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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

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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 – 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

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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

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1982

Image - http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/1982/ Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale

Image – http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/1982/ – Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale

It’s 1982 and I’m twenty years old. No longer a teen. Wow. What a change. I’m loving university and my grades reflect it. Hey, maybe I’m not so dumb, after all, I mused. Maybe I just needed the right setting, the right courses, an inspiring professor or two…

I was also a DJ at the college radio station, so had more exposure to different kinds of music. Back then it was two turntables, a mic, a lot of vinyl, and maybe a desultory looking tape deck set off to the side, collecting dust. Oh yeah, and a studio telephone for requests.

No internet in those dark days. Cell phones were soon to appear as big, clunky things that people used for emergencies out in the wild. But they certainly didn’t fit in your purse or pocket.

The one song that stands out for me in ’82 is “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell. This song foreshadows so many things to come.

The orchestra hit sounds like digital sampling, but I’m not sure if Soft Cell had access to that in ’82.

Digital sampling is something that 80s bands like Eurythmics, Depeche Mode and Art of Noise would take to a whole new level of excellence. Peter Gabriel also had a hit sampling a Japanese shakuhachi with “Sledgehammer.”

Funny thing about “Tainted Love” is that it’s actually a reimagined version of a 1964 tune that didn’t do too well.

Home computers came out with the Commodore 64 in ’82. I was still typing out my essays for school. Does anyone today even know what liquid paper is?


I was soon to buy an Atari. A good choice. My grades went up even higher using the word-processor and I had fun doing poetry and playing games. That’s about all it did. 🙂

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame names its Class of 2018, from Bon Jovi to Nina Simone (mashable.com)

 Back to the 80s: Y is for Yazoo. (debbie-johansson.com)

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Reelin’ in the Years – 1981

Image – acardandagift.com – Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale

It’s 1981 and I’m 19 years old. This is the year of the comeback bands. The Moody Blues, Steve Winwood, and John Lennon all had huge albums and hit singles in ’81.

Lesser known acts like King Crimson released a respectable comeback album. And David Byrne (see 1980) teamed up with producer and ambient wizard Brian Eno to produce an experimental album, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, that did quite well.

Myself, I was nostalgic for the old bands and happy they came through with some good, fresh material. I felt that most of the top 40 hit parade was lapsing into sheer garbage. But bands like The Police and Kraftwerk offered new hope and direction for the future of pop.

My first love Jill (not her real name) and I had split up. I had met Heather (not her real name) and literally fell head over heels. My attraction to Heather was pretty overpowering and sorta fit with my burgeoning interest in Carl Jung and his theory of the archetypes.

Fair Maiden Dress via forestcreekrenaissance.com – Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale

A Jungian would say I must have been projecting the archetype of “the fair maiden” or something like that onto her. But Heather was also an incredibly nice, level-headed person. I prefer to say that my soul knew we had a future involvement, so I just went for it.

Jill had helped to get me out more in high-school (I was always gregarious at the cottage with my summertime friends). She also unconditionally loved and supported me through the teenage years. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Heather, on the other hand, was my proverbial rod and staff through undergraduate university. It was Heather who told me about applying for graduate scholarships, ultimately transporting me to India for two years. Heather also stuck with me through a challenging year of change. A fine, fine woman.

This song brings back the peace and joy I felt in getting to know Heather. Sadly, it was released after Lennon’s death. But I think most of us were in a kind of denial. Lennon was still ‘alive.’ He had three monster hits.

I’ve played this song on the piano in my own halting style. I love the chord structure. It’s actually a kind of wheel, itself. “Watching the Wheels” reminds me of how Lennon contributed to that carnivalesque aspect of The Beatles. The little honky-tonk and wartime era piano rolls are so delectable!

Lennon’s got the cred. And it shows here.

Reelin’ in ALL the Years

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