RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#399: Record Shopping in the Sticks
Summers in Kincardine, Ontario in the late 1980s and early 90s were beautiful, but to a teenage me they felt isolated. No phone at the cottage, no cable TV, and nothing that cityfolk would call a record store. We did have a few options. There were places that you could buy music, including one crummy music store that popped up for a brief while. Summertime is made for music, and one of my favourite childhood experiences was listening to brand new tunes in the summer.
We’d be at the cottage for two weeks straight every August, and I would usually pack my entire my tape collection to come with me (oh how my dad loved that). Having all my favourite songs with me meant I’d always have music for whatever mood I was in. Still, nothing could beat the rush of new music! New didn’t have to mean “new” per se; I was collecting the back catalogues of many metal masters too. There was always something to buy that would be brand new to me.
In the very early days, you could buy tapes at the local Stedmans store downtown. Stedmans sold everything from clothes to musical instruments to toys. Like many of these places, they are now closed. It was one store to buy new cassettes, and that is where I picked up Priest…Live! back in July of 1987. The other place to buy tapes at that time was an electronics store called Don’s Hi Fi. White Lion’s Big Game and W.A.S.P.’s Headless Children came from Don’s Hi Fi during the summer of 1989. I couldn’t wait until I got home and played them. We’d rip open the plastic and check out the pictures in the car, waiting to get back and hit play. The following summer, I bought Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory at the same store. We would also be able to find tapes in the cheapie bin at places like drug stores, and I picked up The Earthquake Album from such a bin.
Around 1988, an actual music store opened up in Kincardine. It was there that I purchased Painkiller by Judas Priest, and Exposed by Vince Neil. It was a small store and they didn’t have many catalogue items, but you could pick up new releases there and some key older releases such as greatest hits.
Beyond these few stores, you had to get out of town. Kincardine is a small place, but Port Elgin to the north offered a few more options. There was a Radio Shack there with a different selection of tapes. They also had 7” singles, of which we bought a couple on clearance.
In the summer of ’92 we made several day trips to Port Elgin. My sister and I were headed to a “cards & comics” store that we discovered. One afternoon my sister phoned them up to ask if they had any promotional Star Wars cards? They did – road trip! The first of many happy and successful trips to Port Elgin looking for goodies. (Yes, promo cards are collectible just like some promo CDs.)
On the same trip, we found this grungy record store on the corner of the main drag. Really scummy, really dirty. They bought and sold used tapes and records. My sister brought in a whole bunch of her cassettes for store credit, and walked out with Rod Stewart’s Out of Order and one or two others. My first purchase there was Black Sabbath’s Live at Last. I bought my original copy of Helix’s Wild in the Streets on cassette at that store. The tape glowed in the dark. I’ve never seen another glow-in-the-dark tape before or since! I also picked up Kiss’ Creatures of the Night (original cover) on vinyl, as well as Twister Sister’s Come Out and Play. You might remember that Come Out and Play had that awesome cover with the opening manhole? That was the reason I bought it.
Those stores in Port Elgin are both gone. Don’s Hi Fi still exists in Kincardine, but they don’t sell music anymore. I did buy a pair of earbuds there about five years ago, but things have changed so much. There’s no such thing as “isolation” anymore, not like it felt back then. Today I can sit on the front porch of the cottage, streaming live radio from home straight to the laptop. I used to pack my entire tape collection for the cottage, but now anything I want to listen to, I can search for on Youtube. It is simply amazing how much has changed in the last two decades, and I am sure that in another 20 years it will be just as startlingly different.
As long as I can still listen to my music there, I’ll be happy!