Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oh, Riley.

VH1 is hawking their new tribute to The Who during every commercial break of the sublimely addictive I Love the New Millennium, and every time I hear the strains of “Baba O'Riley”, I am beleaguered by two distinct flashbacks – first, its use in the American Beauty trailer during the cinematic carnival of awesomeness that was 1999, and second, its use in the argument my father and I have been having for almost a decade now.

It starts the way it always starts. He and I are in a car, or somewhere else radio adjacent, and the radio is tuned to The Q because that is one of the few NYC radio stations that doesn’t completely blow nowadays. The Q plays roughly the same 40 songs over and over (which, admittedly, is no different from the rest of the NYC stations, except that none of the 40 songs played on The Q are sung by Rihanna), so it is inevitable that “Baba O'Riley” will make an appearance. And when it does, this happens: Dad will interrupt whatever conversation we may be having to say, “Oh, it’s the song from Tommy,” because he knows that I love that album. I love it enough to gently correct him, “No, this isn’t from Tommy. It’s by The Who, but from a different album.”

He’ll shake his head and say, “No, it’s definitely from Tommy.” He’ll pull the old “it’s my generation, I lived through it, I have more authority here” card, I’ll argue that his advancing age has clearly addled his mind and would he like me to go and find my CD of Tommy and play it for him so he can see that “Baba O'Riley” does not make an appearance? It goes on and on like this for a long time. (And, side note, “Behind Blue Eyes” also triggers this argument, because my father is apparently convinced that Tommy is the only album The Who ever released, but sadly, “Behind Blue Eyes” is not played with even a quarter of the frequency of “Baba” so we don’t have that argument as often.) This is not remarkable as familial spats and patter go, except that we have this argument every blessed time the song is played. For about ten years now. And you’d think that after all this time he’d learn that “Baba O'Riley” is not on Tommy, or I’d learn to just smile and nod when he asserts it is, but alas, we are hewn from the same stubborn fiber.

A few months ago, I was asked to put together a playlist for his 60th birthday / retirement party, since the restaurant was apparently iPod-ready. I got the assignment because in the venn diagram of my family, I am the sole occupant of the overlap between “young enough to own an iPod” and “old enough to be entrusted with even menial tasks”. I know how his tastes run (classic rock, with a special love of Creedence Clearwater Revival which he happily passed on to me) so I gathered up a lot of his favorites fairly easily. He made some special requests (“Smoke on the Water”, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, “Beds Are Burning”, “Fire on the Mountain”, “Sound of Silence”, “Dust in the Wind”, “Werewolves of London”). He shot down some of my suggestions with a pained “OH MY GOD NO!” (“Don’t Stop Believing” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” – blasphemer). I snuck in a few complimentary songs (“Wrong ‘Em Boyo”, “I Fought the Law”, and some anachronistic stuff like “Welcome to the Black Parade”, the Rasputina cover of his (and my) favorite CCR song “Bad Moon Rising”, the Daughter Darling cover of “Dust in the Wind”, and the Emiliana Torrini cover of “Sound of Silence”). And, of course, “Baba O'Riley”. I happened to be standing near him as it came on, and when he said “Oh, it’s the song from Tommy,” I just smiled and squeezed his arm.

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