Regular readers of this site, and anyone who knows me, will realise that I have an unhealthy obsession with the music of Guided By Voices and their leader Robert Pollard. Recently I stumbled across a video entitled The Who Went Home and Cried on YouTube. It is a brilliant film in that it captures the most incredibly relaxed band rehearsal you will ever see. Also it features Pollard himself playing all the lead guitar (something you rarely get to see) and some great versions of lesser known songs.
One such song featured is ‘The Big Make-Over’ from his 1999 solo album Kid Marine. The song is one of my favourites and inspired me to put together an accompanying video for the album version which you can see below.
I’m no skilled film maker, my camera skill and editing are sorely lacking in finesse. However, I think that the rhythm, shaky camera and lack of obvious meaning fit with Pollard’s song pretty well.
Kid Marine is no longer in print, and as such quite expensive to buy, but can be listened to on Spotify.
A lot of what you’ll read about the latest album by Guided By Voices, The Bears For Lunch, is that it is a good record but isn’t it a shame that they didn’t release less albums this year and release one really great album instead? To me these are the opinions of people who don’t understand how Robert Pollard works and are firmly missing the point of GBV 2012.
Release the Bears is an excellent record, more rocking than the two albums that have preceded it this year and shading them both as the best Guided By Voices album since the band got back together. Sure, there are a couple of underdeveloped tracks and throwaway numbers, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jump back to the critics favourite Alien lanes in 1995 and you’ll find a few songs that don’t work, or sound like they were recorded in biscuit tin, among the 28 tracks on offer.
Personally I am glad that the band have released three albums this year and not condensed it down to the “best” tracks on one album, this way I get 61 new Guided By Voices songs in one year. In fact I wish that they’d released one sprawling triple album containing all the tracks in the middle of the year. That way I’d have one enormous eccentric, heartfelt box of tunes to put forward as my album of the year contender come December. As it is I have a fight on my hands to see if I can get more than one release into the chart when I really want to include all three.
Robert Pollard doesn’t strike me as the kind of artist that is in it for the money, and reforming Guided By Voices seems like something he wanted to do musically and not for the big pay cheque. This isn’t The Smiths after all, they are a band with a loyal following but it is a cult following and not going to see them playing five nights at the O2. He is a man who loves to write and record music, and he’ll have released close on 100 songs this year. That, for me, is to be applauded and even with a few duff moments he’ll have recorded more great tracks than any other artist this year.
Reviewers who wish they’d cut out songs need to loosen up and enjoy everything that is going on here. When Tobin Sprout can out-Kinks The Kinks as well as he does on ‘Waving At Airplanes’ and the band can release a song as good as ‘Everywhere Is Miles From Everywhere’ as their 61st track of the year it is something to be celebrated. I’m not going to spend any more time boring you with a breakdown of all the songs of the album and why I love them so much (and believe me I could) but this is some of the most joyful guitar pop you’ll hear all year and I can’t recommend it enough.
After Robert Pollard disbanded Guided By Voices first time around we lost one of the great rock bands. Pollard continued to produce music in a variety of guises, mainly solo and with the Circus Devils, but nothing that fitted into that classic rock band mould. It was therefore an exciting time when he announced the formation of Boston Spaceships, named after his own nick-name for his favourite doughnut, with Chris Slusarenko and Jicks and Decemberists drummer John Moen. Between 2008 and 2011 they released five brilliant albums before suddenly splitting up after the release of 2011′s best album Let It Beard.
None of these albums got official UK releases which makes Fire Record’s best of collection, Out Of The Universe By Sundown, more exciting than most greatest hits collections.
With a collection of songs by a band it is easy to focus on what isn’t featured, and some of my favourites songs don’t make the cut. I’d have included ‘Chevy Marigold’, ‘Psych Threat’ and half a dozen other tracks on my own collection, but a single CD set of 15 songs isn’t going to have every brilliant track included. What is harder to do is argue against the inclusion of any of the songs that feature here. From the pop brilliance of ‘You Satisfy Me’, from their debut, through to ’Tourist UFO’ from their swansong (complete with an epic J Mascis guitar solo) their is not one duff track featured.
