RECORD STORE TALES #913: A Walk to the Mall 1988
Bob and I went to the mall a lot. Stanley Park Mall was kind of epicenter of the neighborhood. Though it didn’t have a record store of the caliber of Sam the Record Man downtown, it had an A&A and a Zellers where you could find all the big releases and a few singles. It had a grocery store, which meant just about every neighbour bought their supplies at the same place. The Zellers store stocked anything else you needed. There was a liquor store. Two banks. We didn’t need to go elsewhere very often.
It was a nice short walk. We used to take a short cut through the apartments at the very end of Secord Ave. But they fenced up the shortcuts. Sometimes Bob and I would go that way and jump the fences just out of spite.
“They can’t stop us from going this way,” we said.
We were little assholes sometimes, but we had a good time doing it.
The Little Short Stop was an important store. That’s where I would buy my rock magazines. Hit Parader, every single month. I never missed an issue from some time in 1987 through 1990. One thing we loved doing was leafing through seeing ads for all the rock albums that were due to come out. “New Ace Frehley!” I exclaimed upon seeing an ad for Second Sighting. The ads would often tell you names of the forthcoming singles. The ad for Open Up and Say…Ahh! by Poison highlighted the track “Good Love” as a song to watch for. Maybe the marketing for that album changed midway?
I eventually stopped buying Hit Parader, and switched to other mags like Metal Edge. The reason? I always suspected there was something up with their interviews. There was a sameness to them, no matter who was answering. Then, Sebastian Bach from Skid Row got in some serious trouble when an audience member at a concert threw a bottle at him. Injured and enraged, he made the incredibly stupid mistake of throwing the bottle back, and hitting an innocent girl instead. Hit Parader fabricated an interview with Bach where he was quoted as saying “That’s why rock stars have lawyers, man” or something to that effect. The quote was used against him in court.
Not to deflect blame for the incident away from Bach, but I couldn’t support Hit Parader any more after that. Not to mention, I was disappointed to realize that many of the rest of their interviews also had to be fake. I gave away my collection many years ago.
In 1988, however, Hit Parader was my Bible. That, and WWF Magazine, which was equally fake. I always left that store with both magazines if I could. If I couldn’t, the Zehrs store often had the WWF Magazine issues that I needed. Some pop and chips, and we were all set for Short Stop.
WWF Magazine was devious. They had the monthly publication, but also many periodical specials, and I had to collect them all. There was the official Wrestlemania book. Another one for Summer Slam. Royal Rumble. Survivor Series. My mom used to say that the World Wrestling Federation got a lot of money out of us! I would also buy the Toronto Sun the day after a major wrestling event. They had the most complete coverage, often with full colour photos. I may still have an old Toronto Sun from that time.
Then we were off to browse the music at A&A. We’d look at the charts and see if any bands we liked were up there. Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was for about a week. I was pleased when I saw Priest’s Ram It Down on the chart later that year. We’d shop around, but I rarely had enough money for a new tape. Bob did — he had a job.
But browse we did, usually looking for Kiss tapes that we had never seen in stock before. Or Europe. Or Ozzy. Whitesnake, Cinderella, AC/DC, Def Leppard, all of our favourites. Cassettes were like crack to us. We were always searching. Something “rare” would be a must-buy.
Bob would often save his money and buy five tapes at a time. He took chances on stuff I never heard of, like Fifth Angel. He would caution me and make sure I was making the right purchase. He was somewhat surprised when I got into Bon Jovi and decided I wanted to buy Slippery When Wet. He wasn’t really into them that much. “Are you sure that’s what you want?” he asked me one night at the Zellers store. I was sure.
“Have you ever seen this one before?” we would ask each other. The Bon Jovi cassette single “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was one I had my eyes on for several months at that A&A store. You just did not see it very often, so when I had the money, I grabbed it. It was worth it for the incredible acoustic version of the song. Bob didn’t buy singles as often. He valued a full length for his money, but he made exceptions for bands like Iron Maiden. You couldn’t find Maiden singles at A&A though. You had to go to Sam’s for those. Bob wold trek there on his bike. Fortunately he sold his Maiden singles collection to me when he did finally let them go.
One of the most distinctive features of the old Stanley Park Mall that people remember is that it was shaped like a big “O”; like an oval. We would walk around and around. Just talking, looking at the magazines I had purchased. Or the tapes he just bought. Discussing everything going on in music, in the neighbourhood and at school. Because the mall was such a central location for so many people, we’d always run into schoolmates or neighbours. Sometimes a girl that I liked, but I never had the courage to talk to any.
The mall has changed so much and the “O” is gone. All the good stuff is gone. A harsh reminder of the passage of time. But I can still retrace my steps.
Bob was a fast walker but I could keep up. You didn’t waste a lot of time on your way home from the mall. You wanted to get down to business of listening to the new music, or reading the new magazines. That was a special kind of Saturday in old ’88.