Last updated at 9:16 PM on 25th July 2009
Florence Welch, whose debut album has reached No 2 in the charts
Most parents will be familiar with the experience of being ignored by their teenage offspring. Tormented by my daughter's incessant loud singing around the house, I've lost count of the number of times I pleaded: 'For God's sake, Florence, please put a sock in it.'
Of course, she didn't take a blind bit of notice. Just as well, really. My daughter is Florence Welch, of Florence And The Machine.
She is 22, lauded as the next big thing and her debut album Lungs has been sitting at No2 in the charts, behind the late Michael Jackson.
She has won the Critics' Choice Award at the Brits and was this week nominated for a Mercury Music Prize. She's even been on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, for goodness sake, not to mention Jonathan Woss.
This has all happened in the space of a couple of years, and it takes some getting used to.
Florence was born into an Anglo-American middle-class family. Her mother, Evelyn, is an American art historian and I worked in advertising. We lived in South London, we took holidays in Cornwall.
There was music in the house and there were books. There were performers and musicians on both sides of the family. I took Florence and her younger sister Grace to violin lessons (ouch) but it wasn't their passion.
Because of her mother's work, Florence did have an early exposure to Renaissance painting, which may have had an influence on the somewhat visceral world view expressed in her lyrics. As a child, she was particularly fascinated by Mantegna's Circumcision Of Christ, and by various paintings of the martyrdom of St Agatha, who had her breasts cut off.
Florence, always a difficult sleeper, was often as an infant encouraged to nod off by being wheeled around the sitting room in a pushchair to the accompaniment of loud music.
Her earliest subliminal influences include The Smiths (whom she found highly soporific) and Syd Barrett (less so). We also tried works by The Soft Machine, REM, The Go-Gos.
One evening a few years ago when I was passing Florence's bedroom I heard her shouting out: 'That's amazing, I'm having a bloody epiphany.'
I poked my head around the door and saw her sitting on the bed with a huge pair of headphones on. She had, it appeared, just listened for the first time to Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit.
People have asked whether there was a moment when I realised that Florence had a gift. There was. It happened during a performance of Bugsy Malone at her school, Alleyn's, in Dulwich. Florence was ten or 11 and she was playing the lead female part of Blousey Brown.
At school productions, parents are usually interested only in the efforts of their own offspring, but when Florence sang, the whole audience was suddenly fully engaged. I remember thinking: 'Cripes, she's got a voice - this is serious.'
It wasn't just her perfect pitch - she had the essence of phrasing and timing which makes a good singer great.
On the basis of her phenomenal performance she was co-opted to sing a rather obscure and difficult Gilbert And Sullivan song at my father's memorial service at St Bride's in Fleet Street in 1997.
My father, Colin, was a journalist and satirist who had been deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph and a parliamentary sketchwriter for the Daily Mail, so the great and good of Fleet Street were there. Florence sang brilliantly in front of scores of weeping crumblies.
Florence Welch as a baby with father Nick Welch
Father's pride: Nick with Florence in 1988
After this she became something of a fixture at funerals. When I recently gave her a hard time about the dark quality of her lyrics - the first song she wrote was called My Boy Builds Coffins - she said: 'You made me sing at funerals. What do you expect?'
Florence spent her later teenage years in a mysterious group called the Toxic Cockroaches. Her mother and I, by now divorced, probably did not pay enough attention.
Having won a place at Camberwell School Of Art, she sang with a band called Ashok.
On one occasion she called me from Greenwich, angling for a lift home. Her band, she said, weren't there but there were some others around who she might play with. I turned up and watched her sing two songs, which were phenomenal.
No, she said afterwards, she hadn't rehearsed. No, she had had no idea what she was going to sing when she got on stage. This stunned me then and still stuns me now.
Florence and her bandmates were 'spotted' by an old-school music manager and there was talk of a contract. 'Don't sign anything until we've had a chance to have a look at it,' we implored. 'Yeah, yeah,' said Florence - and went ahead and signed it.
That's where it all could have gone off the rails. She was 19 and miserable, in the wrong band, life signed away, career over before it had begun. Despite my misgivings, I became a bit of a rock dad, and phoned a friend who was a music lawyer.
It turned out the contract was only binding on Florence as part of the band, so all she had to do was resign. After that we paid a bit more attention.
Florence engaged her present manager, Mairead Nash, one half of the achingly fashionable Queens Of Noize club night promoters, by trapping her in a club washroom and singing an Etta James song at full volume. Their partnership has worked pretty well so far.
Once established in her own right, and aided and abetted by Mairead and the 'thunderous' Machine, Florence's progress has been swift and spectacular.
Last year I was the one driving Florence and a two-man Machine around Europe in her stepmum's camper van, following in the wake of the MGMT (another popular band) tour bus - all for the princely sum of ¤75 a gig.
This year it is a professional driver, Florence, a five-piece Machine and a road crew in their own tour bus.
Florence And The Machine at the Lovebox Weekender
Heady days: Florence And The Machine perform at the Lovebox Weekender in London this month
I still go to some gigs, but my small part in this drama is, to a great extent, over. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and my early days as de facto tour manager are a great source of envy to my fifty-something chums who would give their eye teeth for the chance to go 'on the road' with a band, man.
There are, of course, alarming aspects to the whole thing. I have witnessed Florence clambering up the gantry at Glastonbury in 6in heels and I have seen her being passed around the audience at a gig with Pete Doherty.
Indeed, I shared a light ale or two with the rock and roll Rimbaud and found him to be quite charming, if a trifle vague. I must admit, though, a report that he had proposed to Florence earlier in the evening did cause a momentary attack of the vapours.
It is all exciting. But a word of warning to any potential pop stars and their parents: it is also expensive. Florence has received reasonable advances, but had to use them to pay for a lot of the band's running costs.
Florence will, we hope, make some money, but only if she sells a lot of CDs and gets film tie-ins - and after she has repaid her advances.
I may have to wait for quite a while for that bungalow in Weybridge that all rock stars seem to buy for their parents.
The fact that Florence has become public property can invade one's life and conversation. We do have evenings within her extended family where all mention of the 'daffy diva', as I call her sometimes, is forbidden.
Her sister Grace is at Sussex University, and so is able to get away from the all-embracing tsunami that Florence's life has become.
Florence's 15-year-old brother, JJ, thinks it's all pretty cool, and finds the connection with a pop star a good way to develop conversations with girls.
I do occasionally feel a twinge of unease about this whole extraordinary thing, and I remember the first time I felt it. It was more than a year ago and Florence was playing a gig in an inexplicably fashionable joint in Hoxton, Hackney.
Practically every A&R man in London was there. As I watched Florence putting her heart and soul into the performance, I glanced round at the audience.
There were the fans, wild-eyed and transported by the experience. And there were the A&R men, with quiet, thoughtful faces. They weren't here to enjoy themselves, they were taking care of business, and the business was my daughter. That's just the way it is - no worse than any other business, but it was a sobering thought.
It was also at this gig that one of the A&R men who knew that I was Florence's father turned to me with a quizzical expression as she launched into another of her perverse, Gothic tales of death, dismemberment, and bloody revenge.
'I know what you're thinking,' I shouted, 'but I can assure you she had a perfectly normal upbringing.'