This collection is proof, if proof were needed, that Boston Spaceships were up their with Guided By Voices as one of the great bands of Pollard’s erratic and esoteric career. You only have to look at the guest guitarists that he managed to attract through their career (Chris Funk, Gary Jarman, Peter Buck, Colin Newman, Dave Rick and Steve Wynn among them) to see that this was not one of his throwaway side projects; this was the real deal. Listen to ‘Let It Rest For A Little While’, from Zero To 99, and you’ll hear the best track that Peter Buck played on for most of the decade.
The quality of songs here is complimented by the quality of the playing on show, Slusarenko is a hugely talented multi-instrumentalist and John Moen is one of the best drummers around today. Add that to the guests across the albums and some of the best performances of Pollard’s career and you have a pretty classic combination.
This album is not one for fans or collectors, there are no demos, live tracks, unreleased songs or b-sides. What you get is a selection of 15 songs from one of the best bands of the 21st century hand picked by Robert Pollard himself. I’m not an entirely impartial voice, I make no secret of how much I love Robert Pollard’s work, but I can tell the difference between his good and bad releases. I’d never encourage anyone to buy the largely awful ‘Superman Was A Rocker’ collection for example. What I can do is unreservedly recommend this album to anyone who wants to hear a set that demonstrates just how good guitar music can be.
2012 seems like a slow year by Robert Pollard standards, it is almost October and this is only his second solo album release. Even with three Guided By Voices albums and touring duties it is a slowdown compared to 2011 where he released six albums across five different identities, including the years best album in Boston Spaceships’s double album final release. Five albums in one year (and eleven in two) is an absurd amount by any other artist, but the prolific Mr.Pollard has never had a problem with song writing quantity.
The song writing quantity has sometimes lead to a quality control issue, and this has always been most noticeable on his side projects and solo releases, with Guided By Voices and then Boston Spaceships being the vehicles for his most structured albums. Recently though he has shown more of an even standard on his solo offerings, something that has reduced the number of throwaway numbers but has also made his work just that bit more predictable.
From that point of view Jack Sells The Cow doesn’t start off brilliantly, ‘Heaven Is A Gated Community’ is a Pollard by numbers mid-paced rocker that sounds all too familiar. It isn’t a bad song, Pollard is too good a writer for that, but it doesn’t grab me or offer anything new. Song three, ‘Who’s Running My Ranch’, is where the album really starts to kick in with voice samples, vocal overdubs, Batman theme bass and some pleasingly erratic guitars making the song an early high-point. It also illustrates a step forward for his work with Todd Tobias as they seem to be more comfortable and adventurous in the studio.
There are also a couple of songs that throw back all the way to the first ever Guided By Voices release, Forever Since Breakfast, in that they demonstrate Bob’s early REM influence. This is most notable on the bounce and jangle of the sprightly ‘Pontius Pilate Heart’, this is alt-pop at its best and could easily have been sung by a young Michael Stipe. Hearing Bob sound this free and light of touch is refreshing and it is on these songs that the album makes its mark.
There are some great noisy rockers on the album, ‘Fighting The Smoke’ has some beautifully dirty bass sounds, and nobody else does over-effected vocals this well. However, it is on the quieter moments where the songs really shine through here. ‘Red Rubber Army’ is one of those songs that sounds unique and familiar all at once, a melody so deceptively simple that you know Bob wrote it in a few minutes, close to perfect.
Robert Pollard will release better solo albums than this, possibly later this year, but by any standards this is a good record with a few moments of genuine genius.
When lots of reviewers talk about Class Clown Spots A UFO, and the previous release Let’s Go Eat The Factory, they’ll tell you that it sounds like Alien Lanes. Alien Lanes is probably the quintessential album by the so-called “classic line-up” that reunited so successfully for these two albums (so far) but the alleged similarity with that album is misleading. The albums sound more like Alien Lanes than, say, Isolation Drill or Do the Collapse but these are very different sounding albums. What we have here is the sound of the mid-90s line-up as filtered through the mind of Robert Pollard today. The good news is that this has produced a sound that manages to be simultaneously classic and fresh.
