Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Y'know... for kids.

I read something very heart warming today. Without wishing to turn this into an Elbow-centric blog, I think that this should be pointed out. Elbow want to make an album of children's music as they reckon there is very little decent music for kids. I, for one, applaud them.

This notion has been buzzing round my head for a few days and the thought was stoked, not least, by the discussion of childhood car songs over on the MamaShip (Ralph McTell and Nerys Hughes at the Alphabet Zoo for me...).

You see, I've reached a point in my life which I'm sure must come to us all. When we are in the car - indeed sometimes at home as well - Mini Frod now feels quite free to ask that we listen to 'my songs' at any and all times as opposed to, say, 'daddy's songs'. So this has meant a large recent exposure amongst the 'Frods to a handful of those kind of kids CDs to which Elbow are reacting. And, by and large, they are absolutely right. It's cack. Almost all of it.

And yet...

Every now and then one of the tunes seems to stand out. It's been, well, produced. Properly and all that. Some of the songs are startling for the amount of balls they spout. Some are just a badly programmed Casio and a profoundly over-enthused voice. Some, terror of all terrors, actually involve groups of freakishly disinterested children singing.

But one of our CDs is worth it all for this tune, which I'd never heard before. Heavy heavy drums. Avant-garde lyrics. A neat shuffling synth and a damn fine tune. I give you, Peter Perkins.

31 Peter Perkins.mp3

So does anyone else have any experience of great/awful kids music? And would you have chosen Elbow to produce a kids album above, say, The Flaming Lips or Babyshambles? Or, indeed, Fuck Buttons?

Any thoughts?

Oh, just to remind you who Elbow are, here's Snooks (Progress Report), whose name at least sounds like a bizarre nursery rhyme...

04 Snooks (progress report).mp3

Note the similar drums....


snadfrod said...

Just to clarify, two of my suggestions for bands to do kids music are not serious. Can you guess which two?

Shoey said...

Not sure that Babyshambles would work, Fuck Buttons might if they changed their name to Chocolate Buttons.

Would recommend:

The Wedding Present - "White Horses"
The Toy Dolls - "Nellie the Elephant"
David Boulter (Tindersticks) - "Song's for the Young at Heart". Includes Bonnie "Prince" Billy's "Puff the Magic Dragon" & Jarvis Cocker reading "The Lion & Albert"
"Reggae for Kids" was popular with the shoebabies back in the day. Yellowman's version of "This Old Man" was a particular fave.

el derino said...

There was an album of children's songs called Colours Are Brighter released a couple of years ago which had tracks by Belle & Sebastian, Flaming Lips, Half Man Half Biscuit and others.

Also I'm sure I read something about St Etienne doing a CD of children's songs not so long ago. I think they were motivated by the same reaction you and Elbow had - they all had kids and found they couldn't stand any of the "kids' music" on sale so they thought they should just make their own.

ToffeeBoy said...

Look no further than Jonathan Richman (see the post below this one!) - this is probably not an exhaustive list of children's songs (or child friendly songs) from his repertoire, but here goes:

Buzz Buzz Buzz
Party In The Woods Tonight
I'm Nature's Mosquito
Double Chocolate Malted
Not Yet Three
I'm A Little Airplane
Hey There Little Insect
Egyptian Reggae
I'm A Little Dinosaur
My Little Kookenhaken
Here Come The Martian Martians
Rockin' Rockin' Leprechauns
The Wheels On The Bus
Ice Cream Man
Roller Coaster By The Sea
The UFO Man
Rockin' Shopping Center

Guaranteed to keep your little 'uns happy on those long journeys...

May1366 said...

I remember Nerys Hughes' kangaroo song on Alphabet Zoo, or rather her kangaroo dance - that weren't suitable for no kids!

