Confessions Of A Record Store Junkie, Part III
Those huge neon records pictured above were a big deal to anyone growing up within 100 miles of Toronto. They were the calling card of Sam The Record Man, one of the largest, most iconic record stores I have ever had the pleasure to peruse. Overall, my time at SAM’s could most definitely be measured in days, most likely weeks, if that gives you an indication.
In 1982 Sam’s had over 140 locations, but to be totally honest my fading memory can only remember this, the Toronto flagship store, and as you can tell by the photos the place was huge. Enormous. I can remember, vividly, the times that I not only spent at Sam’s, but at the large selection of record stores on Yonge Street. I had to plan for such an outing, especially before I was old enough to drive. Not only plan, but save up as well. It went something like this: Talk to a couple of buddies, like minded music freaks, and make the decision as to when we could all go as a team. Like I said, save up enough cash so you could come home with at least 4-7 LP’s. Once that was decided, get to the GO Train station and take it directly into the heart of Toronto. Spend the morning shopping at Sam’s, then a leisurely lunch at The Eaton Center mall. Try the fake I.D., which only started working once I grew a moustache. Done with lunch, hit the other smaller independent record shops, and maybe a couple of ‘head shops’. Once done, haul ass back to the GO Train station. Once on, carefully open your purchases to make sure they’re not scratched, or warped (which did happen from time to time, but surprisingly not very often), and then spend the rest of the train ride carefully digesting the liner notes, lyrics, photos, etc. Then swap albums with your buddies. Once back you go to a friends house and argue about whose albums would have the honor of being played played first. More booze, another record. Repeat until 2am.
Once we all got little older some things changed, but the experience stayed the same in most respects, and got better in other ways. We had a car, we were old enough to drink, we had more money, and along came CD’s. We would still spend a day of it, but by the end of the day everyone would be drunk, or ‘other’ (minus the driver—for real!), and we could listen and enjoy our new acquisitions virtually immediately, in the car on the way home.
Sam The Record man is now gone, as is its founder, Sam Sniderman. Although I haven’t been back to Toronto for almost 20 years I am pretty sure the majority of the other record stores are now gone as well.
Man, I should have taken some pictures…