I sometimes feel that it’s difficult to explain my obsession for music to people. If you share this obsession, then I don’t need to explain. If you don’t share this obsession, then you’ll never understand anyways.
On December 31st 1983 I heard my first ‘year end countdown’. Quite by accident. I used to love watching music videos on TV with my sister. I remember listening to ‘hit radio’ all the time. They had a weekly top 30 which they published in the paper every Thursday (how do I still remember that?). They had a Top 7 at 7pm (determined by fan voting) which I used to listen to while washing dishes or up in my bedroom lip syncing in front of the mirror (I should also mention that I used to call in to this station to request songs and try to ‘influence’ the results of the Top 7). I had a love of statistics as they pertained to sports and music. I loved charts and countdowns! So when I turned on the radio and found out that they had a countdown for the entire year, I just about lost my friggin mind. The top 83 of 83. 1050 CHUM was the station in Toronto (who heartbreakingly switched to an oldies format a couple of years later). I was 9. Michael Jackson, Duran Duran and Culture Club were the hottest things in pop music at the time. I listened to, attempted to predict, and wrote down the results of this entire countdown. ‘Every Breath You Take’ by the Police was #1. All I wanted was records for Christmas. Records or Baseball Cards. You didn’t need to go to any special store to get something for me. K-Mart did the trick. I listened to pop music, and compilation albums were the best gift idea. K-Tel used to make them. Like ‘Rock 83’, ‘Rock 84’, Rock 85’…. well you get it.
When I started high school I became obsessed with Hip Hop music. I used to deliver newspapers with a cassette tape of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince in my walkman. I dropped that walkman so many times. The cover was broken, the batteries were drained. I would still listen to it even if it didn’t play at the proper speed. The Fresh Prince later became a big movie star, and was something of a gateway drug for me to get into harder stuff like Public Enemy and N.W.A. I eventually settled on a more mellow mix of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Now that I was old enough to make my own money, my first stop was always the record store. I would go to any record store, but due to a more specific tastes, I liked to go to the more urban style record shops where the DJs would go. Always wanting to have the newest and freshest music. I remember there was one in my neighborhood that was walking distance which was perfect since I didn’t have a car. On Thursdays I would watch Muchmusic’s version of ‘Rapcity’, and as soon as it was over (if I had money) I would jet over there to see if they had that new song that I’d just heard. All of those stores I used to shop at for Hip Hop records are closed.
As I got older and my tastes in music started to diversify a little more, I used to love going to a little place called ‘Peter Dunn’s Vinyl Museum’. This place sold vinyl at a time when records had pretty much been phased out. This was a place where you could literally dig through the crates and try to find some magic. It spanned all genres and time. Not only was the music diverse and sometimes obscure, but you could look at all of those crazy album covers which was awesome in its own right. Did you know that Lisa Whelchel (Blair from ‘Facts of Life’) had an album in the 80s (and upon further research was nominated for a grammy)? Did you know that all of the ‘Pointer Sisters’ had solo projects?? These are the crazy things I learned at Peter Dunn’s. They closed down a few years back. I believe there’s a Karate school there now.
Every trip to the shopping mall for me is still highlighted by a trip to the music store (HMV being my favourite). I now will listen to just about everything from RnB/Soul to Alternative or Classic Rock. From Jazz to Hip Hop. I can’t forget the 80s and the songs I used to listen to on 1050 Chum. I do have an iPod and I buy quite a bit of my music digitally, but I still love to wander through record stores, both old and new. I love the smell of dust that only a creepy, musty old record store could have just as much as the smell of plastic packaging that only a newer music store has, and I love them equally.
I guess the only thing I don’t love is the theft of music. People look at me and say ‘Dude….why would you pay for music when you can just download it for free?’ I don’t know! By that rationale, why would you pay for food? Why don’t you just go into a grocery store, fill up the cart, and just walk out? They don’t check receipts at the door! Or better still, why don’t you go to a farm, hop the fence, and start stealing crops? Hopefully, it’s because you know it’s wrong. I don’t see any difference between that and music piracy. No difference between that and looting. No difference between that and sheer fucking anarchy.
As much as I love the instant gratification of getting music online, I kind of miss the hassle of going to the record store. It was an event… a mission!! I devoted days, weeks, perhaps months of my life to this. There was something about the anticipation, and either the fulfillment or disappointment of acquiring music. As the world goes digital, I hope some of these stores can win this losing battle. I for sure will miss this terribly, and I don’t think I’m alone.