Interesting topic - and one that's increasingly complicated to navigate in these times of infantilised adulthood and innocence-drained childhoods. Having two boys (7 & 4) whose tastes reside more in R&B and hip-hop than in CBeebies, I'm on all sides of the fence - glad they like stuff I can listen to; unsure whether the occasional but sometimes wildly - yes, Mr West, I mean you - inappropriate lyrics and saucy videos do damage or represent a necessary whiff of contraband in an otherwise far more cosseted and chaperoned existence than my childhood; surprised by how completely I'm acclimatising to High School Musical and contemplating how Ashley Tisdale may be the 21st century's Celeste Holm.

But one actual suggestion in amongst all this waffle: Oscar Brown Jr - Signifyin' Monkey. An Aesop's Fable as playful jazz vocal. I sang it to my eldest when he was less than a week old: it held his attention then, captivated him as a toddler, and he still loves it.

Frogprincess said...

Jane and Rod from Rainbow, anyone? Yes I DID have an album.

snadfrod said...

@FP - I reckon Freddy might be on your case for leaving him out, you know. Take them as a tram or don't take them at all...

@toffee - as I spent ages writing my post you got your excellent Jonathan Richman one posted, so donds for any and all of his kids stuff. Is there one album or should I go a-downloadin'?

snadfrod said...

A 'tram'? Obviously I meant a 'team'. Sheesh...

Tatanka Yotanka said...

Long journeys were what the mix tape was conceived for, I used to get mine to help put them together, 'cos then it was only ever three or four minutes 'til respite from the Kindergarten Kwire ... and vicey vespa. They really got into the whole process and classic tapes like Skeggy '94 still come up for discussion. Obviously ma & pa's picks can't major on Diamanda Galas, Peter Hammill or death metal, but mine used to love tracks from the Bonzos, Leon Rosselson, Judge Smith etc ...

Neil Innes has got a whole page of free stuff


and Leon Rosselson's discography includes a collection aimed at the weans, but lots of his stuff has a humour or wordplay that is soon picked up.


Important to keep them on side at this stage. When you're old and dribbly you'll need them to help you programme your nanotech biocomputer in order to listen to anything at all, let alone Sir Guy Garvey's latest opus.

Once You Called Me (Froddy?)


Anonymous said...

Here in Sunny Hamburg (well it is today, folks), a couple of friends started jamming for the neighbourhood kids at a street party and RADAU was born. *Radau* means row (as in noise)/rowdiness/generally being loud & mucking about. Before mrdebbyjr got quite as cool as he is now (i.e. about 18 months ago) he was heard to comment "Wow, if they didn't have such crap lyrics they could be Number One". The crap lyrics include NoIWon'tShareMyToys kind off stuff, through Why DO People Need Sleep type questions, what to expect when your first kiss is with a girl wearing a brace on her teeth (as are you), you get the picture. Anyway, it's pop music for kids that doesn't want to make you run screaming and the best stuff I've heard since Doc Watson's Songs for Little Pickers. You can get an earful on www.radau.de (but it's all in German, sigh...)

And I have absolutely no suggestions on *real* songs suitable for kids at all, still being stuck in a loop with Puff the Magic Dragon, the Seekers and anything else ever played on Saturday morning radio (Stewpot?) where I never ever ever ever got a birthday mention (wipes tear from eye)


alimunday said...

Kate Rusby and co singing 'The Big Ship Sails on the Alley Alley O' (good in the bath)

Laurel and Hardy 'The Trail of the Lonesome Pine' (used to reduce my step-son to giggles)

Tom Paxton 'Jennifer's Rabbit'

Kate Rusby is also very very good for lulling small children to sleep ...

May1366 said...

frogprincess - YouTube has a couple of episodes of Rainbow featuring guest appearances by Vince Hill. Both actually rather groovy - who knew? I'll post the links when I get a chance.
Also, there's a whole site out there with about 70 Rod, Jane and Freddy tracks for download - I think it's www.rodjanefreddysongs.com

Not sure if the short-lived Rod, Jane and Roger combo (that everyone I mention it to thinks is an urban myth innuendo but he existed, dammit! And he was in Eldorado) is represented and frankly I don't think I'm robust enough to investigate in depth.

bethnoir said...

