With Beatle-mania sweeping the land, I decided to buy my first LP. I took the Greyhound Bus into Toronto from my hometown of Newmarket (aka Micklemarket), and walked over to the legendary Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street, retail beacon for hundreds of thousands of baby-boom, Ontario teen-agers. Not only was Sam’s stacked with three floors of records, they were cheap — $3.99 mono, $4.99 stereo. Of course, I opted for mono.
Instead of joining the huge line-ups of moptop-mad customers on the packed first floor, however, I headed to the placid sanity of the jazz, folk and blues section one floor above. There, a kindly man in a baggy sweater named John Norris held court, dispensing the most knowledgeable music advice in the country. After a brief discussion with the great man, I plunked down my $3.99 for that treasured first disc. While millions bought the Beatles, I went home with Ain’t Misbehavin’, by Fats Waller, the roly-poly, fun-loving, jazz piano player who died in 1943. I couldn’t have been happier. I must have listened to that record a hundred times. I still know all the lyrics. (Up at Harlem, at a table for two, There were four of us, me, your big feet and you. From your ankles up, you sure are sweet, from there down, there’s just too much feet…) Yes, I was a strange lad.
And so began my love of vinyl — albums with learned liner notes, real covers, sold in record stores, where one could browse happily for hours. Like many, I mourned the death of the LP, replaced by soul-less CDs that seem to go on forever, complete with miniscule, often unreadable liner notes. Now, of course, CDs, too, are dying, replaced by the even less satisfying, instant gratification of iTunes, where everything is available with a click or two, and rarely is anything treasured.
Luckily, my mother never got hold of my LPs the way she did my long-gone baseball card collection (sigh). And I could never bring myself to unload them as so many others did, at yard sales and thrift stores across the land. Hundreds and hundreds of albums still stack living room shelves and fill basement boxes. So, in honour of the small but growing vinyl revival that seems to be going on, most Saturday mornings I treat myself to “Vinyl Saturday”, dusting off ye olde turntable, worn needle and scratchy discs for a few blasts from my musical past.
Here are a few recent selections….