A Romp Through the Music that Made Me (Childhood Remix!)

I went about this all wrong. After publishing the last post, I noticed that I had not set any clear parameters to distinguish between childhood and subsequent developmental periods. I wasn’t thinking about the music in terms of specific ages, just that I listened to Raffi when I was a “child” or that MJ was memorable from “that time.” One thing led to another, and I ended up spending the majority of yesterday building a spreadsheet to map each year of my life against album releases, historical events in music, places I lived, schools I attended, and circumstances that might have had an influence on what I was listening to (yes, I spreadsheet a lot of things). 

This exercise was eye-opening to say the least and I highly encourage you to try it out. I learned, for example, that Raffi’s “Baby Baluga” album was released in 1980! The same year that ABBA released “Super Trouper.” Wowzers.

Also, within the period between 1982 and 1989 (my pre-school years), Madonna, Michael Jackson, and “Weird Al” Yankovic had released all of their top selling albums: Thriller, Madonna, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Like a Virgin, “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D, True Blue, Bad, Even Worse, and Like a Prayer.

In fact, before I started preschool at the age of six in 1989 – the same year that Janet Jackson released her infamous “Rhythm Nation” – I was already dripping wet in popular and not-so-popular music. 

However, in curating songs and artists for these posts I have to be very selective to move things along, so I’ve included only the most influential. The music that, in a sense, molded me. And while MJ, Raffi, Red Grammar, and the Persian Classics made the cut for my last blog post, others like ABBA, Boney M, Madonna, and “Weird Al” Yankovic all deserve honourable mentions. 

I loved staring at this album cover when I was a kid. Still my favourite shade of blue.

Kool & The Gang’s “Emergency” (released in 1984) was a favourite during road trips. It’s one of the few cassette covers I can recall from that time. And after reading my last blog post, my dad messaged me, “…don’t forget 99 red balloons”, so it would be remiss of me not to mention the internationally acclaimed German band, Nena, and their hit single, “99 Luftballons” (released in 1983). I rediscovered Nena recently with the Netflix series “Dark,” which often played the song, “Irgendwie Irgendwo Irgendwann“. Check it out.

Though I’m still uncertain as to when we acquired this CD – Compact Discs were available to the public in 1982, eclipsed vinyl by 1988, and overtook cassette sales by 1991 – another road trip favourite for our family was Pink Floyd’s, “A Collection of Great Dance Songs.” As I recall, the track “Money” was often requested by us kids, perhaps because of their fun percussive use of cash registers. My brother would go on to be a huge Floyd fan. However, as will become evident in future posts, I craved more rage and angst during my formative years. Pink Floyd was a bit too high brow for my tastes…at least, back then.

Another thing I learned from doing this timeline exercise is how much social trends, historical events, and local relationships affect our tastes in music (as opposed to strictly personal preferences). Music Television was my fraternal twin, and the holy trinity of Madonna, Michael Jackson, and “Weird Al” dominated the music video catalog. It’s no accident that I’m intimately familiar with their stuff. 

And while I wasn’t a huge fan at the time, my older female cousins (who we frequently visited) were die-hards for the Queens of our time: Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Cher, and Dolly Parton. It was truly an incredible period in popular music.

I haven’t even mentioned the Persian icons yet: Googoosh, Dariush, Ebi, Moein, Andy & Kouros, or the Lord himself, Shajarian (rest His soul). These folks were all present in my life, though it became increasingly difficult to relate as I became assimilated into dominant Western trends. Still, I was swimming in an eclectic ocean of music, nursed on the teats of tunes.

I’m going to take a short detour here to mention someone who clearly had an important impact on my musical tastes and curiosities. At the time of the Iranian revolution (circa 1979), my grandfather lent my dad some money, which he used to start his first business in Zahedan, Iran. He called the modest music shop, Stereo Shabahang. Make no mistake, “…it was the best thing that happened in the Baluchistan’s music industry.” (smile).

I’ve included two photos of my dad in his music shop below. Both mom and dad encouraged me and my siblings to partake in all the bounties that music had to offer. I can never remember a time when music was discouraged, forbidden, or censored. Something I’m very grateful for.

This ends the first segment of this series, covering my early childhood or preschool years from birth to age 5 (1983 – 1988). The next post will cover the early school years from age 6 to 9 (1989 – 1992), when I got caught in the undertow of NKOTB (if you know, you know) and started my lifelong love of hip-hop and RnB.

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