Father & Son(s)

Sometimes you can never truly understand the sentiment of a song until you have been through substantial life experiences. Racking up the years in terms of innings is one thing. The other is to actually have the battle scars from some of life’s grand milestones. Therefore giving you both perspectives, when in the previous 36 years you have only had the reference point of the younger petulant and perhaps ignorant man.

Like most of my peers from Generation X (attempts to class me as a Millenial are somewhat unfounded), I first came across Father & Son when the song was covered by Irish boyband Boyzone. I knew little more about the song, other than it was not their own original material. They had launched into my consciousness, one grey late autumn Sunday afternoon in 1995 on The Smash Hit Poll Winners Party with their debut single Love Me For A Reason, also a cover of American 70s starlets The Osmond’s. My memory fades but I do not believe they performed live but their music video was shown on the annual awards show. 

The mid-90s were a different era. (A universe both my boys will fail to comprehend but I shall endeavour to explain some of the momentous daily challenges we faced). I did not do any research into the original version of the song (when perhaps I should have done at the time). Ironically I probably should have just asked my Dad. Years later when I would discover the raw emotion of Cat Steven’s (now Yusuf Islam) original composition, I would find myself close to tears. Yet the true power of the lyrics would not bear fruit until decades later, half a lifetime in fact. They say good things come to those who wait.

The bond beyond fathers and sons is unique, precious and delicately fragile. I never really appreciated this until my son Logan was born on 17th October 2018. I suppose, if I am honest I never understood the song properly until that moment when I held my son for the first time, in the early hours of that Wednesday morning across the border in Surrey Heath. From that moment I would expose him to many different versions of the song, predominately while in the car. My favourite is probably Ronan Keating’s version featuring singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam. Although I would give a conciliatory mention to a recent Aled Jones’ cover. I am sure there are plenty of other examples out there.

The song only came back on my radar after I listened to Fight Test by The Flaming Lips released in 2003. As perhaps a lowkey song from the start of the millennium, I noticed the signature melody was very similar to Father and Son but thought nothing more of it until I went on to read the Wikipedia entry many years later. I do now wonder how I came across this song, it probably was featured on a TV show or film.

This afternoon while waiting for some family members to arrive for a late birthday celebration, I randomly started singing (very badly I might add) the song to Logan while I was holding him, playing around in the lounge. To my pleasant surprise, he started joining in with the words…

Look at me I am old but I’m happy…

It is difficult to put into words the emotional waterfall that overcame at that precise moment. Tears of sheer joy fell down my cheeks. If I could bottle up that feeling and sell to the highest bidder I would be a very wealthy individual. But once again (my dearest wife will say I am always in this state) I am losing track of what is most important. I am truly blessed, not once but twice with two healthy and spirited young boys.

Suddenly I had the urge to know everything about this song. Little did I know that Yusuf had recorded a new version, mixing his vocals as a 22-year-old with his now 70 self. Released with an animated music video. While watching the video I scanned through the comments on YouTube. One of those comments on YouTube got me thinking… I had to tweet it…to a wider audience.

By the time a man realises that his father might’ve been right, he usually has a son who thinks he is wrong

This got me thinking – why is there not the equivalent song for mothers and sons or mothers and daughters or fathers and daughters? Mike & The Mechanics – Living Years probably deserves an honorary mention but I find it difficult to find other songs that cover the difficult nature of the father and son relationship. Discussing with my sister in law Katy she put forward the case for Spice Girls – Mama – which is well deserved but does it rank as highly as Father & Son. I suppose, wrongly male heirs have always been put on a pedestal compared to their female peers. Times they are a-changing… I disagree with this perception.

Back when I was in college over twenty-three years ago I was mildly obsessed with 80s music. (Everybody was during the early switch to digital format and this file format called MP3). The song Forever Young by Alphaville was a clear favourite that I would listen to on the commute from Wycombe to South Oxfordshire. We never truly appreciate the song until now. Actually, let me rewrite that – we never appreciate the moment until now. There will always be…

All the songs we forgot to play…


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