The best thing about music is that it has the power to take you to another time.
The years 1998 to 2000 introduced me to a new kind of music. I was the proud owner of a Sony Walkman and took even greater pride in my music collection.
It’s hard to categorise music in genres. People do it anyway. I listened (and still do) to everything. I did not care (and did not know) what the term “Rock music”, in its literal sense, meant and could not care less about the so called Pop music. I kept it simple — Listened to anything that I liked. Purchased an audio tape costing Rs.125 just because I liked 2 songs. Sometimes it seemed, the Audio Industry thrived on me for their business in Indore.
As I hinted, those years introduced me to Artists who I have been essentially listening to this date. I want to tell you about them. I just feel like writing about music today and that is what I am doing.
In 1998, I left Delhi for Indore to pursue my graduation studies. I had with me a suitcase of clothes and in the name of amusement, a Philips stereo and three audio cassettes (my friend suggested the music). Bryan Adams-Mtv Unplugged was one of them and it was to become my first addiction. I listened to it till the tape broke. Bryan Adams came up with “On a day like today” a few months after that and I think it was one of his best efforts till date, even though it was not much applauded as his other albums like “18 till I die”.
To me, Sheryl Crow was the first singer who sounded different then the then popular Backstreet boys and Spice Girls. Now I realise it was wrong to compare her music with the “Boys” and the “Girls”, but at that time I couldn’t help it. She had this reckless attitude, not necessarily denoting a rebel but surely a fire within. I was mad about this song called “If it makes you happy”. After that, her album titled, “The Globe Sessions” was released. It sounded fresh, different and some songs had in it to make you stand up and take notice.
Television was a luxury available only at home in Goa. And going to Goa was a custom followed once every 3-4 months. In one of those visits, while eating rice and fish-curry and glaring at Channel [v], I met one Sharleen Spiteri of a band known as Texas. Since she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen and the 18-year-old I was, her voice made my heart skip a beat or two. “In our lifetime” was on Television and a few hours later, in my mp3 collection. Texas, was later to be one of the best music bands I had ever listened to, still continue listening to and Sharleen Spiteri was to remain on my personal list of the most beautiful women to walk this planet.
Sharleen Spiteri in “Black Eyed Boy”, “Say what you want” and the latest “Getaway”
During the second semester of my graduation, I stood on the edge of being officially termed a loser in college. Inspiration came from the song “Animal Instinct”, the first track of the album “Bury the Hatchet” from a band I had heard for the first time, called, “The Cranberries”. Being passionate about music and not performing it is not that bad afterall. It gave a dose of inspiration and made me realise that I had my task cut out during the exams ahead. The figure of Dolores O’Riordan, the female lead of Cranberries, crashing her guitar in the video of “Promises” took this rage of music to another level, carrying it ahead of what I had learnt from Sheryl Crow. Female rockers had arrived.
Dolores O’Riordan in “Dreams”, “Linger” and the rebellious “Promises”
During the same time, Robbie Williams was trying hard to woo some audience in the west (read America). He had come up with this hit called “Millennium”. I loved it so much that I got its tape in the middle of my examinations. In normal circumstances, I would have gifted this to myself after the semester exams but clearly Williams got the better of me and I had to purchase this after the first examination of Differential Equations itself. The risk didn’t pay off as I failed in Differential Equations. The argument that I and half of the class that failed in the same subject attributed this to a “complex malpractice” going in the university remained a fact that never was proven and labeled irrelevant.
Robbie Williams then came up with something that finally sent him to America. “Singing when you are winning” was that masterpiece which put him up there. Rock Dj rocked America. “Supreme”, “Better man” and “Kids” finally got Robbie Williams his due and to me, music that plays in my head till this day.
The Stylish Robbie Williams in “Supreme” and “Millennium”
Then in 2000, on TV, I saw a half bald man recording the desert scenery on a digital camera in his Jaguar driven by a beautiful chauffeur. He had this peculiar voice and a funny name. I, at that time, did not have any idea who Sting was. For a long time, I continued to believe he was a one-time wonder, a late bloomer and a rich man who wanted to see himself on Mtv. Still, I tried his latest album, “Brand New Day”. “A Thousand Years” was mysterious and dark, “Desert Rose” was an instant hit and “After the rain” slowly grew on me. Then one day, in a hotel room in Pune, I heard Sting’s “When we dance” and I knew I had to listen to more of this man. And now I think I like the “pre-Brand New Day” Sting more.
The Bald and the Beautiful: Sting (and the chauffeur), in “Desert Rose”
U2 arrived on my music radar during the same time as Robbie Williams. But that’s an altogether different story :)