By: Jay Broderick
The month of April brings us some fresh new beginnings, rebirth, a promise of warmer weather, and even a day to celebrate Fools! That's not the only celebration in store, however. At least for those of us in the know.
As a Gen-Xer growing up in the 1970s and 80s, music quickly became as important to me as food and water. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother singing country songs from Kenny Rogers and listening to my father's copy of Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell. I remember lying on the carpeted living room floor with the headphones on. They were nearly as big as I was (and I have a big head). What is distinctive to me from this experience was the sound of the motorcycle engine revving from the left channel to the right. It sounded as if the bike was travelling from one side of my face, over my head across the band of the phones, to the other side. It was such a cool experience, and I instantly got hooked.
When I got a tad older and got to actually "know" specific songs, I started asking for records for Christmas. The first one I remember was the KTel smash compilation Hitline that was released in 1980. With its mix of rock and disco, I listened to this album endlessly in my bedroom, memorizing the words to songs like Burton Cummings' "Break it to Them Gently" and Al Stewart's "Time Passages".
More KTel compilations came including Rock '81, and Dimensions. I was on top of the world. Eventually I started saving my pennies (literally) and would head out to the local mall (Woodside Square for all you old Scarborough, Ontario kids) and buy countless 45s at the record store there (sadly, I just cannot recall the name of the store). Songs like the Queen and David Bowie collaboration "Under Pressure" and the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold". Eventually, I would graduate to buying my very first LP in 1984, Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry.
After this point, I ended up spending a lot of my youth in record stores throughout the city of Toronto. Star Records on Eglinton Avenue in Scarborough, Ontario would be my go-to when I became a teenager, but as a pre-teen, I'd actually head downtown Toronto and visit used record stores like Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum. Something these stores had in common were that they were independently owned, and they were the jewel of my eye.
RECORD STORE DAY
Record Store Day is an annual celebration of Independent Record Stores that was originally launched on April 19, 2008 (this year, Record Store Day is set for April 22, 2023). The idea was born in 2007 after a meeting of the minds with store owners and employees. At that time, the United States had about 1400 independently owned records stores, and thousands more across the globe. The number is kind of staggering as digital music had started to take over the landscape and vinyl and CD sales were in decline. Fortunately, over the past handful of years, vinyl sales have increased exponentially, and are as hot a commodity as ever. With the gaining interest, a number of stores continue to celebrate this initiative.
As highlighted in my life above, record stores play a huge role in popular culture. It's a niche that cannot be replicated, least of all from streaming from a music website, or purchasing from an online retailer. I have certainly done my share of both, but the joy of flicking though rows of vinyl records, looking for a lost classic, a diamond in the rough, or a new release from your favourite artist, the pastime is unmatchable. As music fans, immersing yourself in the purchasing process is another outlet for your day to day stresses and anxieties. Once you've sourced your new material, the pay off is pretty much immediate. No waiting for 2 or 3 days (or certainly more) for a delivery. You simply get yourself home, open up your package, and reap the benefits of the sweet sounds.
The importance of your local record store goes well beyond your own personal rewards. The independent dealers that maintain the brick and mortar spend countless hours organizing, sourcing, and learning their craft. The knowledge that these owners and employees have crammed between their ears is astounding. I have never been to a store that I couldn't chat with an employee about music and bounce a question or 2 that they could not answer. You simply cannot get that interaction and experience from your computer.
Aside from celebrating the physical locations and people that work therein, the music, and the artists that bring us this wonderful medium, part of the allure to this special day is the offering from record companies and artists that feature new releases selected for this observance. There are always a ton of them. This year, some of these treasures include Dio Live in Fresno 1983, Motorhead Lost Tapes Vol. 4, Muddy Waters The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album, and Canadian musicians Sum 41 Chuck, 54-40 Smilin' Buddha Cabaret and Harlequin Victim of a Song, among many many many others (you can find the full list here).
RECORD STORE DAY CANADA AMBASSADORS
Each year, Record Store Day Canada selects an ambassador to promote the special day. In the past, bands such as Triumph and The Trews have held this honour. This year's 2023 ambassador? None other than Alternative Rock icons Our Lady Peace. Of Record Store Day Canada, OLP frontman Raine Maida says "We’ve been big fans of Record Store Day since its inception. It’s an honour to be (this year’s) ambassadors.” And to commemorate the occasion, OLP has approved a 20 track compilation of their career (including 2 unreleased songs) called Collected 1994-2022 that will only be available in stores on April 22.
This year, 168 independently owned record stores across Canada are happily joining the celebrations. For the music lover, do yourselves a favour and visit a store in your region (the complete list can be found here). Browse the selection, chat with an employee, and drown yourself in the experience. If nothing else, it will bring you back 30 or 40 years, and I guarantee will put a smile on your face.
And now, you also are in the know!!
Record Store Day - April 22, 2023