing through a book called Star Wars: Incredible Cross-Sections, I began ripping Marianne Faithfull's 2000 CD Vagabond Ways onto my iBook.
For readers unfamiliar with Faithfull, she was a beautiful but vapid teenage folkie with a string of minor (and quite ghastly) hits in the mid-sixties who became famous as Mick Jagger's girlfriend, got heavily into drugs and alcohol, wound up a homeless junkie, then somehow re-emerged in the Eighties with the most extraordinarily poetic whore and whiskey voice ever heard in rock and roll (she also sings Kurt Weil, brilliantly).
I had gotten Vagabond Ways out of the library and I hadn't actually listened to it yet. As the eponymous first song was ripping it began playing -- a haunting, plaintive lament delivered with fifty-four-year-old Faithfull's world-weary grace.
Oh, doctor please, oh, doctor please.
At this point Daniel looked up from his book and said, "Dad, can we listen to something else?"
Well, there's no accounting for taste, I thought. I said, "This is great stuff..."
I drink and I take drugs, I love sex and I move around a lot.
At this point, I was looking right at Daniel, and he at me. I think I managed a slight comic roll of the eyes as I made my way calmly to the laptop to pause it and find "something else."
I had my first baby at fourteen.
Picture the scene. The music has stopped. Daniel and I are looking at each other. He has obviously heard this lyric, but I see no particular reaction -- though no particular disinterest, either. So I start laughing. And he starts laughing. And next thing we know we're both in hysterics, I because I have no idea what he's making of what we just heard, and he for some unknown reason -- perhaps because he's smart enough to know transgressive when he hears it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon listening to Beethoven's Wig.