The album starts in typical fashion with the slightly ragged ‘He Rises! Our union Bellboy’ before slipping into Pollard’s favourite Who mode for the brief ‘Blue Battleships Bay’ – so far so good. Track three sees the first contribution from Tobin Sprout, ‘Forever Until It Breaks’, and marks the start of one of the strongest runs of songs on any Guided By Voices album. Five songs so brilliant, and so different, that they would be worth the price of the album alone.
The aforementioned Sprout song manages to captivate for over three minutes with a backing that loops the same single guitar riff throughout. It is followed by the title track, one of those brilliant pieces of Pollard pop melody that you know he probably tossed off before breakfast one morning. ‘Chain To The Moon’ is less than a minute of echoed vocals and roughly recorded acoustic guitar. A demonstration, if one were needed, that this kind of demo quality track is an essential part of the Guided By Voices magic. ‘Hang Up And Try Again’ is a classic heavy riffed stomper that sounds like a lost Mag! Earwig song, albeit with slightly less refined guitars. Best of all is ‘Keep It In Motion’, a song that sounds nothing like any other Guided By Voices track, but one that fits in perfectly on this release.
The next couple of tracks are less than perfect, an overblown psychedelic wig-out (‘Tyson’s High School’) and an uncharacteristic weak Sprout offering (‘They And Them’), but inconsistency and questionable editorial decisions are such an essential part of the Guided By Voices experience that this doesn’t really matter. Particularly when the rest of the album is so good and the overall quality is of a standard that shouldn’t be possible from an artist who is on his 15th album into a decade which is less than three years old (15 albums is an estimate -it is hard to keep count).
The variety on this album is typical of Guided By Voices, but even in those terms it is still an impressive achievement. The album has spawned three singles, the title track, ‘Keep It In Motion’ and ‘Jon The Croc’. I struggle to think of any artist that could release three such varied singles from one album, and for them all to be as good as they are is even more impressive.
When Guided By Voices returned people seemed genuinely surprised how good their “reunion” album was. Class Clown Spots A UFO proves this wasn’t a fluke and, in fact, is just that little bit better that its predecessor.
When Robert Pollard broke up Guided By Voices in 2004 it seemed an odd decision to make. The band had always been a revolving group of players based around him, and the logical thing to do (if he was bored with the current incarnation) was to find a new set of players as he had done in the past. Looking back it makes more sense, Guided By Voices created an expectation of the kind of record he needed to produce and he wanted a change from that.
Despite having a number of line-ups it is the band that loosely came together for Propeller, and would go on to record Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand, that would be seen as the classic line-up of the band. This line-up of Pollard alongside Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin Fennell reunited in 2010 and have since played a number of well received shows reviving the Guided By Voices brand.
Given the popularity of this version of the band, and Pollard’s relentless musical output, it was no real surprise to hear that the band were to release (at least) two albums in 2012. The first of these to be made available is Let’s Go Eat the Factory, a modest 21 song set of vintage Guided By Voices lo-fi pop brilliance.
What is immediately evident when listening to this album is that it is a classic Guided By Voices record. It doesn’t sound like Boston Spaceships or solo Robert Pollard it sounds like Guided By Voices. There are some developments in the 15 years since this line-up played together, most notably cleaner production and more keyboards, but from the ragged guitar intro of ‘Laundry and Lasers’ you know exactly where you are. These are songs from the garages of Dayton Ohio, played by a group of old colleagues who never grew out of wanting to play noisy poppy rock music.
The three songs selected as singles ‘Doughnut For A Snowman’, ‘The Unsinkable Fats Domino’ (the song here that sounds most like late-era GBV) and the forthcoming ‘Chocolate Boy’ are all examples of Pollard’s mastery of the short pop song. These can be added to the already long list of GBV songs that should have been hits, and reasons why he should be a household name rather than a cult icon.
