“No Music No Life” was the branding used by Tower Records in the US right up to the day they closed their doors for good. I cast a tear watching the documentary, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records the other night. Like all those that passed through the doors of Towers Records locations, I loved going into record stores and through the aisles and piles of records. Even today whether I purchase anything or not it is still a pleasure for me.
Watching Colin Hanks’ documentary and the images he used had memories streaming of browsing the racks and bins of vinyl the mail slot wall of 45’s at Sunrise Records (I believe that was the store) in the old Mississauga Sheridan Mall.
I remember the smell of new vinyl, the feel of the wrapped new records and I remember the days were grease pencils were used to mark the price and not stickers. There was nothing better than using a finger nail to remove the cellophane wrap from an LP after taking it out the square bag that was perfectly designed to hold the new 12” LP that was selected with care. I pity those that have no fingernails and had to use (I shudder at the thought of it) a knife or scissors to cut the cellophane and possibly damage the custom sleeve or the disc.
I lived in record stores, and if I didn’t have bills that need to get paid I’d there 24/7. In fact there was a time where I almost owned a record store. My inspiration was Ian Fraser who purchased Laughing Gnome Records in Stratford Ontario. I was in there every day, when I wasn’t on the air on CJCS. How could I beat the life I had then? I played vinyl all day and went to talk about records with Ian in his shop. I was a record store brat. I understood how people that worked in Tower Records felt. There was no place like a record shop. As the signs in Tower Records said, “No Music No Life”, it was a lifestyle.
When working in Stratford in the late 80’s, I loved the idea of being in a record shop all day I was on the verge of opening a shop of my own. I wanted to specialize in Jazz and Classics. York Street Classics and Jazz, was going to be the name of a recently renovated retail space, specializing in custom orders and using the store as a performance location for local musicians. It would have been a really unique space, sadly it just didn’t come together.
So day I spend time in Compact Music in Ottawa and with the closure of HMV I know get to browse again in Sunrise Records. It is a pleasure to see increased racks and variety in the selection of music on vinyl. I think I am being called back in time.
Looking back at the records I purchased I had good collection, not great, pretty good. Like most collectors re-arranging, cataloguing was all part of it, being into music that much defined me and to this day I have to escape just listen while I work. A few years back I had to think about downsizing and over a couple of years went from 3000 Lp’s to my essential 250. My inspiration was the late Robert Palmer who did the same thing out of sheer need. Now the essential 250 are in storage waiting for the day to come up to be heard once more.
My last LP purchased was Elton John’s “Sleeping with the Past” in 1989, until July of this year when I picked up the newly remixed and remastered Beatles Sgt. Pepper. So flipping through the bins is becoming a ritual once again. However, until I get the turntable out of storage and bring the albums up, I will only be going through the actions. Someday soon I’ll again feel the moment of removing the wrapping, feeling freshly pressed vinyl going from my hands to the turntable and hearing the sound of the needle dropping. Soon…because no music no life is a real thing
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