Effervescing Elephant by Syd Barrett is always enjoyed along with a lot of Beatles by my two (the Bealtes because that's what my parents played me as a child so I copied them).
Their tastes range from the Cure, Petula Clarke, Kaiser Chiefs and Bowie to Queen, Duran Duran and Martin Carthy though, so I'm not sure they're representative of other children!

ToffeeBoy said...

@ snad - the songs I listed above are spread around numerous albums but The Modern Lovers Live and Back In Your Life are probably the best two for this sort of material.

Chris said...

I really can't remember what young kids like to listen to but I'm pretty sure they soon latch on to whatever is playing around them. My son loved singing 'I can't stand up fornip down' when it came out: he was 3 or 4 at the time.

There is a Jerry Garcia/David Grisman album called 'Not For Kids Only' which contains simple acoustic arrangements of standards like Teddy Bears' Picnic and Freight Train. They are lovely to listen to and have an almost innocent sound, despite Garcia's voice. Jenny Jenkins is a particular delight.

DarceysDad said...

... and don't forget the Disney covers album Stay Awake - Bonnie Raitt & The Replacements are my favourites, though young children (up to aged 43¾ in my case) may find Tom Waits' Heigh Ho! rather scary!!


DarceysDad said...

My two girls, btw, are "benefitting" from the size of my music collection and have a huge range of likes - RR socialisers have had a taste of that already.

Currently they're both driving me & DarceysMam to distraction with a Moby compilation on constant repeat in the car at the moment.

Although it's not all from my music database that they find their favourites: they pulled that Moby one out of a Sunday paper outside someone's hotel room, I subsequently discovered!

treefrogdemon said...

I am no fan of ALW but Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat was very popular in our car when the kids were young. All of them had been in at least one production at school (in fact Matt's Pharaoh at Great Linford Primary School was legendary). We didn't have the record, mind, we just sang the songs.

I did buy a copy of the Yellow Submarine album for them because they liked the film so much...but then they all got into the Police and left me behind.

ToffeeBoy said...

The two MissToffees were always particularly fond of Disney songs - my two favourites that have somehow survived the massive over exposure that you'd expect from two preteens clamouring for nothing else for about three or four years are:

Beauty And The Beast - the theme song in particular but lots of other great songs on the soundtrack

A Whole New World - the love theme from Aladdin - a gorgeous song and another Toffee long car journey favourite.

bethnoir said...

ah, I am glad I have boys two think that some Disney is too girlie to admit to liking. There are some really interesting suggestions coming out here, but as Darcysdad said, now (at 6 and 8) they listen to what we listen to and form their opinions from there.

I was glad when the nursery rhyme and Jo Jingles (anyone here live through that?) CDs got less popular, although Brian Cant was the main vocalist for the latter. You haven't lived until you've heard 'My Bicycle Has a Bell' I tell you!

barbryn said...

St Etienne did do a mini album for kids called "Up the Wooden Hills" - it came with a special edition of "Tales from Turnpike House". It's got a lovely song about building a zoo, though I think my 14-month-old daughter prefers "Fox Base Alpha".

She seems to love the Fleet Foxes CD - it works a treat to get her to go to sleep.

bethnoir said...

@barbryn, you just reminded me that when my first was a baby, Bing Crosby used to stop his crying mid scream and make him all calm and happy :-)

Tatanka Yotanka said...

From the Veda Hille stable ...

Ablum by Duplex!

indie rock for the small people. an album of songs for kids and their adults


If you don't yet know Veda,lots of good stuff to check out through that link and also on myspace


May1366 said...

It bothers me why I'm so thrilled to find both of these:

Vince Hill on Rainbow, 1980, with Rod, Jane and indeed Roger - from about 5m30s - "We're Gonna Have A Picnic":

True to its theme, this one was stopping and starting for me before, but here anyway is Vince back again, helping Rod, Jane and Freddy decide which song to sing - "Make Up Your Mind":

Tatanka Yotanka said...

If you remember Playaway ... I don't want to frighten you, but Peter Hammill appeared and performed an especially written song 'Tintagel'. Apparently through a schooldays' connection with Brian Cant. This Arthurian saga was for many years the Holy Grail (groan ... yes, sorry) for Hammill completists. Nowadays available to you at the click of a mouse through illegal filesharing ... but drugs may have been involved, so they deserve it.


nilpferd said...

