GETTING MORE TALE #474: Vertigo Records in Ottawa Ontario
Something very special happened on March 24, 1956. On that day, Clifford Michael Woodhouse married young Jean, the light of his life, and they began a large and loving family. Clifford, known as Mike, was a radar operator in the CF (Canadian Forces). As such he and his family lived in many parts of the world at many times. According to his son Richard, who also served in the CF: “During the height of the Cold War he was a Radar operator, working on what was known as the Pine Line, where he monitored and collected information on the movement and position of threats to the Canadian Forces and to Canadian sovereignty.” He was also involved in classified projects, but I can’t talk about that, or he’ll have to shoot me.
Sgt. Woodhouse ultimately settled in Ottawa after stops in France and Gander, Newfoundland. He retired in Ottawa where he and Jean still live today. I am lucky to have married his beautiful grand-daughter Jennifer.
A 60th wedding anniversary is a big deal. Did you know that couples who are citizens of the British empire (including Canadians) can receive a letter from Queen Elizabeth II for their 60th anniversary? The diamond Woodhouse anniversary celebration (held on Sunday the 20th) was not an event we were likely to miss, so Jen and I climbed aboard a train and headed east to our nation’s capital.
We stayed in the Novotel (good experience; recommended) which was a block or two away from a store called Vertigo Records. Brilliant. First excursion solved! We’ll get there eventually (I promise), but lemme tell you, I’ve never been in a Hummer limo before. Jen’s cousin Missy arranged this beast of a vehicle, 18 feet in length, and just a pleasure to ride in. (So screw the environment I guess; I rode in a Hummer limo and enjoyed it!) There were 14 of us inside that Hummer, including Mike and Jean, two of their kids, three of their grand-kids, and FIVE of their SIX great-grandchildren! How incredible is that? Even more met us at the Keg Manor; a large and incredible group of people.
During the celebration, the lucky couple were presented a number of precious documents in honour of their achievement. The letter from the Queen was perhaps even overshadowed by a personal letter from the Right Honourable Steven Harper, former Prime Minister of Canada. Family member Chris acquired this by writing to the office of Mr. Harper, who was kind enough to send a signed letter in response. There was also a letter from David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and direct representative of the Queen in this country.
Jennifer has a great family in Ottawa and I can’t wait to return to the city, in warmer weather. It was bitter cold that weekend, windy and unpleasant to walk in for a long period of time. As such we didn’t go far in distance from our hotel. I did find this interesting place that I might have to check out next time.* It was situated beside a couple tattoo shops. Hey, it says it’s FREE, right?
Vertigo Records (193 Rideau St, (613)-241-1011) is an inviting and cool store selling new and used CDs, vinyl and even cassettes. They had a copy of Metallica’s tape-only No Life ‘Til Leather, sealed for $25. Even cooler, they had a signed Motorhead drum head (not for sale). We arrived shortly after they opened and there were already customers browsing. They had a lot of stock and they were putting out plenty of new stuff as I was there. There were a number that struck my eye.
One of the first discs I noticed was Yngwie Malmsteen’s Live in Leningrad, which I have wanted for a long time but never had. Vertigo had a good variety of tunes in rotation over the speakers, including some Motley Crue. Maybe that’s what inspired me to pick up the double Live – Entertainment or Death. I’ve seen a lot of copies of it in the past in just wrecked condition, so not remembering if I owned it or not, I picked this one up. I did own it already. So this one goes into the Aaron pile.** In the new arrivals bin, I saw Robert Pollard/Doug Gillard’s Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department. I wasn’t certain if he owned it or not, so for only $6.99 it was better safe than sorry. He does have it, so I’ll keep it. He tells me I won’t be disappointed with it anyway, because Gillard is a guitar hero of his and I should be in for a treat.
Speaking of Aaron, he has some Deep Purple castaways coming his way. When I saw these lovely Japanese reissues in mint, complete condition for only $14.99 each, it was all but a no-brainer to pick them up. There are Russian forgeries on the market, but these are the genuine article from Japan. I’m very pleased to add these to my collection and pass down my old copies to the next generation of Purple fanatics.*** And lo! More Japanese treasures were to be found! Complete with obi strip was some rare Rage Against the Machine. I have a brief story about this CD, that was too short to make it into Record Store Tales*^ but fine for an anecdote here.
One of the few guys that actually worked at the old Record Store before me was this guy Dave. There was the owner, his brother, two guys named Craig and Dave, and then me. A bit later on, Dave went to Japan but kept in touch via snail mail (back then, we just called it “mail”). I will never forget that he sent us a letter to the store, almost taunting us with rare CDs that he found in Japan. He mailed us the obi strips for Nirvana’s Hormoaning and a Rage Against Machine CD called Live & Rare. “Ever seen these before?” read part of the letter. Hormoaning yes, Rage no. I never saw it again either, until Vertigo Records. $12.99, obi strip intact. Dave doesn’t even have his own obi strip anymore!
Moving on, some classic rock finds were hard to turn down. Cream Gold ($8.99 for 2 CDs!) and Jethro Tull’s Living With the Past ($6.99) came home with me to Kitchener. I have the Tull DVD of the same name, and it’s excellent. And Cream? This is my first Cream purchase. This is something I’m glad to have fixed in my collection.
I love me some Fu Manchu, but I missed We Must Obey the first time out. Brant Bjork’s Punk Rock Guilt also slipped past me. Not this time! $7.99 each.
Finally, I could not safely bring home a lot of vinyl on the train, so I didn’t go nuts on it. I saw some cool stuff, believe me, and I was considering getting some Kiss solo album reissues. I bought one 45, which was “The Devil Stole the Beat from the Lord” by the Hellacopters, taken from their Kiss-like LP Grande Rock. The single contains two non-album B-sides: “Holiday Cramps” and “Be Not Content”. The devil-dragster cover art probably made Rob Zombie cry tears of jealousy.
The guy behind the counter gave me the 45 for free. “Because you’re buying so much,” he said. What a pleasant surprise. That was awesome. I guess he didn’t know who I was*^^ and that I like to do this whenever I can! We had a brief chat while he carefully put the discs and inserts in the cases. We marveled at the folks out there who actually throw away CD packaging. Why would anybody do such a thing? I will truly never understand.
It was such a pleasure being in Ottawa that weekend, windy cold weather aside. We will definitely return, and stay longer so as to check out some of the other record stores in town. Vertigo Records is a must, a highly recommended store that I would rank as highly as my favourite Toronto record stores.
And thank you to C. Michael Woodhouse for your hospitality and for everything you have done for this country.
Mike “LeBrain” Ladano
*I’m kidding! I’m kidding!
**I have a lot of stuff here that I should really mail out to the friends I promised I would mail them out to.
***Hopefully Aaron and his kids.
*^Have you been reading Record Store Tales? If not, please click here.
*^^I’ve always wanted to say to somebody, “Do you know who I am?” and then whip out my mikeladano.com cards as if I’m actually somebody.