Our drive to drop the child to school and then onto office is rather short, traffic conditions being in our favor and no humungous jams on the road outside school making it a fifteen minute one. And this is the only time in the day that I actually listen to the radio. While the child is in the car, he fiddles around with the radio stations, most of which playing the same music from just released and to be released Bollywood music and then there is one channel that I switch to dare the spouse to change from once the child is dropped off to school, and that is the only one that plays English music. And not just any English music, but the songs of my youth. Or sometimes, a little before my youth. But I’m not complaining. Yup, 94.3 take a bow.
I’m not much of a music person, I confess. The only modern day pop/rock I am really familiar with is the Bieber given that the child was a gawping fan until it became fashionable to not like the singer. But there are the songs of my college days. Singers like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince before he become the person with a symbol for a name or as he was also called, the artist formerly known as Prince and currently known as something you need to write down on a piece of paper and hold over your head if you want to call out his name while he is in concert, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen. The one hit wonders. Milli Vanilli. A-Ha. Boy George.
When their songs play, multiple things happen in the brain. For one long dormant sections of the brain get activated. These means that while I might not be able to remember where I kept my home keys after entering home, and go on a manic I can’t find my keys hunt, I will be able to remember each and every word of them songs as they play and insist on doing the horrifically embarassing (to my son) activity of singing aloud, with the aloud bit taken really seriously, never mind that I can’t hold a tune even if a tune was swaddled and placed in my lap, and the voice is at the best pleasant and mellow but far from mellifluous. And then when some really obscure song pops up, I will prod the spouse excitedly, which is not a good idea when he is driving and is stuck behind a row of cars whose drivers according to him should be lined up and shot in the head for having no clue whatsoever about how to carefully drive over each other even through bumper to bumper traffic, and therefore end up impeding his own progress.
This morning a familiar raspy languid voice came over the radio, singing lyrics that were poetry. The times, he told me, they are a changing. Yes, they are, and they continue to do so, and no one knows this more than my grocery bill which continues to rise month on month.
“Remember this one, which one is this, yes, I know this song, do you remember it.”
“Here you drive,” he barks in exasperation. The threat of which is enough to shut me up for a few minutes. No, I don’t drive, in case you wondered. I stopped after I managed to crash the rear of our yellow Zen into the bumper of our red Ikon all in a day’s work and never quite recovered from the trauma. Anyway, this threat keeps me silent until I figure out the lyrics to some bit of the song playing and start humming along, getting the words and the tune so desperately wrong that the spouse changes the channel which I then change right back. Bingo. Bob Dylan goes the light bulb in my head. And then the next song comes up. Yes, vaguely familiar again. I scrunch my face up and try to catch the lyrics and tune from some buried repository in my brain.
“Yes, yes, I got this song, this is XYZ song by XYZ which was on my Top of the Pops 89 cassette with this one on the cover, remember.”
Obviously he doesn’t. It was my cassette. Remember cassette players. The modern generation will never know the sense of purposefulness and patience rolling spools of tape into a cassette with a pencil can bring. The patience and the fortitude that came from rewinding and stopping and fast forwarding the cassette until you reached that exact same point that you wanted to listen to the song to, and very often, I confess, to confirm whether it was really A Very Bad Word that the singer used or something that could be mistaken for A Very Bad Word.And the scavenger like instinct that made one do the rounds of friends homes picking up cassettes with the songs one wanted and making a composite tape with all the songs one wanted by plugging in two cassette player and carefully aligning cassettes at song start points and pressing Record. Record was always a horrific stubborn button on my player and often wouldn’t get pressed down reducing me to a frothing at the mouth hellion stomping on the ground and then finally agreeing to start recording and then sudden weird sound which meant the tape was out and back to work with the pencil. Those were times that built up moral character and really made us WANT our music. Unlike today’s generation which gets everything off the net and does not know how to use a pencil.
Seriously though, it puts me in a good mood. Listening to songs that were hits. Songs that weren’t such great hits, but songs that one loved. Songs like Circle in the Sand which I tell the child was sung by Johnny Depp’s ex-girlfriend. Songs like Time After Time which is never fails to make one feel circa 17 years old and moonyfaced over pimply youth in neighbourhood. Or Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life which makes one want to start singing along, loudly, never mind the wincing faces of the others in the car.Or Top Gun’s Take My Breath away which made one moonyfaced over Tom Cruise in aviators flying fighter planes, before one knew he was going to divorce wives over faxes and get into Scientology and jump on couches.
What is it about the music of one’s youth? Why does it take us back to a happy time and place, where there was life still to be lived and hope still reigned that we would conquer the world and when forty meant one had carefully placed one foot in the grave and were deciding about the placement of the next? While you, dear reader, ponder on these important metaphysical questions, you can ask yourself this very important question. Do you have the sense of purpose and patience that was born from winding unspooled cassettes with a pencil?