When I was a little kid, I thought my dad was really cool.

Later, when I was a teenager, I thought my dad was really…


Let me explain.

1990. Me, my Dad, and 11-year old sister Leanna

I would sit by by my stereo, the one I bought with mowing money, and listen to Portland radio station Q105 with a blank cassette tape and my sketchbook, listening for songs to identify, hoping that the DJ would actually mention the artist's name so I'd know who it was. There was no Pandora. There was no Google or Shazam or Spotify. I didn't even have a CD player (those were still early adoption luxury).

I would save up my money from hustling yard work and selling gift wrap door-to-door. I would buy blank tapes to record songs off the radio, and when I discovered a handful of songs I really liked, I would go to the local music store and pore over selections. Van Halen or Danger Danger. Poison or John Waite. Mariah Carey or Milli Vanilli. Bonham or Dio. Taylor Dayne or Alannah Myles.

Came home from school one afternoon with my new purchase. So excited. I played it soft. Played it loud. Mostly loud. Played it for my eight-year old brother Josh. Then I thought of the person I was most excited to play it for, who would think, "Okay, I agree with you Joseph…this is the greatest song ever."

So when my dad got home, I said Dad you HAVE to come hear this song. It is SO GOOD. You are going to love it. You gotta come in here.

So he came out to my room, which was a little conclave off the garage, formerly inhabited by a hairy dog, which I sometimes kept about as clean as that dog probably did. Clicked the cassette into place, and pressed play, and the opening, now unmistakable chords came on. Crunch Pause. Crunch. And then:

The voices, in tandem, kicked in, and I just started smiling, and my dad and I stand there, me smiling, with the Beastie Boys rocking through their fratboy-parodying phase with (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).

You wake up late for school - man you don't wanna goYou ask your mom, "Please?" - but she still says, "No!"You missed two classes - and no homeworkBut your teacher preaches class like you're some kind of jerk
If there are two individuals who are more un-like A) the son in this story and B) the father in this story, then it would be the C) two people standing in the bedroom in that very moment listening to the 1986 party pastiche of punk, metal, and rap.
Your pop caught you smoking - and he said, "No way!"That hypocrite - smokes two packs a dayMan, living at home is such a dragNow your mom threw away your best porno mag (Bust it!)
As I later became interested in the pop culture and music histories of my adolescent era, I learned that it was a very particular early phase of the Beastie Boys that they quickly distanced themselves from, as they became political agitators more focused on weighty topics and his honorable Mr. Dalai Llama. But at the time, their party standard was the apex of teenage rebellion; the score for Youth Gone Wild and a billion insurgent fistpumping moments. I didn't realize this until later though. It was a fist in the face of authority and hierarchy that was represented by every person over the age of 20. A song about archetypes.

Funny thing about archetypes is that they rarely exist. They are like a shadow that disappears; once you become familiar with something, you begin to realise it's not really an archetype (archetype = fancier and more specific way of stereotyping something, like the simple, universal character that is instantly recognizable to most people. Think:

the Wise Old Man (Merlin)

the Wicked Stepmother (Cinderella, Parent Trap)

the Eccentric Mentor (Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid),

the Knight in Shining Armor (King Arthur, Galahad, Qui-Gon Jinn)

the Rebellious Teenager (Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye)

In reality, archetypes are like a second cousin to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in science, which states that you change an event simply by observing it (specifically referring to particles in quantum physics :). Once you examine an archetype, it starts to lose its universality; it changes and becomes specific and detailed. And has a name. It starts to become something with an identity, a specific identity of its own. No longer archetype. The easy-to-classify Rebellious Teenager trope becomes

a 14-year old kid with a name, an identity, and a specific series of motivations, desires, and interests that stand a good chance of being shared if they're taken seriously and respected.

Steve McQueen cool, 1990-style

I never really thought that I represented the kid in the song, and I never really thought that my dad represented the father in the song. It is a great song (probably the Greatest Song Ever), but I don't know why I was convinced, as a 14-year old, that my father would think it was so cool too.

So you're wondering what he did. This is what he did: he listened to it in the same manner that he listened to the Beach Boys or Roger Whittaker, with incredible intensity, head bobbing, tapping his foot, one eye quinted. I imagine many thoughts roaming round his head about how to handle, or how to talk with his teenage son about listening to a song that is the very paragon of teenage rebellion, and in addition to being an antagonistic denouncement of parental authority, also casually references smoking and pornography. So I don't know exactly what he was thinking. For some strange reason, I don't remember feeling discomfort, which seems odd.

At some point, perhaps my teenage son will discover the Beastie Boys du jour, and I would like to think that I will respond sort of like my dad did. Which was:

to tap his feet and bob his head in a really nerdly way, and just be there. In the moment.

Not out of affirmation for the song. Not out of affirmation for the message or lifestyle contained in the song. But out of affirmation for me; his teenage son, and the message he wordlessly conveyed:

"This is important to you. So I'm going to take you seriously. Most importantly, you wanted to share this with me when you didn't have to. You have opened communication with me. I'm going to keep that open. And I'm just going to say something like "Wow That's an awfully catchy song. Thanks for sharing."

That's the kind of choice I hope I can make.

Time to go play the groovy new Trent Reznor Christmas album.


The Beastie Boys
(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)Licensed to Ill

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