David: Mama. You've been on my mind. How are you? Tell me everything.
Amanda Petrusich: Well, I'm tired, but I am happy. It has been like a violent re-imagination of life as I know it. It's insane. I think parenthood is insane.
David: Yes. I've heard that.
Amanda Petrusich: She's sleeping now. She said a quick hello earlier.
David: She's sleeping? What are you--? A little bourbon helps or something?
Amanda Petrusich: Yes. A little whiskey in the bottle.
David: [laughs] The other day I caught up with our music critic, Amanda Petrusich, and I hadn't seen her in quite a while. Amanda, I feel like I'm breaking into your house. You're on leave with a new baby. we miss you in our pages and pixels, but I know it'll come again soon and apparently you're playing music, as a good music critic should for your baby, Nico?
Amanda Petrusich: I am indeed.
David: Give us the playlist.
Amanda Petrusich: It's such an overwhelming idea, I think for any parent, but especially for a music critic who perhaps fancies herself a connoisseur of sound to say like, "Oh my God, it's this blank slate. You've never heard anything." It's as if an alien has just landed on earth and you get to introduce them to the magnitude of popular music and sound. That's intimidating. I think, at first, it was like, "God, I need to play things for her, just the greatest recordings ever made," but I pretty quickly loosened my grip on that idea and just wanted songs that we could be happy listening to together. Songs that we could share, and she would be excited and I would be excited. By the time the thing was over, we would both be really smiling and happy.
It was funny. So many of the songs I've been playing her are from the late '60s, early '70s as if I'm raising a boomer baby. I think that music is comfort food for me. It's stuff that just sounds really good and sounds really right and easy. I have to say, and I don't know David, where you are on the Lenon-McCartney spectrum, but for me I've always thought Paul McCartney might be the greatest chronicler of domestic bliss within the rock and roll cannon. Historically not a very popular topic for rock songwriters, but McCartney, I think is a total savant when it comes to this particular strain of sentimentality. One of my favorite records from his solo career is Ram, which he and Linda really least in 1971. It it's really an album I think about having a baby.
David: I know that McCartney's post Beatles reputations had ups and downs, but I think he's proud of Ram in particular.
Amanda Petrusich: I think he is too. It's a beautiful record and I think really captures that gooey, pie-eyed, exhausted with so in love period that follows having a baby.
I Look high. I look low.
I'm looking everywhere I go.
Looking for a home in the heart of the country.
Amanda Petrusich: Nico loves Heart of the Country, which is a song from Ram, which I play for her almost every morning. It also contains the very relevant line, "I'm going to get me a good night's sleep." Still a bit of a pipe dream at the moment.
Heart of the country, where the holy people grow.
Amanda Petrusich: It's a song-- I think much of Ram has this vibe, but it has an almost nursery rhyme feel to it. Her whole face just lights up. She does this incredibly goofy, open mouth grin. It's like the sun has just risen in the sky for the first time ever. No matter how many times I play it for her, the reaction is the same. She's just so unbelievably stoked to hear it.
I want a sheep
I want to get me a good night's sleep.
Amanda Petrusich: One thing I've learned in these first few months as a parent is that babies require a lot of rocking and jiggling and bouncing. Nico really loves to be danced around the room. One of our favorite songs and a song I was especially excited to play for her in those giddy early days when I was so happy, but so tired is Rock steady, by Aretha Franklin.
Amanda Petrusich: This is a single from Young Gifted and Black, a record Franklin released in 1972 that I still think is one of the greatest soul records of all time.
Rock steady baby.
That's what I feel now.
Let's call this song exactly what it is.
Step and move your hips
With a feeling from side to side
Sit yourself down in your car and take a ride.
And while you're moving
Rock steady, baby
Amanda Petrusich: I think you actually cannot be tired while listening to Rock Steady.
David: You can't. It can't happen.
Amanda Petrusich: Yes. It's instant caffeine. It's like a shot in the arm.
Amanda Petrusich: I have to say pop music is really great to sing to babies, as you know, because of just how many instances of the bored baby appear in these songs. She's convinced they're all about her.
David: What's your third pick?
Amanda Petrusich: My daughter is named Nico and in 1967, The Velvet Underground, one of my all time favorite bands released an album featuring a German singer, model, actress named Nico. My daughter wasn't named after her exactly, but I've always loved the name which evokes for me a deeply effortless cool. It's a quality I do not possess, but that hope perhaps my child will one day grow into. One of my favorite songs off The Velvet Underground and Nico is probably also one of the most sentimental things Lou Reed ever wrote. It's a track called I'll be Your Mirror.
David: It's good to have a song by a complete heroin head.
Amanda Petrusich: I know. When I was playing this for her early on, my husband would be like, "Are you sure this song isn't about heroin?"
The fact is I'm not sure, but a sweet song. I think, Lou probably a softie at heart. Let me go ahead and play you a little bit.
I've always thought the first verse of this song, it's a pretty good encapsulation of what a parent's job is helping someone see how magnificent they are when perhaps that idea has been obscure to them.
I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain, and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you're home
When you think the night has seen your mind
David: It's wonderful to see you.
Amanda Petrusich: Yes. Likewise.
David: I wish for you and Nico and everyone at your house, nothing but peace and good health and a good night's sleep too.
Amanda Petrusich: Thank you so much, David.
David: Take care.
David: Amanda Petrusich is a staff writer and her last piece for us before Nico was born, was a tribute to the late Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. Amanda's new parent playlist includes Heart of the Country by Paul and Linda McCartney. Rock Steady by Aretha Franklin, and I'll be Your Mirror from The Velvet Underground and Nico.
Amanda Petrusich: It's so corny being a parent makes you so corny. I'm embarrassing my daughter and she's only three months old. It's already happening. I'm sorry, Nico. Your mom is a dork.
When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
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