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Reelin’ in the Years – 1989

1989 Movies via Jennifer Neyhart

It’s 1989 and I’m twenty-seven years old. OMG! I’m over the hill.

But really… there was something about this year. Was it those first few wrinkles I saw looking at my mug in my girlfriend Claudia’s (not her real name) mirror? She was a bit younger than me and used to joke that I was “decrepit.” All in good fun.

Just before that, I was finishing up my second year of study in India. The local Indian bookstore had this Madonna tape, so I picked it up. Way more expensive than the Hindi pop albums.

Returning home, I brought Madonna with me.

When I first saw a pic of Madonna in a music store around 1984, I thought the record company was just dressing up another cute, no-talent bum trying to create a star. I hadn’t listened to anything. This was just my first impression from the album cover. Well, okay. I was wrong. She has talent. She worked at it. She took vocal lessons. And it all came together, IMO, with this song.

I think “Like A Prayer” has power, groove, and for the era, impressive arrangement and production techniques. I’m a fan of production because as an aspiring bedroom producer I can understand how demanding it is.

I also remember the video for “Like A Prayer” being controversial back in  ’89.

In the midnight hour
I can feel your power

The lyrics grabbed my attention because starting around 1986 I more or less became a night person, enjoying the peace and solitude of the “wee small hours of the morning” far more than I used to.

Frank Sinatra would understand. But I won’t get to HIM for almost another decade.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Why India has better things to do than hang out with Justin Trudeau (nationalpost.com)

 YouTube Go expands to 130 countries (rappler.com)

 The Embarrassing, Hilarious, Can’t-Look-Away Trudeau Show (americanthinker.com)

 Why Justin Trudeau Is Being Snubbed in India (theatlantic.com)


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Reelin’ in the Years – 1988

Baul (traveling musician) in West Bengal, circa 1988

It’s 1988 and I’m 26 years old. I’ve been studying in India for a year, doing a degree in Comparative Religion. During summer break the heat was intolerable so I returned to Canada where the temperatures are great in the summertime.

Somewhat out of touch with Western ways, I immersed myself in family, friends, and of course, pop culture. I needed to update and take some tapes back to India for my second year of studies.

James Taylor’s Never Die Young is one of the albums I took with me, so I really got to know it back in my little Indian room with a beautiful view.

Indian kids circa 1988

There were several good tunes I could have chosen for ’88. But Taylor’s “Home By Another Way” sits best with me today.

James Taylor has one of those amazing voices that doesn’t require any studio tricks to stand out in a mix.

I was first introduced to Taylor with Sweet Baby James and the classic, “Fire and Rain.” His music came back into my sphere with Gorilla, which is another great album. JT and others followed. Seems James Taylor never really disappeared, still doing concerts on PBS from time to time.

This song is about overcoming evil not by taking it head on but by going around it. Christians are told to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. That means know what’s going on but don’t let life’s monsters realize you know. And skirt them if you can.

A king who would slaughter the innocents
Will not cut a deal for you…

But Herod’s always out there
He’s got our cards on file
It’s a lead pipe cinch, if we give an inch
Old Herod likes to take a mile

It’s best to go home by another way
Home by another way

The Moody Blues expressed a similar idea in their 1969 album On the Threshold of Dream.

Face piles of trials with smiles
It riles them to believe
That you perceive
The web they weave…
And keep on thinking free

I’m saddened that I haven’t listed a classic Moody Blues song in my 70s recollections. They are one of my favorite bands. I was focussing on pop radio for that decade, and The Moody Blues songs that made the radio were good but not my favs.

Image via discogs.com

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Eagles Add New Dates to 2018 Tour Schedule (news.radio.com)

 Why India has better things to do than hang out with Justin Trudeau (nationalpost.com)

 Canadian PM Trudeau roundly mocked for political, fashion blunders during disastrous trip to India (businessinsider.com)

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1987

It’s 1987 and I’m twenty-five years old. Looking over the charts I realize I’m at a loss in the pop world. This is a bit strange for me. Sort of like I fell into a black hole and couldn’t receive all the signals of Western culture.

Image – dissertationreviews.org – At Visva-Bharati University – Fair Use / Fair Dealing Rationale


Let me explain.

Toward the end of the school year, I had applied for a scholarship to study in India. That summer I was working as an outdoor gardener for the City of Toronto and got word from the Indian officials that I had won the scholarship.

So I hustled around town, getting shots, a passport, and buying some gear for the two-year trip. I’ll never forget arriving in (what was then called) Bombay in the middle of the night. It was surreal.

Settling into my little room in a village by a lake, I soon realized that I was pretty much cut off from Western culture. No TV, the internet wasn’t around then, and the radio only picked up local stations that broadcast traditional Indian folk and classical music.

Image – blessingsonthenet.com – Shantiniketan

My lifeline was a bookstore that sold Indian made tapes of the biggest Western releases (Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc.). And I did visit my folks and friends the following summer in Toronto. So I tried to soak up what I had missed, as much possible, in a few weeks.

But for the most part, I was out of touch with the pop culture of the West. I didn’t really mind, however. My experience was so rich in India. I delved into the world of Hindi pop, which back then was largely unknown to Western audiences.

This single is from a tape I bought in India. I liked it the moment I heard it. Back then Hindi and Bengali pop borrowed elements of Western music and put a definite Indian spin on it. Seems there are remixes of this song with a stronger dance beat. But this is the version I enjoyed back in ’87.

