By Siddharth Prasad
I grew up in a time when the CD hadn’t been invented yet. We listened to music by playing cassettes on portable little 2-in-1s with tinny little speakers. And because of the finite nature of pocket money, a lot of the tapes weren’t even ‘original’; they were recorded off a friend who had the original album and a double-deck cassette player. With tinny little speakers.
And so I remember myself hunched over this battered old Grundig, proudly listening to Deep Purple as they sang:
Small common Walter
The fire engine guy
Don’t laugh. That’s what I heard, and there was no Internet to tell me any better either. You could look up the words and the names of the songs only if you bought the album and read the inlay card. You could go for years believing that Dylan loved insects.
The ants are my friends, It’s blowin’ in the wind
The ants are jus’ blowin’ in the wind
The CD, when it came along, didn’t help much either. The 2-in-1 simply became a 3-in-1 and added Rs 2000 to its cost price. Same tinny little speakers. The songs continued to mystify and send imaginations spiralling wildward. What did Nirvana mean by the line “Here we are now, in containers” in Smells Like Teen Spirit? Did they mean coffins? Was this a comment on the partitioning of society?
And Bryan Adams? Shocking. “Got my first real sex dream…” In a song called Summer of 69! The mind boggled at the permissiveness of western music. It wasn’t just Adams; there was Robert Palmer too, singing:
Might as well face it
You’re a d**k with a glove
Why glove? Was this a hidden reference to MJ? What was going on with these hidden references anyway? I’d already cut up and spliced a cassette tape to play ‘Hotel California’ backwards so I could listen to the allegedly hidden satanic messages. Same with ‘Stairway To Heaven’. And ELO, don’t even ask.
Thing was, on those tinny little speakers you could hear just about whatever you imagined. Each song was open to interpretation. Your mind supplied what your ears didn’t catch. And often the lyrics in your head were much more interesting than what the songwriter wrote.
I heard this movie promo on television where Aamir Khan asks Rani Mukherji to listen up and when she says ‘Suna’, he responds with ‘Haathi ka andaa la’. Wow! What imagery! Enough of this chaand-sitaare nonsense – if you truly love me, bring to me the egg of an elephant!
Now that’s a love quest. Double wow. And then came the dampener. When I heard the complete song, I discovered that Aamir was actually just inviting Rani for a sordid little weekend in Khandala. No haathi ka anda at all! How boring.
The reason I’m writing all this is that earlier today I wrote an ad for high quality headphones. You put them on and all becomes crystal clear. No more elephant eggs and no airborne ants at all; but they do save you from a lot of potential embarrassment. Imagine you’re at a party at a friend’s house, several beers down; The Beatles are singing Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and instead of ‘kaleidoscope eyes’, you join in loudly singing:
The girl with colitis goes by
I’ve sung worse. So have you. Get a pair of Sennheisers.