At about 5 yrs. Mara started to adopt CDs like the Chills' Submarine Bells and Electronic's Raise the pressure, plus an album from Cubanismo called Malembe. I didn't really force these choices on her, she liked what she heard and picked them out herself. She also has a soft spot for Grant Green and a german post-punk band called Die Sterne, mainly because it's the only german language thing I have.
The only dedicated children's-album-by-adult-groups I have bought her are Little Amadeus, a narrated selection of Mozart, and Martin, Medeski and Wood's Little Monsters, which is pretty cool.
Little Monster records makes "adult" recordings for kids, the new one Soulville also looks good.
Otherwise she loves a very corny and ancient german cd called Karius und Bactus, about two bacteria which live in the mouth of a little boy.

nilpferd said...

Oh, new video for "where's the music up"..


nilpferd said...


new video for "where's the music"

up.. also soundclips for Soulville..

Proudfoot said...

Flaming Lips would get my vote, although Sufjan Stevens would do a fine job. Van Morrison? Maybe not.
However, they'll have their work cut out for them to top Sparks,T.Rex The Sweet and Slade. The early seventies was a stupendous time for kids music.I'm glad I was there and was a kid.
Kids compilo coming up when I have time.

Proudfoot said...

OK, current favourites in the car. Your judge and jury is Noah, aged 4and three quarters.
1. Mud - The Cat Crept in. Particularly when you add the word 'crapped' between the creeping in and creeping out again. Mrs Proudfoot not amused.
2. Decemberists - O! Valencia.
Kids always have a dark side. This sounds chirpy enough until you listen to the words.
3. Kate Rusby - No Names. He really belts this one out like an X-facter auditioner on angel dust. Inappropriate but wot a choon.
4. Catatonia - Road Rage. It's the Welsh rrrrolling rrrrs that get the teenybopper vote I think.
5. Pilot- January. Handclaps! I love it when he sings this.
6. Bike - Pink Floyd. Known in these parts as 'the mouse song'.Well, anything by Syd, as noted earlier.
7.KRS One 'Sound of da Police.' Yeah, and Babylon'll nick ya if you drop chewed up Skittles on the seat.
8. Sparks - Funny Face
9. Denim - New Potatoes. 30 years after Pinky and Perky/ Diddy Men and speeded up voices are still funny.
10. Sweet - Hellraiser. Or Co-Co, Wig Wam Bam, Blockbuster Poppa Joe....

bethnoir said...

@ Tatanka Yotanka I loved playaway, thanks for the link :-)

bethnoir said...

@ Tatanka Yotanka I loved playaway, thanks for the link :-)

Tatanka yotanka said...

@ bethnoir ... there's more on Youchoob of course; if you dare look ... it was a tad psychotropic; here's Brian Cant pushing gear ... on a weekday teatime fer gawd's sake ..


bethnoir said...

that brought it all back, wonderful stuff!

saneshane said...

My play away/play school album had 'bang on a drum' my musical friends sampled it in about 1991
I so wish we had "under here I've got some gear" to go with it.. so funny.

Tatanka Yotanka said...

Another set of free to copy kids songs including the classics 'Boogers' and 'Don't Fall Into The Toilet (When it's Filled with Poo)' and the 'look on the brightside of parents not toughing it out' song "I've Got Two Mommies and Two Daddies"

Just don't give them Punk Rock Baby 'til they're in double figures.


Katrin said...

Someone mentioned Pink Floyd's Bike here, I think, almost the whole Piper at the Gates of Dawn is good for kids! Flaming ("lazing in the foggy dew...coookooo") Luzifer Sam (about a cat), Mathilda Mother, The Gnome, The Scarecrow...
I'm quite curious about the Elbow's Kids album. Normally I am sceptic about "childrens music" for this stuff is in Germany mostly too sweetish, just if I compare the original Sesame Street with the german version...