The Rundown: The Unfortunate Soundtrack Of My Youth

Growing up, our parents have an undeniable influence on the things we’re exposed to as children. Maybe it’s not that way anymore with the Internet and smartphones and whatnot, but while I was on the come up, my parents largely dictated the terms of my entertainment.

They picked the movies (and told me when to cover my eyes), controlled the television remote and had complete control of the radio and tape deck whenever we jumped in the car.

The first two were tolerable because the only movies I ever wanted to watch starred Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal and my old man was down with that and we were limited to network television, so wholesome NBC entertainment and the first couple periods of a Toronto Maple Leafs game every Saturday were pretty much standard and relatively tolerable.

But the music?

Some kids have parents that hip them to the classics early on; whether it’s Motown or classic rock or the British Invasion or blues, they give their children an education in quality music and artists that could help them build a strong foundation for their future listening choices. Not my parents. Not even a little.

If you think I’m exaggerating, please enjoy this selection of gems that played in regular rotation during my formative years.

Huey Lewis and the News – Sports

A perfect example of the acceptable, but completely mediocre albums that were in heavy rotation during my early days, Huey Lewis earns some solid nostalgia points and is a quality karaoke selection. However, I always thought my parents were trying to teach me about U.S. geography with “The Heart of Rock and Roll” and as much as I genuinely liked “I Want a New Drug” as a seven-year-old, I know now that it was because I wasn’t exposed to anything better.

Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine – “Conga”

My mom loved this song. LOVED. On those rare instances where she was at the wheel and my old man wasn’t along for the trip, Gloria Estefan bumped through whatever vehicle was in the Kyte family fleet at the time. The cassette would go in and occasionally we let it play through, but for the most part, my mom would hit the rewind button and just keep blaring “Conga” to the point that I could probably still sing it word-for-word just from memory if it came on today.

Phil Collins – No Jacket Required

The whole Phil Collins monologue in American Psycho is extra amusing to me because “Sussudio” was one of the most played songs in my family care throughout 1985 and 1986. I’m talking a couple hundred times because this album played on loop for a couple months and my brother played rep hockey, which means we were in the car a lot.

Rick Astley – Whenever You Need Somebody

So while “Rick Rolling” became a thing and Rick Astley memes are hilarious, they also sting for me because the crooning Brit was a personal favourite of my brother and his first two albums – this one and the 1987 follow-up Hold Me In Your Arms – were road trip DJ staples. Do you understand how much it sucks to have your older brother sitting next to you belting “Never Gonna Give You Up” in your ear as you spend another Saturday morning driving to his latest hockey tournament?

Steve Winwood – Roll With It

As an adult, I can appreciate Winwood’s musical talents a lot more now, but when you’re a kid and this is one of the few tapes you could possibly bring to school on Friday when the teacher lets everyone bring in their favourite tapes to play throughout the day, it sucks, especially when your friends are rolling in with Appetite for Destruction or Hysteria or New Jersey. What sucks more is when you’re the one kid whose album contains nothing controversial and therefore becomes one of the few that can be played, much to the ire of your classmates.

Cocktail Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was a novelty hit for Bobby McFerrin and had a video featuring plenty of famous people, but no one wanted to listen to that song and “Kokomo” on a continuous loop… no one except my parents. Now, there were a couple solid joints on this soundtrack – “Powerful Stuff” by The Fabulous Thunderbirds, “Hippy Hippy Shake” by The Georgia Satellites and “All Shook Up” by Ry Cooder – but again, not exactly the cool album to be rocking in your Walkman when Guns N’ Roses are kicking in the door and hip hop is starting to become a force.

George Michael – Faith

This one is more a function of being a stupid kid that wanted to be accepted by his peers more than anything else, but again, when your friends are running around with powerful guitar riffs and charismatic frontmen as their picks and you’ve got the dude from WHAM! in your deck, you know you’re going to hear about it.

Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True

Here’s the thing: everyone of a certain age listened to a bunch of shitty bands and artists while they were figuring out their musical identity and the ones that said they didn’t are lying. No one only listens to great music exclusively – everyone gets sucked in to something awful here and there – and the Kyte household was very much sucked into the whole Milli Vanilli rage. I can neither confirm nor deny doing the dance moves to the song this album shares a name with in my living room.

Paula Abdul – Forever Your Girl

Catchy bubble gum pop was a big staple of our car rides and when Ms. Abdul dropped her debut album, it instantly when to the top of the charts in the family vehicle. This was the kind of “agreeable to everyone” music that parents would let their kids listen to and not understand why they wanted to listen to anything else. It was mostly garbage, but “Cold Hearted” is still my jam.

Michael Jackson – Bad

This album gets included because it shows that my mother – who was largely in charge of approving the musical selections for family voyages – wasn’t completely clueless because even if you weren’t a big MJ fan (or have retroactively renounced him), there is no denying this was a killer album. Why couldn’t they have given more of this?

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