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Spotify is a wonderful thing. I enjoy exploring new music, but the biggest thrill comes when I rediscover music I had forgotten. That is what happen the other day when I ran across  Robbie Dupree’s Steal Away, and I was mentally tossed back to 1980. It was like a gut punch or the first drop at the top of a roller coaster; it took the breath out of me. I was suddenly standing in my grandmother’s darkened pantry, singing silently to myself.

The little space was an escape for me. I was miserable while living in Podunk, Iowa. To cope, I needed to find some form of mental escape, away from the 70’s pro-wrestling and terrible television that my grandparents considered ‘family time.’ I was eleven or twelve, I think, and I clung to my little radio like a life raft. The songs that I remember best were Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb and, of course, YMCA by the Village People. We sang it in Chorus at school, we learned the dance moves and everything.I would stand in the dark and silently mouth the words as a mantra, a spell to take me away for that moment. Outside, the trains rolled past, the vibrations making the floor tremble under me, an additional element of the magical moment.

The Village People's YMCA is preserved for posterity - BBC News

The rediscovery of Steal Away led me to an entire vein of golden oldies that yanked on my heartstrings. Like emotional cheesecake, I couldn’t get enough. I was pulling up memories and feelings that had slipped into the cracks of my mind, seemingly lost forever. But the magic of music brought it all pouring back, and it was a rush.

Music has power. I know that. I feel it every time I go to a rock show and feel the rush of energy from the screaming guitars and thumping drums. But I had forgotten the power of music memory. Songs have a way of wrapping themselves around a moment in time and organically becoming part of that memory. Our brains attach all the tiny sensations we feel, the emotions, the smells, the environment, along with the sights and sounds of that immediate moment in time to create a multi-dimensional ball of synapses that we call memory. Later, when we experience a smell or sound or emotion that relates directly to that memory, it can come rushing back to our consciousness, fully born and alive. That’s magic.

Like most teenagers, my parents and I disagreed about music. We were children of different times. At my house, Saturday night was Game Night. The whole family would sit at the dining room table and play games until after midnight. An Oldies station would be playing on the radio. Back then, the Oldies were the 50’s and 60’s. I grew up listening to Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Chubby Checker, and the Everly Brothers. Little Suzie and At The Hop were still hits in our house. For me, this was ancient music, never something I would listen to by choice. However, it was catchy, and eventually, I learned all the words. But it wasn’t music I could relate to. However, my parents would get excited when a particular song came on and would crank the volume and sing along like it was the greatest thing ever. I didn’t get it.

The Oldies stations now play the ‘80s and ‘90s, with a smattering of the 2000s thrown in. I know the music and enjoy it, but even these songs rarely have much of an effect on me. I’ve heard them all a million times.

My musical memories seem to be more attuned to the late ‘70s and very early ‘80s. Music that rarely gets played on the radio anymore. Those are the songs that evoke the most vivid emotions, such as the darkened pantry or first heartbreak. Even memories of high school aren’t as powerful as those.

I just wonder if this was the feeling that my parents got from certain songs? Were they re-experiencing a moment in their youth similar to my memory? I now feel a new connection with my parents that I never had before: a clarification and understanding. I’ve realized that it’s only with age and a little time in their shoes that you can really understand your parents. I have now stepped into my father’s place, and I’m feeling his feelings. I finally get it!

What’s next on the playlist?

Lady by the Little River Band.

Lady - Little River Band.jpg

I’ve been feeling my age and find myself waxing nostalgic for things of twenty and thirty years ago. Most of the time, we move through our day-to-day without really noticing time passing, then one day we look up and it’s been five or ten or twenty years. I guess this is me noticing. Really, after the first few thousand days, they all start looking alike. We stop noticing.

Without some significant signposts to delineate the years it’s hard to look back and see where we’ve been or how we’ve changed. Music is important to most people and often serves as sign posts of the years as they pass. For me I tend to avoid the overplayed, shoved-down-our-throat songs that the record industry feels that everyone is required to like. Meaning: the doors, Freebird, Poison, the Backstreet Boys, Beyonce, and Myle, to give an example from every decade of my life. However, there is music that I have kept close for years.

