When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse…

The other day my boyfriend and I stepped into the Hot Topic store at a local outlet mall. I thought maybe I’d score some cheap t-shirts for my kids.

Hot Topic, for those who don’t know, is a little boutique for kids. It has t-shirts emblazoned with the names of all the coolest bands, plus t-shirts related to anything else that could be considered trendy and/or edgy. They sell jewelry made of vinyl, studs, and chains. They have, like, fake nose rings, for thirteen-year-olds whose parents won’t let them get the real thing. My two older sons aren’t really into that look, but my ten-year-old makes me stop every time we pass one. So, even though my kids are with their dad for the summer, I went into Hot Topic, looking for clearance rack bargains.

As we browsed, a quick, high-pitched disco tune blared over the store speakers. It was kind of catchy, and something about it seemed familiar. I found myself swaying a little to its beat, kind of like I already knew it. The vocal came on, sounding very much like the BeeGees… like the BeeGees on acid, more like.

You are only coming through in waves! [Boom… boom… boom!] Your lips move! I can’t hear what you’re saying! [Boom, boom!]

“Oh, my god,” I told my boyfriend. “Listen — this is a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’!”

I wasn’t the only parent in the store. Across the t-shirt rack, a woman about ten years my senior shopped with her son. She looked unhappy. She winced. Then, she muttered, at no one in particular, “Who had the audacity to cover this song?”

“I know! Pink Floyd!” I couldn’t resist saying to her. “I was just saying that!”

“It’s horrible,” she said.

“Really, you think? I don’t know… It’s kind of catchy,” I said.

She shook her head no, and I gave her my most sympathetic smile.

As we left, I asked the bleached and pierced clerk who was singing that song on the speaker.

“The Scissor Sisters,” he said. And I felt proud of myself, a little, because I’d actually heard of them before.

Sometimes, among old people, cover songs cause strong emotion.

My boyfriend is Tad. His best friend is Mike. As far as boyfriend’s best friends go, Mike is pretty cool and I feel lucky that he’s my friend-by-boyfriend.

Mike and I are closer in age than Tad and I, and Mike and I share an old-school love of hard rock. For instance, Mike and I are planning to go to the upcoming Rush concert with one of Tad’s other friends. Tad, however, will only accompany us if I buy his ticket, and even then he’ll be physically inable to keep from remarking on Rush’s lack of synthesizers. Because he is younger, and he needs synthesizers to survive. He simply can’t help it.

Anyhow. The other day, Mike and Tad and I were at a noisy eating establishment. A song came on the speaker and Mike said, “Oh, that’s that song I like.”

I listened. The song said, Take a look at my girlfriend. She’s the only one I’ve got. I said, “Oh, Supertramp.”

Mike said, “Is that who it is? No, I thought it was by someone else.”

I listened closer. “Yeah, that’s a cover. Of a song by Supertramp.”

Mike said, “Really?

I said, “Mike!” Because I was ashamed of him, at that moment. I mean, that’s the kind of thing I’d expect from Tad — not recognizing a rock song from the ’70s — because he has only freshly entered his thirties. But not from Mike, who likes Rush and really should know better.

At that moment, then, I went on a two-hour-long diatribe about the fact that people keep covering Supertramp lately, and no one gives them proper credit. The Goo Goo Dolls’ cover of “Give a Little Bit”? Did nothing but rip off the complete awesomeness of the original, without giving Supertramp the proper respect. Just thinking about it now pisses me off. Dammit. Whoever’s covering “Breakfast in America”? Same thing. Damn you people! Damn you uncreative young pop stars!!

At least the Scissor Sisters took a Pink Floyd song and did something new with it, you know? Personally, I don’t think you should cover a song unless you’re adding something artistic to it. Otherwise, you’re just plagiarizing, basically, as far as I’m concerned.

I think the law should state that, when a band basically plagiarizes an old song, DJs should be required to say so on the radio. You know?

This means I am old now.

Sometimes I have to laugh at myself, for being so old and curmudgeonly about things like that. Mostly, though, I’m glad I’m old now, because I don’t want to wear the clothes at Hot Topic. I don’t want to get my face pierced.

All I want to do is listen to my CDs in peace, and then crankily point out unoriginal covers to the younger generations.

I’m glad kids have Hot Topic, though. I like to take my son there, and see his face light up when he uses his allowance to buy a wristband with an embroidered happy-face skull or whatever. That lady who got pissed off about the Scissor Sisters cover — she cracked me up. She was curmudgeonly, but she was there, you know? She went into Hot Topic with her kid, braving the music, instead of telling him “no we can’t go there,” or else sitting at home in front of her TV, ignoring her kid altogether. Because of that (and because she recognized that song), she is my secret sister.

It’s okay to get old, as long as you can watch other people enjoy being young, without begrudging them any of it. That’s what I tell myself, now that the eye wrinkles are setting in. Then I pop The Yes Album into my CD player, and roll down the road.

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Posted in parenting, pop culture on 07/10/2007 11:02 am

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