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The Kids Are All Critics

Under Eights v Middle Eights 

Jack Black tears up the timetable and the classroom with his riffs in School
Of Rock. But what do real kids think of classic guitar anthems, asks Johnny

Saturday January 31, 2004
The Guardian


Buoyed by a plentiful supply of Coca-Cola, Wotsits and Jammie Dodgers,
Gabrielle (six), Ben (six), Holly (seven), Beth (seven), Benjamin (seven)
and Sophie (six) - all friends from Rokesly infant school in Crouch End,
north London - were willing guinea pigs in our experiment to discover if
children could enjoy crusty old rock music. 

Eight songs were chosen to represent classic rock's rich tapestry - from the
Who's legendary Substitute to Nirvana's vintage grunge masterpiece, Smells
Like Teen Spirit. As well as gauging their opinions we tested their
endurance by allowing them to stop the song when they became bored and posed
the all important question: is this better than Busted? 

The Who: Substitute (1966)

What the grown-ups say: "Substitute is an ironic comment on the gulf between
image and reality, set to one of Pete's trickiest little riffs, all driven
along by a ringing open D string. A bona fide pop classic." (www.thewho.net)

What the kids say:

Holly: It sounds like when your wee goes back up. 

Beth: Is this the Beatles? 

Gabrielle: It's too rough and horrible. 

Holly: It's a good tune but the singing is not good. 

Ben: This is brilliant. 

Beth: Ugh. I was born with Plasticine in my mouth? 

Benjamin: He's getting things stuck in his mouth and he can't chew. 

Ben: And he's been arrested by a substitute. 

Attention span: 40 seconds. 

Better than Busted? "No way!" 

The Doors: Touch Me (1969)

What the grown-ups say: "Their sound was minor-keyed and subterranean,
bluesy and spacey, and their subject matter was sex, death and getting
high." (Rolling Stone) 

What the kids say:

Beth: Is this Beethoven? 

Ben: I like all the sounds. It's about a man and a woman... 

Sophie: ...And they're going on holiday to Cyprus. 

Gabrielle: It's too pointy. 

Holly: This is stupid. 

Benjamin: This is not music. 

Holly: And it's not as good as Busted. 

Attention span: 28 seconds. 

Better than Busted? "Er. No." 

Cream: Sunshine Of Your Love (1967)

What the grown-ups say: "The big hook of Sunshine Of Your Love is a
grinding, instantly memorable hard-rock riff, stuttering between two notes
before hellishly descending for a few more, then rising in an upward
squiggle." (www.allmusic.com) 

What the kids say:

Gabrielle: Argh! Vampires! 

Beth: Ooh, I think this is by my dad. 

Ben: This song is about a man and a woman and it's a bad marriage. 

Holly: It sounds like something spooky. It's like the Pink Panther. 

Sophie: I don't like it. It's worse than football. My dad watches football
all the time and I have to leave the room. My dad went to watch football in

Ben: This is rock music but you could play it at a disco. 

Benjamin: Yeah, at a dude disco. 

Sophie: No, not Australia, somewhere like Australia but different. 

Attention span: One minute. 

Better than Busted? "Some of it." 

Led Zeppelin: Immigrant Song (1970)

What the grown-ups say: "... bulldozer rhythms and Plant's double-tracked
wordless vocal croonings echoing behind the main vocal like some cannibal
chorus wailing in the infernal light of a savage fertility rite." (Rolling

What the kids say:

Holly: This isn't singing, it's just screaming. 

Benjamin: I like the screaming. 

Holly: I really like it apart from the screaming. 

Ben: Is he upset? 

Gabrielle: This sounds like Busted. 

Sophie: It's a witch singing. 

Beth: It's kind of eeeevol. I'm going to watch Lord Of The Rings Three next

Holly: No you're not. 

Beth: Am. 

Holly: Not. 

Attention span: 43 seconds. 

Better than Busted? "It's not as good as The Year 3000." 

Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991) 

What the grown-ups say: "... reflects Kurt Cobain's skilful mingling of
Stooges'-style brute yobbism (grinding guitars and yelping vocals), American
punk and late 1970s art rock." (NME) 

What the kids say:

Ben: This is amazing. The bass is amazing. It's brilliant. 

Holly: I like him singing, "Hello, hello, hello" - that's funny. 

Sophie: It's making me think about doing bad things like putting snowballs
down my sister's back. 

Benjamin: This would definitely win Pop Idol. 

Holly: Good, goodbye, goodbye. 

Benjamin: 12 out of 10. Actually 3000 out of 3000. 

Attention span: Whole song. 

Better than Busted? "Yes." 

Jimi Hendrix: Crosstown Traffic (1968) 

What the grown-ups say: "In a sense, Jimi's Stratocaster is more articulate
and speaks with more poetic beauty than he, or almost any other singer,
possibly could... The music possesses a oneness which allows it to move as a
whole, creating a more euphonious appeal." (Teen Ink) 

What the kids say:

Beth: My sister played this at her school concert. They played this and Bare
Necessities. This is better than Bare Necessities. 

Holly: It's a bit boring. 

Benjamin: I'd give this a trillion out of a billion. 

Gabrielle: It's making me feel all dizzy. Can I have some juice? 

Benjamin: It's about a crossed-out Christmas. Maybe Father Christmas has
been crossed out. 

Gabrielle: Maybe he's been run over. 

Attention span: One minute five seconds. 

Better than Busted? "No." 

The Sex Pistols: Anarchy In The UK (1977) 

What the grown-ups say: "They play with an energy and conviction that is
positively transcendent in its madness and fever... It has an
Ahab-versus-Moby-Dick power that can shake you like no other music today
can." (Rolling Stone) 

What the kids say: 

Gabrielle: It's a bit scary. 

Beth: This isn't scary, it's funny. 

Holly: He sounds like the baddie in Scooby Doo at the end. 

Benjamin: I don't like it. 

Ben: I love it. It's all about this man and he's trying to destroy boxes of
oil and stuff. 

Beth: Who's Annie Key? 

Sophie: Can we play musical statues now? 

Attention span: 44 seconds. 

Better than Busted? "Not one bit." 

Bob Dylan: Like A Rolling Stone (1965)

What the grown-ups say: "Dylan drives his inspiration and imagination to
even greater heights... Anger, hatred, disgust, defiance, disbelief, apathy,
ignorance, repugnance; it's all here." (Earthsound) 

What the kids say:

Beth: This is not good. 

Holly: He said bums. 

Ben: Brilliant, this is just brilliant. 

Sophie: He sounds like he's just smelled something really bad, like cat poo.

Holly: Bums on sticks. 

Ben: It's great. I actually really like it. 

Benjamin: Twenty trillion out a septillion. 

Holly: This sounds really really old. 

Benjamin: It's like mouldy old bread. 

Attention span: 15 seconds. 

Better than Busted? "It's stupid, Busted aren't stupid." 

- SCHRADE in Akron

The Council For Secular Humanism