Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Magical Musical Mystery Tour

Kids have a lot of good things built right inside them from the very start. Good hearts, good intentions, good imaginations....

But one thing they don't have? Good taste. Not in food (do you know how many things they'll put ketchup on? It's actually horrifying) not in fashion (though my girls' pattern mixing game is remarkably strong) and certainly not in music.

I wrote about my naivety in this regard back when Piper was little. I thought that we could avoid the "Raffi" of it all (not hating...he actually seems like quite a dear, but how many verses of "Down by the Bay" can you get through before it morphs into actual torture?) But it turns out I was wrong. Kids actually seem to come pre-programmed to enjoy the least common denominator of entertainment. (Witness: my childrens' endless giggling at the mere mention of "poop". So highbrow.). And as it is with humor, so it also goes with music....Without me intentionally exposing them to anything even remotely Wiggle-esque, they still manage to find the cheesiest/corniest/earwormiest tunes...and love it. Like moths to a musically-stunted flame...

Now- the good news is, kids are also very moldable, so while if left to their own devises, they might never expand their horizons beyond grilled cheese sandwiches and Baby Shark videos, with a little help, they can be taught to appreciate the finer things in life. So it becomes my job to expose them to a range of quality song stylings, in an effort to unseed the rhymey refrains they're typically drawn to.

So when a blogger I follow talked about doing a project to introduce her daughter to more varied (/good) music, I knew I wanted to get in on that action. She talked about how she noticed that while they love music, their rotation had gotten remarkably small- consisting of mostly her daughters' favs. So she wanted to break it up a bit, and planned to listen to a band or artist once a week, to grow their "repertoire". She didn't give many details, but that kernel of an idea was all I needed to get going on my own version. I didn't quite get my act together at the beginning of the year (we were too busy listening to all things Disney anyway...) but I got the itch to get it going this weekend...and so off we go!

Introducing: The Magical Musical Mystery Tour

Yes, I named it. Because anything worth doing, is worth naming, and then doing.

My basic plan- write down a bunch of influential bands/artists, pick one (from a surprise jar) per week to listen to as a family, getting my kids familiar with more music, and hopefully sparking some new favorites to work into our daily listening.

Alexa (my unofficial assistant in this endeavor) informed me on Sunday that we had 44.4 weeks remaining in the year, so I wanted to select about that number of artists for the project. Wellllll- it turns out it was a little tough to narrow it down. (If you saw my Instagram Stories from the other day, then you know I was in pretty deep, pretty quick). So I eventually just aimed to get as comprehensive a list as possible, and see where it netted out. I consulted several online "Top 50" lists, and "Best Artists" by decades lists to help form my roster. And like I said- it ended up being much more daunting than I thought (Theme Of My Life) so I had to draw a few lines to keep it manageable. I knew I wanted to focus mostly on the "classics"- though there are many different interpretations to that. Mostly what I mean is: artists who have a large body of work, numerous hits, and have withstood the test of time. This means one-hit wonders were out (no matter how good that hit was), and I made the choice to stick with artists prior to the 1990's. There is certainly no shortage of talent that has launched within the last 30 years, but for the purpose of this exercise I thought it best to narrow it down, and trust that my kids will have an opportunity to get schooled on the many merits of Katy Perry at a later date.

I wrote each band/artist on a piece of paper, and counted them up...I had just around 99. (Pretty sure Duran Duran sneaked in there twice though. Duran Duran Duran Duran?) There was no way I was going to be able to weed out more than half, so I decided to pair some of them up. I figure having a couple artists each week will be good to add variety. Plus I tried to group them by genre (kinda...loosely) so that we could also talk a bit about different time periods or styles of music, while we learn about specific bands.( I did leave some bands/artists on their own if I felt like they had enough of an anthology to carry the week solo.) Once they were all ganged up, I was left with 37 sets of classic content. It's not quite enough for the full year, but it should take us right up to the holiday time- when we can shift into non-stop caroling!

