I don’t know how it works now that Spotify has less ads than the radio, and CDs are essentially ancient artefacts, but when I was a kid you got your music taste largely from whatever your mum and dad played on the car stereo while you were strapped in the back seat, usually protesting loudly.
With family in rural Victoria, and more scattered up the eastern coast of Australia, my childhood featured a great many road trips set to a soundtrack conceived by the musical geniuses that are my parents. Where Dad was a former drummer and fan of all things rock, Mum was a former choir member and loyal ABBA fan.
I spent many of my primary school years tape-recording hit songs off the radio and listening to the same tracks on repeat on my Walkman. Once I reached high school, I discovered my deep and abiding love of Daniel Bedingfield’s “Gotta Get Through This” wasn’t going to get me through playground discussions of musical preferences. Many of my peers gained cultural cred from their dads playing them The Beatles or The Who – Dad Rock became less an insult and more of a genre to name check as a Serious Music Fan.
But my dad only ever played me the apparently less cool Metallica and Deep Purple, and Simple Plan was as rock as I got. While my father’s legacy lives on in my life in other ways (Ugg boots; never admitting I’m wrong; muting the ads on TV), it’s my mum’s corny, and arguably bad, taste in music that’s stuck with me.
My mother listens to music that falls into one of four categories: Tina Arena Dion (the amalgamation of two divas), famous musical theatre soundtracks, ABBA or Fleetwood Mac. The sound of my childhood, accursed as it was by glandular fever, was the distant sound of Mum vacuuming in the living room while I lay sick in bed, Tina Arena’s “Sorrento Moon (I Remember)” blasting down the hallway.
It makes sense then that the first time I ever did a comedic reading in public, I chose to play the same tune as my backing track. There are so many other instances of my mother’s musical taste echoing through my life. When I took her to see Wicked when it came to Australia in 2015, it reminded me of the times I’d power-punched the sky singing its classic hit, “Defying Gravity”, with my best friend. That very track has seen us through many a road trip, spring cleaning of our shared house, and garden weeding session.
The same playlist that I use to motivate myself to do menial household tasks is littered with Fleetwood Mac. Rumours is now my favourite album of all time, and my karaoke track list go-to. When Mum would put it on in the car, pre-teen me would yawn. But who do you think was sitting next to Mum when the band reunited and visited Australia? It was yours truly, Fleetwood Mac’s number two backup dancer (Mum is number one, of course).
Could it be that Mum was right all along? That though she did, at one stage, deeply love literal criminal Gary Glitter, she also possessed a keen ear for a pop hit, a karaoke banger, and a classic ballad? Could she have unwittingly shaped me into the musical dag I am?
Here’s to a mum’s taste in music. It’s not just with you when you’re snorting at her signature dance moves, or while she’s vacuuming when you’re sick in bed missing school. It may very well see you through your dorky high school days, ironic pop music early-20s phase, and drunk karaoke late-20s phase.
As poet Björn Ulvaeus once said, “Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. And as Agnetha Fältskog warbled, “Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.” Who CAN live without it? I ask in all honesty. What would life be – without mums and their terrible taste in music, what are we? So I say thank you for the music, Mum, for giving it to me.