Looks like you’ll have to click on this link to hear the song on YouTube.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1986

Rolling Stone 1986 – Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale.

It’s 1986 and I’m 24 years old. Looking over the charts I didn’t want to do what I did for ’85—post a song or two that meant something to me then but not so much now.

Music should engage.

So I’m cheating a bit this year. My selection is from a compilation album released in ’86 but the material is from two albums released in ’73 and ’74.

Frank Zappa believed in freedom of expression and it shows in his work.

After Overnight Sensation (1973), the album “I’m the Slime” appears on, Zappa’s lyrics become increasingly vulgar and sexual.

At the time of Overnight Sensation, the lyrics are pretty obvious but still suggestive and metaphorical. This song is more about social commentary than sexual adventures. A jab at the media and everything that drives it. At least, through Zappa’s lens.

I’m pretty sure the entire Overnight Sensation is on YouTube. And probably Spotify, if you get that in your country. The musicianship and arrangements are second to none.

For me, this record best shows off Zappa’s genius. Zappa was like the Howard Stern of rock. A pretty loose comparison. Maybe some would think I’m insulting the one or the other!

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Frank Zappa’s We’re Only In It For The Money Is The ’60s Psych Satire That Became A ’60s Psych Classic (stereogum.com)

 This vinyl subscription service is an audiophile’s dream (mashable.com)

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1985

At the steps of the U – this was a friend’s coat… he liked mine and I liked his so we swapped.

It’s 1985, I’m 23 years old and getting past a romantic breakup by exploring new avenues of creativity.

I’d just purchased a recording Walkman and inherited an old reel to reel tape deck that recorded one stereo track at a time. So a friend and I began making experimental music and alternative soundscapes.

We taped sounds from all over the place, later mixing them to music recorded at home. At one point we had a full drum set in the living room, three guitars, an electric piano, and anything else that squeaked, rattled or roared.

I was a DJ at the U so broadcast our aural experiments for local listeners. I didn’t know anything about the loudness war, which involves compressing and limiting to make a signal as loud as possible. Listener response to the broadcast was less than enthusiastic. One woman I had a crush on coolly said, “I couldn’t hear it.”


My musical friends were always playing new records at home and at the radio station. And the university town had two good record stores. So we got by just fine without Spotify.

The two 1985 tunes that stand out for me are The Cure’s “Kyoto Song,” which is sort of bleak and pessimistic.

A nightmare of you…
Wakes me up at quarter to three
I’m lying on the floor of the night before
With a stranger lying next to me

Kyoto Song

And The Waterboys’ “This is the Sea,” portraying the lighter side of hope and promise.

You wanna turn your back
On your soulless days
Once you were tethered
And now you are free

– This is the Sea

Neither of these songs really speak to me today. I was young. Songs from the cradle, as it were. But looking back, they both chilled and thrilled me. I couldn’t have done one without the other. Hence, two tunes for ’85.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1984

The foreboding song “1984” appears on David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album of 1974.

It’s 1984 and I’m 22 years old. 1984 was a slightly strange year because of George Orwell’s literary masterpiece by the same name.

Before 1984 the year was often mentioned as an ominous warning about how we did not want the future to go.

David Bowie had released the haunting song “1984” back in 1974.

They’ll split your pretty cranium, and fill it full of air
And tell that you’re eighty, but brother, you won’t care
You’ll be shooting up on anything, tomorrow’s never there
Beware the savage jaw
Of 1984

Well, it turns out nobody listened to the alarm. We’re desensitized to the new world disorder and no one really cares about Big Brother or Sister.

Strange, indeed, to someone who was a young adult before 1984. We did not want this. But here it is.

Let’s hope we can wake up before things get worse.

“People are People” came out in 1984. The song is more about base conflict than reprobates sifting through your personal stuff. But both really go hand in hand, do they not?

By 1984 music was back on track. The 80s as a cultural era were in full bloom and the 70s were so dead it wasn’t funny.

What strikes me about this song is how young the band members are. Depeche Mode are 22 and 23 years old, about the same age as I was in ’84.  To be that youthful and talented just leaves me speechless.

21st-century music listeners will be familiar with the sonic landscape of this song. But in 1984, the sounds were fresh and progressive.

These guys were the Skrillex of the 80s. If you don’t know who Skrillex is, maybe it’s time to do a little homework. 🙂

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Dressing David Bowie As ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (thecut.com)

 Watch Japan’s ice skating team dance to Ryuichi Sakamoto (thefader.com)


Reelin’ in the Years – 1983

1983 Ford – The bright, boxy look is in – Wikipedia

It’s 1983 and I’m 21 years old. A legal adult in most countries. I believe the age of majority was 19 yrs in Ontario back then. But it used to be 18 and 21 yrs. I’m not into alcohol so it never was a huge issue for me.

What is an adult, anyhow? Some chronological adults behave like kids. And some kids act like adults.

I’ve moved to a new town, a new university and am living in a house with a bunch of students whom I don’t know. Luckily they’re a pretty decent bunch. I’m sitting in the living room and this song comes on. Wow. Now that is different. So European, so cool, so mod. And it was.

Personally, I think this is one of the best pop songs of all time. I just watched the video again and for the most part, it holds up!

Some of them want to use you…
Some of them want to be abused

Human beings in a nutshell. Well, the sad side, anyhow.

Thank God there’s more than that.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years