The other key factor that makes this album a classic Guided By Voices record is the inclusion of six songs written and sung by Tobin Sprout. His more esoteric arrangements and plaintive vocals were the perfect counterpart to the Robert Pollard songs when I first discover Alien Lanes, and they achieve the same thing today. Pollard is at his best when he has another musical talent to work along side and Sprout’s contributions set against his give the album more texture and depth than if just Pollard had contributed tracks. The playing, although rougher than on late-era GBV records, is excellent and Pollard can clearly tailor his songwriting to the strengths of the band.
It is a very enjoyable album that is high in quality from start to finish and, in ‘How I Met My Mother’, it has one of the best song titles I’ve seen in years. I have mixed feelings about the nostalgia and cynical reasons behind most reunions, but if the end result is as good as this then it has to be worth it.
The album is released by Fire Records in January 2012 and is already staking a claim for the top 20 chart at the end of next year. I’m sad that I’ll not get to see the band play, as their ATP appearance has been cancelled, but I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of their recorded output in the coming year.
Let It Beard, the final album from Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships, was a stand-out album this year and made top spot in our 2011 Top 20. The album was recorded by Robert Pollard as demos on his boombox before being sent to the musicians in the band to record their parts. www.gbvdigital.com have made these demos available from their website and we can all get an insight into the song-writing and recording process of one of the most prolific artists of all time.
The thing that strikes you most when listening to the tracks is how “finished” the songs are at the demo stage. They are rough and warts and all, false starts, hesitation and vocal errors are all there, but the songs have the same basic arrangements, style and rhythm as the finished versions. ‘Blind 20-20′ has the same frenetic guitar style as the final song and you can almost hear the gaps where the superb backing vocals would go on ‘Chevy Marigold’.
Even more amazingly the songs were written whilst recording took place,”conjuring” as Robert Pollard calls it, leading to some necessity to cut bits of songs together on some of these tracks. Pollard’s individual brilliance takes nothing away from his musical partners Moen and Slusarenoko, it was their brilliant playing that took these sparse acoustic demo’s and turned them into the best guitar album of the year. The gaps are part of the fascination of an album like this, listening to ‘Tourist UFO’, even in this form, you are waiting for the brilliant J Mascis guitar solo.
It is difficult to review an album like this, and not one that I’d consider giving a score to, it is a brilliant musical document but not one that I expect to listen to as much as the full album. If you haven’t heard the full album (and you really should, go and buy it right now) you are missing a big part of the enjoyment of listening to the songs in this form. Any fan of Robert Pollard’s work in any of his guises will get a lot from this though, a nice insight into the master at work.
It also makes me think that a Robert Pollard solo acoustic album could be a pretty wonderful thing. An album of his songs played by him on his acoustic guitar with a bit more of a slick production (but not too slick) would be a great addition to his already enormous discography.
Limited edition physical copies of this album sold out in just two days but the album is available for digital download for free on the GBV Digital website.
After a successful reunion tour the classic (not original) line-up of Guided By Voices have announced the release of a new album. The album, entitled Let’s Go Eat The Factory, is due for release on the 1st of January 2012 and will feature Mitch Mitchell, Tobin Sprout, Kevin Fennell and Greg Demos alongside Robert Pollard. It is the first time that this incarnation of the band has released a record since Under The Bushes, Under The Stars in 1996.
The track list for the new album is as follows:
01. Laundry And Lasers
02. The Head
03. Doughnut For A Snowman
05. Hang Mr. Kite
06. God Loves Us
07. The Unsinkable Fats Domino
08. Who Invented The Sun
09. The Big Hat And Toy Show
10. Imperial Racehorsing
11. How I Met My Mother
13. My Europa
14. Chocolate Boy
15. The Things That Never Need
16. Either Nelson
17. Cyclone Utilities (Remember Your Birthday)
18. Old Bones
19. Go Rolling Home
20. The Room Taking Shape
21. We Won’t Apologize For The Human Race
Robert Pollard didn’t slow down when he retired his band, Guided by Voices, to concentrate on other projects. He averages more albums a year than most bands manage in a lifetime. This week saw the release saw his 4th album of the year hit the shops. Rather than swamp this site with reviews (and avoid looking like a Robert Pollard fanzine) I’ve decided to do a round up of his releases in the first half of 2011 in one place.
