Life was different for music fans in the early 1990s.
Back then, we couldn’t follow our favorite bands and musicians on Twitter or Instagram, and there were no Facebook pages to like.
There were no postconcert exclamations of love, no way to quickly thank the artists for the awesome time (unless we decided to stalk them at their hotels). If we wanted updates, we bought magazines and newspapers.
If lyrics didn’t come with their cassette tapes, we couldn’t Google them. Instead, we bought “song hits,” small magazines dedicated to printing song lyrics, chords and the occasional music article.
Or, because these song hits weren’t always reliable, we got lyrics the hard way—by transcribing them ourselves. Play, pause, write, rewind, play, pause, write, rewind; repeat these steps a thousand times. I think it was this exercise that prepared me for a lifetime of transcribing interviews.
My brother managed to get the lyrics of Savage Garden’s “I Want You” and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Crossroads” using this technique. I really think he should put that on his resume.
If we wanted to listen to an entire album, we had to get up halfway through and switch to Side B (or at least pick up our Walkman and flip the tape over). Years later, I noticed that most of my favorite songs came from Side A of my favorite bands’ albums. And it made me wonder if I have my laziness to blame for that. Maybe I kept listening to Side A because I couldn’t be bothered to get up and switch to Side B?
No torrents or playlists
There were no torrents. If we were broke (and we often were) but desperately wanted a copy of a song, this is what we did: put in a blank tape or any tape that we were willing to record over, listened to the radio, waited for the desired song to play and hit the record button.
Yes, we often missed the first few notes of the song but we didn’t mind. What we hated was when radio DJs would start talking before the song was over. But we were willing to live with that, too—we were just happy to be able to hear our favorite songs over and over again.
We didn’t make playlists, but we made mix tapes. They took a lot more work than just dragging and dropping (and you needed a cassette player with two tape decks, unless you were recording straight from the radio), but they were totally worth it.
If we wanted to watch music videos, we couldn’t just load YouTube and command Joan Osborne and her golden curls to appear. We had to watch MTV and wait for the VJs to play them. I spent an entire summer just staring at MTV like a zombie. That’s my excuse for wasting many hours staring at Peter Andre’s wet abs—I was waiting for Alanis Morissette and No Doubt.
Music videos were also recorded using a style similar to our radio-to-tape method—but this time with the family VHS player and a pile of old tapes. My brother says he still has his tapes.
It was during the end of this era, the transition from tape to CD and from song hits to AZlyrics.com, that I first fell in love with the band Moonpools and Caterpillars.
I was in high school when the group released the album “Lucky Dumpling.” I played the cassette tape so many times I’m surprised it didn’t break. There was something about this Glendale-based Filipino-American band’s music that got me hooked instantly. Maybe it was Kimi Ward Encarnacion’s electric voice. Or the songs that make you want to start jumping. Or how “Heaven” just grabs hold of your heart and refuses to let go.
Back then, I was in a band with my brother and cousins, and hearing Alanis’ “Head Over Feet” and Moonpools’ “Soon, Summertime” and “Heaven” convinced me that I needed to buy a harmonica. It was a beauty, a shiny Hohner that fit my hand perfectly. I attempted to learn how to play it by reading a book I found in National Book Store (again, there were no YouTube gurus back then), and trying and trying until I felt dizzy from lack of
I remember standing in our living room, playing along with the notes from Kimi’s harmonica. I never mastered it, but that didn’t stop me from whipping out the harmonica whenever we played —whether in our terrace or at gigs. Even after we started writing our own songs, we continued to cover the Moonpools’ “Soon” and “Ren.”
When my parents gave me a Discman for my 17th birthday, the Moonpools’ “Lucky Dumpling” and Alanis’ “Jagged Little Pill” were the first CDs I bought. A college classmate borrowed my “Lucky Dumpling” disc and never returned it. I have no idea where he is now and if he’s done wondrous things with his life; but to me, he will always be the jerk who lost my Moonpools CD.
Moonpools disappeared from the music scene in 1998 but my love for the band never wavered. I’ve enjoyed its music for close to 20 years—on tape, CD, MP3 players and multiple generations of the iPod. My biggest regret was not watching the band’s 1996 gig in Manila.
Last year, Jill, my eternal concert buddy, and I were talking about our dream concerts. She said Michael Jackson, I said Amy Winehouse. Both impossibilities. Moonpools and Caterpillars was high on my list, too. Another impossibility, or so I thought.
Last month, a glimmer of hope, when Moonpools posted on its Facebook page: “Philippines … if we played Manila and Cebu, would that include the majority of you?”
And just last week, the band confirmed it. The online music portal Pinoytuner is bringing Moonpools and Caterpillars for shows in Manila and Cebu in April. One of my biggest musical dreams is about to come true.