New Men rejected their dads as too 'male'. Nineties New Lads bond like crazy with theirs. Emma Cook on the father and son reunion
It's been a lean time for fathers. We've heard a lot about paternal inadequacies: absent dads don't pay enough maintenance; those who hang around don't change enough nappies. If they have a demanding job, then they're not bonding with their offspring and if they're unemployed, they can't support the family. They're depressed and they're in crisis.

But this, as some fathers may be relieved to hear on Father's Day, is not the whole story. In one burgeoning corner of our culture, dads are still an object of veneration. While in the Eighties "New Men" blamed fathers for being too remote and unable to express their feelings, their complaints now form the basis of conspicuous admiration for "New Lads". The masculine values that new men swore they would never pass on to their children have become a celebrated legacy for new lads everywhere.

Some weeks ago, a newspaper article featured Damon Albarn and his dad Keith. They talked about their generational experiences in the Sixties and the Nineties, touching on their relationship as father and son. "It was difficult when we had a young stud in the house taking the piss quite mercilessly about the Sixties," says Keith jovially. "There were some classic confrontations, but we've always hit it off ... without being too sentimental, I'm grateful that now we can get on as two blokes."

Such an exclusive tie is evident throughout the pop industry. Father and son relationships proliferate in a way that's unheard of for, say, mothers and daughters. For one, they work well together as business partners. Paul Weller's father, John, has been his manager since he started out in the music business in the late Seventies. He even accepted Paul's Brit award on his behalf earlier this year.

Then there's Shaun Ryder, the epitome of laddish rock'n'roll excess, who employed his dad as a roadie for the Happy Mondays, "as soon as we were able to pay what he was earning at the post office''. Derek, a bit of an old-style lad himself, had already done the odd bit of singing and stand-up comedy in working men's clubs.

Paternal influence is certainly nothing new in pop, as Robert Sandall, music columnist and broadcaster, points out: "Father figures, if you scratch the surface, have always played a pretty important part in music - often shaping their careers. Elvis Costello and Pete Townshend both had fathers who were musicians." Noel and Liam's estranged dad, Tommy Gallagher, is a country and western DJ and Jarvis Cocker's is reputed to be in a band in Australia.

For those new lads with resident fathers, the things that have altered are the characteristics of the parental relationship they choose to revere. Sandall explains: "Laddism has brought in a different aspect; maybe the father is being used to provide a more masculine model. Before he would have offered a more spiritual, emotionally charged inspiration.

"When Costello and others talked about their fathers they were glorifying their musical inheritance - not so much their social origins." Something Damon's critics have given him a lot of grief over for trying to conceal. Four years ago Nick Hornby set the whole ball rolling with Fever Pitch. In it he described how his father introduced him to Arsenal when he was a youngster growing up in the Home Counties. He has said in one interview: "If you're born middle-class in the south of England, there's nothing to feel proud of or to feel that you belong to. That's why so often people pretend to be something they're not."

It's not so much a conscious deception as an attempt to establish male identity. For many middle- class "lads", dads and shared hobbies - preferably traditional working-class activities - can lend them the much sought after "ordinary bloke" kudos. But there's more to it than just class, as Mark, 26, a press officer and ex-public school boy living in north London, explains. On the subject of his dad - 54-year-old Terry, a teacher, who lives south of the river - he gushes unashamedly.

"It's cool to know your old man's a laugh and not some stuck up fogie," he enthuses. From Mark's description of their Friday nights out, Terry sounds like a trophy to take down the pub and show off to his mates for group approval. "Ten or 15 years ago I'd have been embarrassed to go out with him socially. Now we can talk about the same things and even like the same music and TV programmes."

As a teenager, Mark used to ridicule Terry's taste in music, the Small Faces and the Who, but now borrows many of his records. "I suppose there is a certain satisfaction watching him get on with the people I'm out with. He's up on all their influences and reference points."

Hamish, 34, a doctor settled with two young sons in Cambridge, also has a distinctly nostalgic take on his own father's good-time sensibility. "He was always the one to get out the cards or teach me games like snooker and billiards. I liked the way he could be immature. It's as though we were always getting away with something we shouldn't be," he says. "And I was the one let in on the joke. When I was about seven years old, every day before breakfast we used to play football, very loudly, in the kitchen with the fridge as the goal. He used to say if mum found out we'd both get shouted out."

Later, it transpired, mum knew all along about their daily morning capers but dad had enjoyed pretending it was a secret. It's this sense of shared camaraderie that lads relish most. Richard, 26, a graphic designer living in Manchester, describes his 53-year-old dad as "a laugh" compared to his mother, who earns the rather less flattering accolade, "stick-in-the- mud". Until recently, Richard and his father used to play in the same football team. "If we go to the pub I know my dad is always up for another pint or one more game of pool. My mum hates the smoke and would rather go home."

While he was growing up, Richard can remember his mother complaining to his father: "Why do I always have to be the sensible one, the one who puts a dampener on things?" Richard still views his father as the parent who had the freedom to be naughty and spontaneous when it suited him. "He could always be himself - he didn't care about etiquette or eating with your mouth full. That was always mum's department."

Being "blokes together" - and it starts off with dad - is an idealised bond that informs the whole lad agenda. In many ways it's based on a perpetual state of adolescence; a nostalgia about son and dad-centred activities that Hornby articulates in Fever Pitch. He writes of his divorced father: "Saturday afternoons in north London gave us a context in which we could be together. We could talk when we wanted, the football gave us something to talk about ... and the days had a structure, a routine."

Dr Charlie Lewis, a reader in human social development at Lancaster University and author of Reassessing Fatherhood, says Hornby's account typifies the way father/son relationships are: "channelled through concrete activities". He explains: "You identify with your father very much through 'doing'. Many boys may remember their father's involvement in the pre- school years, but they seem to lose contact in the teenage years. So most of their interaction stems around the sort of activities Hornby describes. They relate to one another via social institutions like football and fishing."

Whereas the Eighties new man grew restless with traditional adolescent pursuits and yearned for more depth, today's lad is reluctant to move on from that stage at all. The worrying theme is the absence of females in this exclusively male bonding arena.

Dr Jenny Cozens, a principal research fellow in psychology at Leeds University, views this development as regressive behaviour. "The whole laddish thing about teaming up with dad is actually a rejection of mum. Going down to the pub together is a very traditional way of putting women in their place. It's reverting back to old ground."

In an age when male identity is in a state of flux, laddism has to look back for masculine role models. So along with ageing footballers and Seventies pop stars, dads are next on the list for a nostalgic revival. Perhaps it's a fad and things will change when lads have their own children. Until then, they'll make do with celebrating past glories - like father, like son.

A BLOKE THING

Damon Albarn and his father, Keith, who says: 'I'm grateful that we can get on as two blokes'

Shaun Ryder and dad Derek. Ryder senior has been helping out junior as a roadie for his band

Sir Derek Hornby and son Nick, brought together by a shared love for Arsenal FC

John Weller and his rock star son, Paul. John has been his manager for nearly 20 years

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