Many years ago I was a big fan of a website call MP3.com, where people could post their original music for people to discover. It was the beginning of digital music and there were a million undiscovered songwriters and bands to explore. If you liked a band, you could order a CD of their music; a real physical CD. I discovered a lot of great music on there and have thousands of files that I continue to listen to.

But, that was twenty years ago, the turn of the century for chrissake! The site has disappeared along with much of the music they stored. However, one of those artists was a band called Dog Party, specifically their album: Blindsided. The track Getaway Car is one of my all time favorites and still gets heavy rotation. However, they are not on Spotify and I have been unable to find their music anywhere.

A recent listen got me curious about what happened to the band and its members. Did they go on to bigger and better things? Are there albums out there? Have I heard their material since and not known it? You know, life goes on for all of us and I was curious to see how they fared. The magic of the internet makes answering these questions relatively easy. It lets you check in on people without them knowing. Much like stalking but with less creepiness.

Dog Party has been important to me partly because they are relatively unknown and unspoiled. If I hear Madonna or Van Halen or even N’Sync, I can sense the years on them. But many of the songs I saved from MP3.com still feel fresh and new, because I haven’t heard them a billion times. They’re not overused and worn out.

The MP3.com songs are much more like intimate friends that have tagged along with me for years. They are very private and personal because I never had to share them with a million other people. Part of their appeal is that I discovered them, rather than the music industry shoving them into my ear canal so incessantly that I was forced to associate with them. MP3.com gave me those songs. The ones that I knew were mine and mine alone. For many of these songs, I am probably one of the few people that know they ever existed. I guess that makes them even more special to me. Fans of Learning To Fly by the Foo Fighters are everywhere, but a person that has even heard Getaway Car by Dog Party is a true rarity. Which is sad, because it is a wonderful song.

Which brings me back to my actual topic. Where are they now? This is the only album by the band that I have been able to find. There is an online rumor that there was a previous album, but I have not been able to find it or verify its existence. The band members were a bit easier to locate.

I originally looked up Eileen Dorn, the lead singer, a few years ago. I love her voice and delivery and was curious if she was able to build a career on her talent. She is now a martial arts instructor in California and part of a city-wide womens’ choir. She can even be found on PBS and youtube.

The guitarist Steve Gregory is still active in music and is a musician for hire. He is also on youtube and I have used his lesson videos a few times. Of course, this is assuming it is the same Steve Gregory. He looks similar, but I have yet to find any reference to Dog Party.

Drummer Mike Packer seems to have done the best for himself becoming a very sought after drummer and instructor in California and even touring with Wilson Philips. (Which is huge in my book!)

The bass player appears to have disappeared into life somewhere – like people do.

What I didn’t find in my research of the members was any mention of the band – at all! No one listed it in their bios or resumes or credits.

Life happens, which is what lead me to this topic. The members of this band have moved on to other things. But on their journey they created music that is still important to me. This is honestly one of my favorite albums and that they fail to even mention it as an accomplishment is a bit of a gut punch. Was it really so forgettable for them? Yes, it was twenty years ago, but I would think they would want to advertise it somehow.

I still listen to this music as if it’s current. It doesn’t feel twenty years old. Even after all those years and a million other songs, these small rare, nearly unheard songs are still important to me and I would like to hope that others feel the same as I do.

On our journey, certain small insignificant things end up having larger meanings than others can understand. It’s not the same for everyone. There will always be people that get all worked up about Freebird or Smells Like Teen Spirit or, hell, maybe even Getaway Car. These songs are part of the soundtrack and montage of our lives and unique to ourselves. Just because it’s a rare unknown song doesn’t make it less important.

Feeling nostalgic and looking back at our journey is important. We need to see the paths that lead us to here; the experiences, mistakes, and accidents of fate that made today. Those things are important and what makes life worth it. This is wisdom I’ve recognized only recently. I don’t like to think about regrets or missed opportunities, but rather about the little memory tokens that can trigger pleasant recollections. Like songs.