I listened to the Carpenters after a long, long time last night. My sister and I sang along, never missing a beat and remembering every word and every expressive pause. It was like when I was 11 and she was 7 and we would listen to the Carpenters all day. Karen Carpenter’s honeyed vocals would sweep over us and we would sway along with the lovely music.
Only Yesterday by the Carpenters was my first ever English-music cassette. By the end of a month, I knew all the words by heart. I knew when to take a deep breath, when to give the right sort of inflections to my voice. Every song had a special meaning for me. Yesterday Once More was the melancholic song I sang whenever I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It was the song I bonded over with my best friend Anjali [I’m proud to say that I introduced her to The Carpenters]. When David Duchovny got married and broke my heart, Goodbye to Love became my anthem. I imagined myself as a pained and tormented teenager [which I wasn’t really, but we all like to strike dramatic poses:)]
It is amazing how every song has an associated memory. There’s nothing like music to trigger nostalgia. ABBA reminds me of the trips my family and Anju’s family took to Diu and to Goa. We had no clue about the lyrics, because of the band’s peculiar accent. We’d fill in the gaps in our knowledge with spirited ‘Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah’s, to the eternal amusement of Anju’s mum. Then there were the Backstreet Boys and Boyzone, which bring back memories of whispered conversations about boys and crushes and long walks in the moonlight.
I have one strong memory associated with Wannabe by the Spice Girls. A garrulous old man had come to visit my dad on a Sunday morning. My dad was getting monumentally bored and my sister and I were impatient to play the Spice Girls’ first album, which we’d bought just the day before. Unfortunately, the music player was in the living room which is where our guest was sitting, talking nineteen-to-the-dozen. Getting tired of waiting, I decided to take the bold step of marching into the living room and playing the cassette. The opening notes of Wannabe were enough to drive the unwanted guest away. My sis and I didn’t get yelled at by our parents for our lack of manners and it is my firm belief that they were actually grateful to us.
Lady by Modjo was the first song I ever danced to with a guy. Teenage Dirtback by Wheatus was the first song I drank to [and proceeded to make a complete fool of myself to. I have vague memories of dancing about and leaping on beds. But since everyone else was equally, if not more, drunk, I guess it doesn’t really matter] Then there was I’m a Slave for You by Britney Spears, with the Khalsa College boys tearing their shirts off and girls screaming and hooting and my friends and I, laughing our heads off. Lenny Kravitz reminds me of a fest at SRCC, with a heady feeling of freedom brought on by the knowledge that we were in the midst of a doped and drunk college crowd, yelling and screaming, and that our parents were not around to drag us back home.
There were quiet evenings with my roomies when we’d discuss Love, Life and Sex, with the Goo Goo Dolls, Coldplay and Pink Floyd playing in the background. And dancing to Superstar and Lets Talk About Sex and Turn Me On during college and hostel Jam sessions.
I no longer listen to most of the songs I used to love. I don’t, for instance, listen to the Backstreet Boys or the Spice Girls any more. I’ve ceased to appreciate their artistic merits, if they ever had any. But if I ever do happen to hear one of those familiar old melodies, I can’t help but sing along. A few months back, on a trip with my classmates, the radio in the car began playing Baby One More Time by Britney Spears. We all giggled at how we’d all once loved that song and as the car whizzed down the highway, we could be heard singing at the top of our voices, “Hit Me Baby One More Time!”
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