The Quintessential 80s (or 90s) ‘Western Music’ Compilation Tape: Chennai Style

Sometime during the early 90s, I was sitting on a wooden barricade at the YMCA grounds in Royapettah, dragging on what I thought was a Wills NavyCut (an hour later, some hazy faces told me it was “grass”). 13AD was playing the opening riff of an English song that obviously had an impact on Phillip Cherian who was getting ready to explode in drooling delight. “Wow…O…God…mmm….mochaan*…fuck” were his words, I think, though not in that order. Not too impressed with me being not too impressed, Cherian berated me in classic peter english – What? Fuck…mochaan, what? You don’t know “Sweet Child O’Mine”?. I think I might have nodded and then fallen off that barricade..

In retrospect, I should’ve just stayed home watching ‘Oliyum OLiyum’. Atleast Amala & Kushbu seemed happy to see me, as opposed to the “sexy Punjabi-Mallu hybrid” from Church Park that gave us the look usually reserved for the dissected frog in her Biology Lab. But…Cherian’s spluttering outburst did not just anoint me in a rain of spittle but also sparked off a personal moment of epiphany for my grassed out self. That I should always carry a handkerchief, AND that Boney M was not “in” anymore. Neither was ABBA nor Jim Reeves. In fact, Jim Reeves was never in, except maybe in Dr.D.G.S.Dinakaran’s house (ha ha ha). My Ilaiyaraja collection was flourishing, but my English collection could use some nourishing (and my rhyming skills too). An upgrade was in order.

Hard Rock/Metal was just too loud, I decided. Sacrilege, screamed the Bon Jovi/Iron Maiden fans and the lone King Kobra fan. So I tapped into the collections of those who thought Axl Rose was just another “hottie” like Samantha Fox – the “casual” listener. You know, the ones that couldn’t care less if Coltrane breathed magic into a sax or make highbrow jokes about ‘Norwegian Wood’ being dedicated to a boner caused by a Scandinavian model. It’s almost eerie how every one of this kind owned the same set of songs on tape. Like it was handed out at one of their secret cult meetings in the basement of Alsa Mall. Which is why I think my first serious English compilation tape probably looked something like this:

Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins
Part-time Lover – Stevie Wonder
Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
Papa Don’t Preach – Madonna
Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
Faith – George Michael
Every breath you take – The Police
We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel
Don’t worry, Be happy – Bobby McFerrin
Careless Whisper – Wham
Thriller/Beat It – Michael Jakcson
Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx
Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees
Lady In Red – Chris DeBurgh
Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You – George Benson
and *drum roll*
Hotel California – Eagles

If you think I might have missed out on some of the necessary classics, then please let me know. I’d love to know what I might have forgotten.

*mochaan – the peter equivalent of machaan

25 thoughts on “The Quintessential 80s (or 90s) ‘Western Music’ Compilation Tape: Chennai Style”

  1. so basically chennai youth had the taste of middle-aged white women iin the US? *shudder*

    ps. the title of the post and the “posted on” date are on top of each other in my firefox/xp2.

  2. I agree, it is kind of a disturbing collection :). Thank God for file-sharing that opened my eyes to a whole new world of music.

  3. I had sort of the exact same songs that you did. And I still listen to them-for nostalgia purposes :-) Most of your songs are from Top Billboard hits of the 80s. Nothing wrong in listening to it. Much better than the mainstream US pop trash of today. The 80s produced many pop legends. Even the one-hit wonders were numerous and worthy of rememberance. The last 10 years havent produced ANY. Some of those chennai “youth” listen to english songs just for the sake of it probably, so that they can show off to their call center women colleagues probably :-) A discerning listener can always find good stuff to listen to, be it any decade. Here are some songs which I am NOT ashamed of listening to once in a while even today:

    Nikita – Elton John
    Take on Me – A-ha
    In the air tonight
    Jesus yes he knows me
    Thats all – all by Phil Collins
    Radio gaga
    Bohemian rhapsody
    we will rock you and many more by Queen
    I drove all night – Cyndi lauper
    One night in bangkok – Murray Head
    You belong to the city – Glenn frey
    Say you say me
    Hello – Lionel ritchie
    keep on lovin you – REO speedwagon

    and many more..