Robert Pollard – Space City Kicks
To be honest I have started to get a little worn down by Pollard’s solo output, the production sound and musical style (supplied by Todd Tobias) has started to sound a little samey and it can lack surprises. Opening track ‘Mr Fantastic Must Die’ is a case in point, garbled lyrics and atonal guitar stabs fail to be interesting or novel. It is a great song title in search of a good song. Things do improve from here on out though with Pollard throwing in enough great songs amongst the average ones to save the album.
The album swings easily between Who influenced rockers and slow romantic numbers like ‘One More Touch’ and ‘Blowing Like a Sunspot’. This kind of esoteric album will be familiar to Pollard fans, and with only one song exceeding the 3 minute mark you’ll not be waiting long for a new song to come along if you don’t enjoy the style of the current one. Some old ground is covered over, something Strawberry’ is a great poppy tune, but it does leave you wondering if you’ve heard it before on an old Guided By Voices album. Given his output it would be unfair to be too picky about the odd song not sounding 100% original, and the variety on the album makes up for some of the shortcomings. Get to track 16 and the album’s bona fide classic ‘Woman To Fly’ is worth the purchase price alone. Simple, subtle and sparse it is the opposite of ‘Mr Fantastic Must Die’, and it is this variety and musical conflict that make this album worthwhile.
Lifeguards – Waving at the Astronauts
Waving at the Astronauts sees Pollard reunited with latter period Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard in their Lifeguards alias. This is exciting for me as I love the Guided By Voices output when Gillard was Pollard’s main foil. I love the classic line-up albums but the playing on Mag Earwhig! onwards complemented Pollard’s songwriting and Gillard wrote ‘I am a Tree’, one of the few classic Guided By Voices tunes not written by Pollard himself.
Waving at the Astronauts is great stuff from the outset, ‘Paradise Is Not So Bad’ sees Pollard free forming lyrics over some great multi-tracked guitar work. The album is all about the guitar and Gillard seems determined to throw as many styles of playing in as he can, all of which fit seamlessly together. Pollard seems freed by someone else taking the main responsibility for the music and sounds in better voice than he has for years. A range of classic rock sounds are thrown into the mix through the album, ‘(Doing the) Math’ sounds like a live recording of a lost 1970s act whilst ‘You’re Gonna Need a Mountain’ has the feel of an overblown 1980s stadium act. The 10 songs, all clocking in at over three minutes are of such a consistent quality that is reminiscent of those late period Guided By Voices albums. Closing track ‘What am I?’ sounds like nothing that Pollard has recorded before, but manages to stand out as a future live classic on an album of stand-out tracks.
Mars Classroom – The New Theory of Everything
Mars Classroom is an alt-rock supergroup (of sorts) made up of Robert Pollard (providing lyrics, vocals and meoldies), Gary Waleik (from Big Dipper and Volcano Suns – providing the music) and Robert Beerman (from Pell Mell – playing the drums). As with the Lifeguards album this sharing of musical responsibility seems to suit Pollard and we get one of the lightest and most enjoyable albums he has released since he split his first band. I know little of his new colleagues old bands, but on the strength of this release they are an act that is well worth seeking out.
The title track is classic 90s alt-pop-rock and plays the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, guitar solo, verse, chorus, fade out formula to perfection. Track two, ‘Man. Wine. Power!’, proves that this isn’t a fluke with another great stab of power pop. We are also treated to some of the most commercial power ballads that Pollard has been involved in since he attempted commercial success with the Do The Collapse album in 1999. There are enough quirks and lryical touches to lift this album above the norm, but it is probably the most conventional album that Pollard has released since the late 90s, and that in itself is refreshing. A lot of the credit has to go to Waleik who provides some great tunes and melodic, but simple, instrumentation throughout. As the excellent ‘Wish We Were Young’ brings the album to a close I already want to hear more from this new combo.
