I’m sure that everyone reading this has many examples of a certain band, song, or record that they immediately equate to a certain time in their lives. Something that is probably a little less common is completely blocking out one of those important connections due to a traumatic life event. That is what happened to me, and this is a story of re-connection after many years.
Somewhere around mid-1982, when I was 8 years old, my mother suddenly became sick. But what I thought was a physical illness was really the effects of her self-medicating due to her failing relationship with my father (not her fault in the least, but that is another story for another time). With what my mother was going through came lots of strange symptoms that were quite scary…things like hallucinations. My brain could not quite process this, and the other adults in my life were too self-absorbed to realize what was happening. My escape was music, as it had been for years already, but I needed a new connection to help me get through this. That connection was made through an unlikely source. All of this came back to me recently after nearly 35 years of it being in “mental hibernation.”
My new neighbors who had recently moved in to the tiny house next door were a couple in their mid-twenties, named Anthony and Debbie. They were very friendly, and always said hello to me, which at this time in my life meant a great deal. At some point during this time period, Debbie came over to my house, possibly to check on my mom due to the fact that I was acting worried. She could see that there was something pretty major happening, and I remember her telling me that since I liked music, I could come over and play her records any time I wanted to. So I began to take her up on the offer as another small way to escape the stress of what was happening at home.
As I looked through her records for the first time, the Stray Cats immediately caught my eye. Aesthetically, they probably reminded me of the TV show ‘Happy Days,’ but when I dropped the needle on the record, I was immediately mesmerized by the sheer energy of the music. Every time I went back to their house, I immediately went for the Stray Cats records. The strange thing was, I could have bought the records myself, but there was something about going to that house and playing those records that was cathartic for me.
Going into 1983, my mom’s condition worsened, and by May of that year, she was gone. While I still communicated with my neighbors, I don’t recall going back there to play records after she passed away. In fact, I don’t recall much of the rest of that year. I do know that those records helped me power through that time period, but after my mother’s death, I never went back to them. In fact, I never was able to remember anything about this even when Stray Cats songs were played on the radio. This all just came flooding back to me within the past year. When I hear those songs now, I have a strong appreciation for what they did for me, and I have many years of fandom to catch up on now. With the news of an impending reunion in 2017, who knows, maybe I will actually get to see them live for the first time. You already know this, but remember, never underestimate the power of music!