Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sam The Record Man


"I said it, I did it!" And now Sam is closing shop. When I worked downtown I made it a weekly habit to visit Sam's to see what was new in music. Sam's was one of those very old, labrynthine buildings that you could spend days exploring. I don't think they ever sent anything back to the distributors, because I picked up some mighty obscure discs that had been out of print for years.

These days I download via eMusic and (very rarely) that would-be monopolizer of all things digital. In some ways the download is a boon for music lovers: I'm listening to all sorts of stuff I would never have bothered with if it had meant buying something wrapped in plastic. Recent download treats include wax.on wax.off, Camera Obscura and Mavis Staples. Just to drive the point home, I've even given Arcade Fire my attention, a band whose music is not at all to my taste. It's good exposure for the artists, and a worthwhile experience for me.

But do I ever miss the package! Heck, I miss the LP! Back in the day I used to pore over every little detail on an album cover, sometimes with a magnifying glass, hoping to further decode the cypher of significance within. Those were the glorious days of rumoured backmasking and other mischief. Every album was like a ticking bomb that you unpacked and explored at your own peril. The world — your world, our world — could change!

Well, the world has changed and now it's just the music and nothing else, which I suppose should be more than enough. But some days it seems like little more than a bunch of ones and zeros. And I miss the event of stepping into a creaky old building that required a person to walk up a set of stairs, then down a few steps, then take a left and another left before you came into a small room that stocked that über Cool Jazz masterpiece, Poitier Meets Plato.

It's another era, and I'm not going to stand in its way. But you'd better believe we're already missing the fun and discovery of the era that's rapidly fading.

8 comments:

DarkoV said...

"..you'd better believe we're already missing the fun and discovery of the era that's rapidly fading."

..but I'll be gripping the rail of that caboose and holding on as long as these gnarled fingers can curl around that departing train car's disappearing backside.

whatigotsofar said...

Is wasn't just a store, it was a place to be. That's what made Sam's so special to me and I'm sure many other Torontonians.

Robert said...

One of the pleasures of staying at the Delta Chelsea when I come to TO is that it's mere steps from Sam's. I spend many an hour there when I'm in town...

Sam's is gone. A&B Sound may as well be. Sad days.

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - one hand will be gripping the rail with you, while the other, I'm afraid, will be clicking the mouse.

WIGSF - you are absolutely right: Sam's was a happening place, an event. It was a place for artists to aspire to, and when they got the chance to sign autographs for their first CD they and their new fans were mutually thrilled. Moxy Früvous, Ron Sexsmith and particularly Kurt Swinghammer did very well by Sam's, and it's a crying shame to think there is no longer an identifiable downtown Toronto platform for (especially) young music lovers to meet and greet new talent.

Whisky Prajer said...

Rob - I have to wonder how the other music stores (A&A, Sunrise and HMV) are doing and how much longer they'll be able to keep their doors open. Kinda scary, actually.

Scott said...

I met Tony Bennett in Sam's.
That about sums it up.

Anonymous said...

Somebody else has the Sidney Poiter LP!!! Did you get the Bill Plummer Cosmic Brotherhood LP on Impulse from the third floor as well? Sitar with jazz ensemble and lyrics that are pure 60's hippydom.

Whisky Prajer said...

anon - no, but now you've got my ear-drums salivating.