Robert Pollard – Lord of the Birdcage
Lord of the Birdcage sees Pollard doing something different in terms of his songwriting, the whole album being previously written poems put to new music. This approach means that the standard verse, chorus, verse structure is less obvious and it does seem to bring the lyrics to the fore and whilst they aren’t obvious (that isn’t Pollards way) they do seem to have a clearer meaning and structure than on his other recent solo outings. It is also an album that challenges by accusations of staleness of his recording relationship with Todd Tobias sounding very different from his January release (see the first review above).
‘Smashed Little Finger’ is a quiet opener which showcases some interesting lyrics and a cracked vocal style that suits the song perfectly. There is a consistent, slightly sombre, mood throughout and although it is very much a guitar lead album Pollard and Tobias resist the urge to rock out for most of the album. This is a real strength and lets the melodic and whimsical side of Pollard’s personality come to the fore. This is best demonstrated on ‘In a Circle’ which has a thoughtful folky feel and stands as the albums centre point. ‘You Sold me Quickly’ is one of the album’s noisier tracks, bass heavy and satisfying some of Pollard’s Who tendencies. Second to last track ‘Holy Fire’ brings more of a drone rock sound than anything that has come before, but still manages to avoid any of the weirder excesses that can sometimes turn promising tunes into sludge on his albums. This is one of the most consistent releases under his own name that Pollard has released in several years and bodes well for part two of 2011.
As rock stars get older the angst fades and they often look towards home and their kids for inspiration. While for some it is the sheer joy of parenthood that is inspiring, for others being a parent carries some serious emotional baggage that needs airing. We’ve got some tracks by some great folk artists, angry punks, the chameleon in chief of modern music and XTC – practically our house band at Neon Filler. Sit back, pull up a fairy cake and enjoy Neon Filler’s Top Ten Songs About Being A Parent.
1. Animal Collective – My Girls
We’ve gone for one of the most recent songs about parenting for our number one slot. Here Animal Collective’s Panda Bear sings about the most basic of parenting emotions of providing a safe and loving home for his family.
The My Girls in question are wife Fernanda Pereira and daughter Nadja. “I just want four walls and adobe slats (red roofing tiles in Portugal where he lives) for my girls,” he sings. Panda Bear’s girls have since been joined by a son, who was born in June 2010, who now also enjoys the family’s four walls and tiles.
My Girls features on Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) read our review here.
2. XTC – Holly Up on Poppy
As our Top Ten Bands that Changed our Lives feature explains XTC are the kind of band you can grow up with. From their teenage roots as new wavers in Swindon to becoming family men XTC’s chief song writers Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding always come up trumps when singing about the every day important issues of life. Parenting is a theme that crops up in many of their songs but Partridge’s song about his daughter Holly riding on her rocking horse perfectly sums up the joy a parent has watching their child play.
Quoted on the excellent Chalkhills XTC web site Partridge explains that the song’s beauty is its simplicity. “Originally the song was titled ‘Holly High on Poppy’ but people thought it was about drugs. Even now someone’s said it’s about dying of cancer and taking drugs to ease the pain. But it’s really about my daughter and her rocking horse.”
Holly Up On Poppy features on Nonsuch (1990)
3. Squeeze – Up the Junction
Up the Junction is a classic for so many reasons. It’s a weepie about a foolish alcoholic man looking back at his regrets. It’s a rare hit that has no chorus. But for me it is the few lines about the protagonist’s joy of becoming a parent that make this a classic about parenthood. “This morning at 4:50 I took her rather nifty, Down to an incubator, Where thirty minutes later, She gave birth to a daughter, Within a year a walker. She looked just like her mother, if there could be another.” Wonderful stuff.
