Funny how certain things can trigger memories. A particular perfume reminds you of a college sweetheart. A black and white photo makes you reminisce about family holidays when you were young. A wafting aroma results in hunger pangs for your grandma’s cooking…
I met up with an old school friend the other night. (Thanks, Ro!). She posted a photo of us on Facebook, tagging other uni friends who are now in different corners of the globe. ‘How about a reunion for our (fast-approaching – gulp!) 40th birthdays,’ she suggested. The next thing I knew, one of the guys had posted a YouTube video of Will Smith (when he was The Fresh Prince, remember that?) singing ‘Boom, Shake the Room’. In a flash, I was time travelling to my teens in the 1990s. Groan!
Music is so different these days. I’m not talking about the lyrics (or lack of them) – I’m talking about how we listen to music. My kids have grown up with Spotify and iTunes. But they have no inkling of mix tapes, Walkmans and misheard lyrics (mondegreens). So allow me to turn back time and press Rewind…
My earliest memories of music were of my dad’s record player and his collection of LPs (long play): albums by The Beatles and The Stones rubbing shoulders (sleeves) with The Doors and CCR. As the long arm of the needle came down to rest on the black vinyl record, we heard the clicks and ‘crackle’ as it spun on the turntable before the first song filled our house. Unfortunately, the record player and records was sold off to the jari puranawalla (junk buyer) when cassette players became all the rage in the 1980s.
In the 1980s, my mum’s brothers worked in the Gulf for American companies. When they flew back to Bombay each Christmas, my cousins and I coveted their Billboard Top 40 cassettes even more than the KitKat chocolates they gave us. The latest hits were blasted on their new Bose stereo system – loud enough for the entire street to hear the doof-doof. And when Side A came to an end, the cassette tape was flipped over to Side B.
If you wanted to record the Top of the Pops, you needed a double tape deck: one for the original and one for your blank tape. And you had to make sure you pressed down the Play and Record buttons simultaneously – and even then, you heard the tell-tale ‘click’. These were the days when ‘copyright’ was just a meaningless © symbol.
Once recorded, these tapes were paused, fast forwarded and rewound ad infinitum (with our ears pressed to the speakers) until we learnt the lyrics to every song far better than we memorised our Hindi poems for school exams. Once these songs became passé, we reused them to record the latest hits over them.
And then our worst nightmare would unfold before our eyes – the cassette would unravel in a tangle of dark brown tape, spilling its guts out in protest. All attempts to wind its entrails back inside with a pencil would prove futile. A problem that was even harder to solve than those popular Rubik’s cubes.
RadioAnd who can forget listening to Saturday Date? This was the only English music program on All India Radio. So come 9pm and every Catholic in Bombay would tune in to this music request show where Bonnie from Byculla could dedicate ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You’ to his girlfriend Sandra from Bandra, or Tony from Dhobitalao could request ‘We Will Rock You’ for his pals in Pali village. My ears perked up whenever my favourite ‘Funky Town’ was played, but a golden oldie like ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ was enough to send me to slumberland.
So tell me, what sort of music did your family listen to when you were growing up? Do you still have any old LPs or cassette tapes?
What was the first album you ever bought? Did you have a favourite song as a child?