Don’t stop the music

Music has always been an important part of my life, but I’ve never shown any great talent for it (other than being able to identify obscure songs from short snippets of their intros, which has proven lucrative at pub quiz nights). Sure, I’m a big music fan and I did play the flute for several years in school, but – to put it kindly – I’m never going to win X Factor.

Heather would be the first to agree that she is even less talented than me, rarely tackling a stage more public than the shower with her singing.

We will have to wait and see with Toby, but music is certainly an important part of Zac’s life already, and has been ever since he was born. He has always responded well to soothing (if somewhat tuneless) singing, belted out nursery rhymes word and pitch-perfect earlier than pretty much any other child I know, and showed an early interest in any musical instrument we cared to thrust towards him – the louder the better, obviously.

He has a real affinity with contemporary pop music too. In the latter months of his first year, he would often wake up in the small hours of the morning, crying inconsolably. After a number of remedies were tried unsuccessfully, I discovered the one thing guaranteed to calm him down and then ease him back to sleep was a recording of a Suzanne Vega concert – ‘Live At Montreux’ in 2004 – I had lying around. Within minutes, the crying would stop as his eyes fixed on the screen, a small smile would touch his lips, and soon enough the eyelids would start to weigh heavily and close. We went through this routine so many times that I knew which songs he found the most relaxing and would send him off to sleep. (‘Luka’ and ‘The Queen and the Soldier’, by the way, coincidentally two of my favourite Vega tracks.)

Since then, music has become an integral part of both his daytime and night-time routines. When I am putting him to bed, the last thing we always do is sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ together – the 12-inch version with the extra verses (although he does also have his very own Slipknot-inspired thrash version, which has to be heard to be believed). He regularly wanders around the house singing songs from his favourite TV programmes. And he has a well-established pattern of latching on to one song for several weeks at a time, which he will insist on listening to/watching over and over again until he has memorised it to his satisfaction.

So, over the past year or so, he has obsessively listened to the following:
– ‘Heart of Glass’, Blondie
– ‘Not Fair’, Lily Allen (he is a huge Lily fan, although less so since the restraining order)
– ‘Remedy’, Little Boots
– ‘Bad Boys’, Alexandra Burke
– ‘Fireflies’, Owl City
– ‘Don’t Stop The Music’, Rihanna (his current favourite)

And when I say obsessive, I really do mean it. There was one Saturday morning recently when we watched the video of the song repeatedly for over an hour – 16 times consecutively – before 8am. When we go out in the car he will ask to play it non-stop. And when he sees my iPhone or iPod, it is the first thing he looks for. You get the idea.

Much though I think it’s a great track, when you’ve heard it 50 times or more in a single week it does start to grate somewhat. Mind you, it is hilarious when you’re driving along and you hear Zac in the back of the car belting out whole phrases of the song with good enough accuracy in terms of words and tune for it to be instantly recognisable to anyone.

I don’t know whether he will show an interest in becoming a musician or whether he will, like his uncle Peter (who has a room stuffed full of CDs and typically goes to at least a couple of gigs a week) and me, just be a music-lover. Either way, it’s good to know he already has an excellent ear – it rarely takes more than the first five or six notes of a song he knows to come on the radio before his head snaps around in recognition and he tells you who the artist is – so if you ever want someone with good musical knowledge to complete your pub quiz team, Zac’s your boy.