    Of course there were some cheesy stuff too like Pet Shop boys, but most of the above songs atleast had a good melody line and good singing at the very least, which even after 20 years dont seem all that dated. I’d prefer it any day to the Eminems and Christina Aguileras and Britney Spearses

  4. Hey, welcome back! Hope your “holiday” was fun. I just checked off the ones I had on my early “English” tapes myself.

    Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins
    Part-time Lover – Stevie Wonder
    Ice Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
    We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel
    Careless Whisper – Wham
    Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx
    Lady In Red – Chris DeBurgh
    Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You – George Benson

    And my list addiionally featured:
    Bryan Adams – Everything I do, I do it for you
    the sound track of Pretty Woman ( I didn’t know the names of the artists or songs then, having filched an unlabeled tape from a friend… come to think of it, I still don’t. Like the songs, anyways)

    I still remember being disgusted with the great Axl Rose after watching their video ‘November Rain’ that EVERYBODY in school couldn’t get enough of. My only reaction was, “so the chick dies on her wedding day, and am supposed to rave about this????”

    I still don’t know anything about music, but age has helped me smoothly execute sneers whenever I hear sneer-worthies like Ms. Spears or Ms. Aguilera mentioned.

  5. Manoj,
    You stole the list i had when i was in school. Man, you just changed “Jungle Fever” to “Part-time Lover” and made it look original!
    Seriously, stunningly similar to the collection i and my brother had back then :) Pop was then thing then, till other forms grabbed my attention…..

    “U can’t touch this” – MC Hammer
    “Candle In The Wind” – Elton John
    “Dancing in the dark” – Bruce Springsteen
    “Rent” – Pet Shop Boys….

    Andha naal nyabagam……..

  6. welcome back!
    rather than say everything everyone else has said, let me get right down to the juicy part:
    my list = your list – Every breath you take +
    scatman + alice (wtf is) + venus (bananarama) + a lot of “ace of base” +

  7. There’s nothing surprising with the identical lists, since it was the norm that everybody had a copy from their “friend’s collection”…

  8. Sorry about the late response, everyone…am recovering from a bout of viral fever. Damn viruses.

    Vijay, I think A-Ha & Pet Shop Boys made it to another tape of mine. :) “Go West…” was a catchy song, I admit.
    DoZ: Yeah, in those days it was very uncool not to have watched the ‘November Rain’ video. But my favorite video to watch and wonder about was R.E.M’s ‘Losing My Religion’. What the hell was that?!
    Bala: So I guess I’ve met you & bro down in the Alsa Mall basement, eh? :)
    Prashanth: Funny how ‘Ace of Base’ became more popular after Rahman used one of their bass tracks for ‘Telephone Mani’. “I Saw the Sign” was a catchy pop song actually.
    bee: I have a few photos at home. Get off your beach chair and come over for a look-see. :)
    observer: yep, which is what I hinted at in the post. :)

  9. i was hoping the delay was you working up a rang de basanti movie review to let us know if it really deserves all the enthusiasm i see on the net,, or are these sort of people who deserve a swift “ok”. . hopefully you will recover well enough to undertake this task. :-)

  10. RDB is scheduled for tomorrow. But I’m not too fond of writing desi movie reviews. I watch all and hate most. If RDB is even remotely preachy, I’ll end up not liking it. Just like Swades.

  11. i think one song that has been surprisingly missing from all lists is ‘Desert Rose’ by Sting,and and may be’ Summer of 69′,and’ My heart will go on’ can also find a mention.

  12. Not so much surprising for me personally because Desert Rose was released in the year 2000, and Titanic (my heart will go on) was in the late 90s….and the list up above is more of a 80s list.

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