After I completed it, I wanted to share our list so that other people could benefit from the effort...but I'm hesitate to post the details because I fear the inevitable wrath and judgement for what I've included, (and more likely- what I omitted). There is NO WAY the list I landed on satisfies everyone's point of view on the most important artists of our time. I'm certain I've left of someone that people would deem crucial, and I can already sense my Dad rolling his eyes at the inclusion of the Bangles. But in the end...My list, my rules! And it's not about being perfectly classy...it's just supposed to be a fun way to expand our musical palates (are those called ears?)

I think it's going to be a fun little challenge, and I'd love it if you got into it with your families too. (It doesn't even have to be for kids...it might be a good experiment to get you out of your own musical rut!) In no particular order, Here is our full list:
  1. The Andrews Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald
  2. Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong
  3. The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Drifters
  4. Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Barry White, Marvin Gaye
  5. The Mamas & The Papas, The Everly Brothers, The Four Seasons (& Frankie Vallie)
  6. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams
  7. The Rolling Stones
  8. The Beach Boys
  9. Elvis Presley
  10. The Beatles
  11. The Shirelles, Diana Ross (& The Supremes) The Crystals
  12. Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield
  13. Fats Domino, Smokey Robinson, Chuck Berry
  14. Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline
  15. David Bowie, Elton John, Billy Joel
  16. Bob Marley
  17. The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band
  18. The Ramones, The Who, Pink Floyd
  19. Janis Joplin, The Doors
  20. Queen, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix
  21. ABBA, Donna Summer, The Bee Gees
  22. Commodores (& Lionel Richie), Stevie Wonder
  23. Michael Jackson (& The Jackson Five)
  24. The Eagles, Chicago, Simon & Garfunkle (& Paul Simon)
  25. Creedance Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac (& Stevie Nicks)
  26. James Taylor, John Denver, Tom Petty
  27. Crosby Stills Nash & Young (& Neil Young), The Doobie Brothers
  28. Kool & The Gang, Run DMC, Sly & The Family Stone, The Beastie Boys
  29. R.E.M., U2
  30. Madonna
  31. The Bangles, The Go Gos, Pat Benetar, Blondie
  32. WHAM (& George Michael), Hall & Oats, Duran Duran
  33. Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, The Police (& Sting), Bryan Adams
  34.  Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins & Peter Gabriel (& Genesis)
  35. Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Motley Crue
  36. Foreigner, Def Leppard, Guns & Roses
  37. Journey, Aerosmith, AC/DC
Today was our kickoff, and my quick explanation of the idea, I was met with a range of complete indifference to mild tolerance...So...typical!
And from the jar we choooooseeeeee......drumrollllll....

ABBA, Donna Summer, and The Bee Gees!

*anti-climatic cymbal crash*

Ok. Admittedly, maybe not the strongest start. But the surprise is part of the thrill (and what puts the Mystery in The Magical Musical Mystery Tour) so we (rock &) roll with it. Once we had this week's selection I started a Spotify Playlist. My plan is to add each week's artists as we go so I'll eventually have one full playlist for the whole project.  I just chose the cream of the crop hits for my compiled list, but I also have a few more all-encompassing lists by artist queued up in case we're in the mood for some deep cuts. (They're probably not all totally kid safe, but we'll cross that bridge over troubled water when we get to it).

And so The Magical Musical Mystery Tour is off and running (toot toot, beep beep!) I'm cautiously optimistic that we manage to stick with this for longer than a day and a half. (Dustin is reluctantly getting onboard with Week One's disco fever, but has already emphatically refused a showing of Mama Mia!)

If you're going to give it a whirl, I'd love to hear about it! You can write out your own list, borrow ours, or even just follow along with the playlist to jam with what we selected that week. No matter how you run it, if you join in the fun, tag #magicalmusicalmysterytour so I can follow along!


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