Up The Junction features on Cool For Cats (1979)
4. Ben Folds – Gracie
Ben Folds has written for both his son and daughter but it is this tribute to his daughter Gracie that really caught our attention. Folds perfectly captures the special bond between parent and child, as he sings that “you will always have a part of me nobody else is ever going to see.”
The innocence of being a kid is also wonderfully summed up, with Folds showing genuine emotion describing the everyday events of a child’s life as he sings to Gracie, “with your cards to your chest walking on your toes, What you got in the box only Gracie knows.” Ahhh.
Gracie features on Songs For Silverman (2005)
5. David Bowie – Kooks
Kooks is a great tribute to a newborn. Written just after his son Zowie Bowie was born it shows Bowie imagining life as a parent, hoping he does a good job. Among the many splendid lines is this beauty about his son’s school life to come. “Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads, Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads. And if the homework brings you down, Then we’ll throw it on the fire,And take the car downtown.”
This shows a wonderful warmth that was sadly not replicated in Bowie’s odd choice of name for his son. With a name like that there’s no need to pick a fight with a cad, they’ll come flocking. Thankfully Zowie is now Duncan Jones and a fine director to boot.
Kooks features on Hunky Dory (1971)
6. Guided By Voices – My Son Cool.
Having a cool dad is par for the course being a rock star’s son or daughter and they don’t come much cooler than Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard. An indie music stalwart, prolific song writer, influencer of many and a former college sports star as well. Pollard is cool as you get. It is with a certain knowing air that he shuns his own coolness and says to his son Bryan, no, it is you that is cool. Now off you go son and do you own thing.
As Pollard said in 2005 about parenthood. “I’ve at least allowed my children to pursue their own interests without too much interference, and I think they both turned out pretty good.” A proud dad indeed.
My Son Cool features on Alien Lanes (1995)
7. John Martyn – My Baby Girl
Sometimes songs need little explanation; the lyrics and title say it all. That’s the case here with My Baby Girl, written by the late John Martyn in the mid 1970s. Its sugary, its syrupy and there’s nothing wrong with that. This line in particular shows how much Martyn and his daughter need and inspire each other. “Daddy will you sing for me, Daddy try to swing for me, Daddy play your strings for me, Daddy don’t you cry for me, Daddy will you fly for me, Daddy will you try for me.”
My Baby Girl features on Sunday’s Child (1975)
8. Joni Mitchell – Little Green.
Mitchell gave her daughter up for adoption in 1965, explaining some years later that , “I was dirt poor. An unhappy mother does not raise a happy child. It was difficult parting with the child, but I had to let her go.” Writing about this tragic part of her life is no mean feat, but in 1967 after a number of rejigs she finally managed to deliver Little Green, about the toddler she never knew. While Little Green is one of the saddest tracks on our list, the real life story has a happy ending of sorts, with Mitchell being reunited with her daughter Kilauren Gibb in 1997.
Little Green features on Blue (1971)
9. Wilco and Billy Bragg – Hoodoo Voodoo
Being a kid is silly, being a parent can be silly. Sometimes there are big issues to sing about, but sometimes as on this Woody Guthrie track re-imagined by Wilco and Billy Bragg, there is a lot of fun to be had. Here Guthrie’s odd nonsense rhyme for his kids is given the music it deserves. How can you not like a song with the lyrics “Hoodoo voodoo, Chooka chooky choochoo; True blue, how true; Kissle me now.”
Hoodoo Voodoo features on Mermaid Avenue Vol 1. (1998)
10. Hamell on Trial – Inquiring Minds
I’d never heard of Ed Hamell until I put out a request on Facebook for ideas for songs about parenting. Turns out I’ve been missing out on not only one of the best songwriters around but one of the best songwriters about being parent. Hamell sings whole albums about being a parent. It is this excellent track Inquiring Minds that was recommended to us, where Hamell expertly bluffs his way through some of the embarrassing questions more investigative kids might pose.
Inquiring Minds features on Parents Who Enjoy Drugs (2006)
compiled by Joe Lepper (with help from Neon Filler’s friends on Facebook and inspired by his sons Dylan and Charlie)