May 30, 2007

The End Of An Era In Toronto and Yankee Panky

Remember records, kids? Shiny black discs you spun under something called a needle to produce music in your very own home. Magical, they were. And people used to buy them by the truckloads. My weekly trip to the local record store, no matter which city we lived in at the time, was a highlight and I built up quite the collection, I must say (see my Celine, Elvis, and Elton, oh my! blog entry for the gruesome details of what happened to my precious vinyl).

My formative teen collecting years were spent in St. John's, Newfoundland, where I discovered a little Fred's Records outlet at the mall by our house. Good to see they're still around. But, one of the all-time best, a true icon in this city, what we affectionately called Sam's, was Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street. I say "was" as they announced yesterday that the flagship store (seen below) is closing next month. Such a sad day for music and neon lovers.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the first image and a great local photoblog, daily dose of imagery, for the other two great shots.

When I moved here in 1979 (after four years in beautiful, but boring for a teen then, St. John's, Nfld.) I had two things on my to-do list: tune in 1050 CHUM, which my friend Kim and I did as soon as we landed (on my Lloyd's AM/FM/8-track Portable, which went with me everywhere, even strapped to the handlebars of my bike, cranking up "The Eagles' Greatest Hits" and Cher's "Dark Lady" tapes) and see the Sam's sign.

Sam and his glorious flashing neon oversize records had come to represent Toronto to me in all its teeming life. Any movie or TV scene set on Yonge Street had to include the giant discs. I had finally arrived in the Big Smoke when I looked up at those hypnotic, throbbing lights as the crowd all throbbed around me.

And I'm not the only one who's going to miss it. After the story broke on Breakfast Television, the only morning news show we watch (Kevin Frankish is a cutie, Dina Pugliese is a hottie and very funny, all of them make a great team), viewers rushed to their computers to protest.

So far, two big groups have been formed on Facebook to voice your concerns: Save The Sam's Sign with over 5,000 members, and Save Sam Record Man Sign with more than 3,000. Good on ya, guys.

In even better news, although it hasn't been made official yet, today's BT reports that the Ontario Heritage Trust is getting involved (after overwhelming public input) and that should do the trick. Not exactly sure *where* it should be saved, but the sign has to be preserved as the integral part of this city's past that it is.

It's not all about a sign either. The CBC has an interesting look at Sam himself, Record Man: The Life and Times of Sam Sniderman. He was much more than a record peddler and had an enormous influence on this country's music in general. Nothing could commemorate him better than that iconic neon sign.

Like many others, I remember lining up for concert tickets at Sam's, both for sale and the odd giveaway from 1050 CHUM radio. The two were very much connected for me. Many trips were strictly to buy the latest singles listed on the CHUM Chart that week. They had a special section set aside near the front of the store with a blow-up of the chart and all the 45s arranged in order for sale beneath it. That always made an impression on me, so ordered. I bought scads of singles back then, kept them all alphabetized and everything, very hard core I was. Still have a bunch of the charts in my scrapbooks, too.

In keeping with the birthday week theme, here's a scan of the CHUM Chart from the week of May 25, 1964, from CHUM's own archives (not mine):

The Top 10 (as it's not easy to read):

1 - Gerry & The Pacemakers - I'm The One
2 - Peter & Gordon - A World Without Love
3 - Louis Armstrong - Hello, Dolly! (13 weeks on the chart!)
4 - The Swinging Blue Jeans - Hippy Hippy Shake
5 - Elvis Presley - Kiss Me Quick
6 - Lucille Starr - The French Song
7 - Dave Clark Five - Bits And Pieces
8 - Betty Everett - The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)
9 - Dave Clark Five - Do You Love Me
10 - Mary Wells - My Guy

Almost all classics today. George and I were sent a neat birthday link for fellow chart fans, Number 1 Billboard Hits On This Day In History. According to them, the big chart-topper in 1964 (for me) was "Love Me Do" by The Beatles, and George's date, in 1962, had "I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles on top. Pretty cool tunes. I did have to laugh when I saw the biggie for 1965, "Help Me Rhonda" by The Beach Boys :-)

In totally unrelated news, just a little something I have to get off my chest.

I've been a Toronto Blue Jays fan since they were born in the '70s (we lived here for a few years back when they were running the Name The Team contest in The Toronto Star).

I've been in the bleachers of Exhibition Stadium with my Dad, behind home plate, in the rafters, in the Hard Rock Cafe, and even had the thrill of seeing a World Series game at the Skydome (neither myself nor the Hard Rock can come to call it by its new name).

I'm a full-fledged, hard core fan that never says die no matter what the standings say. As such, I dislike the New York Yankees with an intense passion one normally reserves for the bedroom. Just hate the rich, spoiled, overrated bums and the horses they rode in on.

Having established where I stand, I know I'm not alone in labeling Alex Rodriguez's actions in last night's Yankees/Jays game a disgrace.

This is nothing but sandlot baseball kid stuff, taking advantage of the rookie (our third baseman, Howie Clark, was making his debut in the majors last night, in for an injured Troy Glaus) by yelling "Mine!" behind his back.

According to him, as seen on this YouTube clip (from the post-game interview), he shouted "Hah!" and was "nearly past third base" when it happened.

Lies. Both of those statements are lies. No video proof yet, but I watched the incident in slo-mo on BT this morning. That ain't no "Hah!", I agree with Kevin on this one.

I also watched the game itself. Wish someone could upload the part where A-Rod was smirking on third as the kerfuffle unfolded, mouthing the words, "F**k 'em." No class, he doesn't deserve to wear the Yankee uniform (which has been worn by much better men than he).

I take no credit for "Yankee Panky", got it from this morning's Toronto Sun cover story. Ironically, it's for a completely unrelated A-Rod tale (his outing with the mystery blonde). Just no damn class.

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