An unexpected side trip down memory lane: the hidden track

I was driving home on Sunday afternoon after visiting my Dad in  Blacksburg, Va. About two hours in I found myself sitting in a 3-mile backup on Interstate 81. My fellow travelers and I were stuck in one of those lovely areas where radio reception is not good, and when there is decent reception the music, well, it is still not good. Now, I am not totally behind in my music technology but for some reason my 2001 Dodge Stratus does not have satellite radio and there is not place for me to plug my iPhone in (go figure!)

So there I was, sitting in the middle of nowhere, listening to my engine make stall-impending noises and hearing nothing but static on the radio. When I find myself in this situation I will usually straighten up my car. I clean out the discarded wrappers from my stash of Werther’s Originals and countless receipts for gas and/or fast food. Yeah, I’m living the life. And as I dug deeper, underneath the passenger seat, I came across an old case filled with CDs. I flipped through it and popped Dido’s Life for Rent in. Now, I have not listened to CDs in my car in, well, I can’t remember. And obviously I have not cleaned my car in, um, can’t remember that either. You see, I am an old, boring adult and listen to news and traffic when driving to and from work. For longer trips I listen to audio books. I like to call them my stories.  And if I am actually listening to music it is on non-stop scan because I have developed the attention span of a flea.

So, stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do, I listened, actually listened to an entire CD I noticed the disc did not automatically start back on the first track after the last listed track ended and then, pow, I remembered! There was a hidden track. It was Closer and, as is the case with most of the hidden tracks I have stumbled on over the years, it was one of my favorite songs on the album.

And then it happened. I was taken back to a simpler time, the early-to-mid-90s. A time when I was young and naive, in my 20s and new to D.C.  Almost no one had a cell phone and the internet was still considered newish (at least for us.) If you did not want to be reached it was really quite easy. Going out seemed much more an adventure and unlikely friendships were often made. Now it seems that everyone is in constant contact, exhaustively texting their whereabouts and schedules. We end up spending more time watching our phones than striking up a conversation with some stranger sitting next to you at the bar. And, oh how many lifelong friendships I would have missed out on if I was in my 20s now. Oh, and let’s not forget Facebook and affordable digital cameras. Thanks to all that is good and holy, none of my 20s were documented by me, or anyone else.

Okay, I am getting off topic, I digress.

So, as all of these wonderfully sweet memories came flooding in, I was no longer in my car. I was sitting with friends, old and newly made, on the floor of some apartment at 1 a.m.  after a night out and listening to Jagged Little Pill and stumbling on the haunting a capella Your House.  Sure, all it really was an unlisted song. But there was a wonderful feeling attached to hearing it,  a secret we were let in on.

I know, I know, I sound like a dork, a wannabe old fogey. The 90s were really not the olden days. But with the advent of iTunes and digital downloads and other technology, they are starting to feel that way. The hidden track (or bonus or ghost track, whatever you want to call it) has pretty much disappeared. I went on iTunes today and typed in Closer and Your House and there they were on sale like any other single for 99 cents. Not hidden, not waiting for you to discover. You had to listen to an entire album to find the hidden tracks. Now I doubt many people listen to an entire anything, skipping ahead to the next song before the last one has actually ended, including me.  And it made me a little sad. In a world where everything is instantly at our fingertips we end up googling with blinders and we miss the beauty of the unplanned and the unexpected – such as sitting with old and newly made friends, on the floor of some apartment, after a night of spontaneous adventures. We’d be cut off from the rest of the world, partaking in a few drinks and smokes and attempting to find  sustenance after realizing no one delivers after 1 a.m. We’d stumble  on an unexpected tune and then hey, create a memory.

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