Nemesis of my childhood, voice of my nightmares, demon of the dinner hour.
When I was little (and perhaps before he knew better) my dad insisted on having calm, relaxing music playing while we had dinner together. His definition of 'relaxing music' veered closer to 'elevator music' than, say, something spiritual, transcendent or even classical. Instead of Enya or Debussy, we had Roger Whittaker.
I never knew how my dad had discovered Roger Whittaker. It's very likely he just picked up the cassettes at a gas station checkout on impulse. For the most part, my dad had some pretty awesome taste in music. Growing up, the cool kids next door would come over to borrow my dad's Who albums. I grew up recognizing the R. Crumb artwork on Big Brother & the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills album as much as any of my children's books. But he had a dark side. In his record collection amidst the Derek & the Dominoes, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Paul Simon, Blue Oyster Cult, James Taylor, and Grateful Dead albums sat anomalies like the Sandpipers' Guantanamera and that creepy Orleans album featuring the whole hairy, shirtless band. So apparently my dad had a subversive, easy listening side which led us to Roger Whittaker.
|Eww. Just.... ewww.|
|Eww. Just.... ewww.|
And along with the sulphurous, cabbagey taste of brussels sprouts was Roger's oily, creepy voice singing old folk songs and new songs that he sang so laboriously they sounded like they were hundreds of years old. I hated "Dirty Old Town" the most because it seemed to me the most depressing tune in the history of the world, and this coming from a kid who would burst into tears over "Somebody Come and Play" from Sesame Street.
"Kevin, this isn't Roger Whittaker."
"What? Are you sure?"
"This is 'Hot Legs' by Rod Stewart. Find the Roger Whittaker tape."
|Close enough, right?|
"This is not Roger Whittaker."
"Yes it is."
"No, it's not. It's 'Oye Como Va.' Come on, now, focus. You know what the Roger Whittaker tape looks like! Just find it and put it on so we can eat our damn dinner."
"This is the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Kevin."
"Same thing, right?"
Katie employed a tactic that was later adopted by the military in dealing with drug kingpins and middle eastern warlords. She would enjoy the music so loudly that in effect, my father would be punished for playing it. She'd sing along with Roger at the top of her lungs, mangling the French words to "Mon Pays Bleu," braying the chorus of "River Lady" with all she had, building gusto and volume with each successive song. My dad would drop his head, shake it in mild disgust and mutter, "Jesus," under his breath until side one finally snapped off and left us in quiet.
"Do you want me to flip it over and play side two, Dad?"
"God, no. Just leave it."
My role in all this was to hide the cassettes so Kevin didn't even have to pretend he couldn't find them. Inevitably, old Roger wound up in the same drawer with my orphaned brussels sprouts.
I thought Roger's music existed solely to torture me and my siblings, but apparently, he has a devoted fan base. They post reviews like this on Amazon:
|No. You were wrong.|