Like a lot of Canadians, I received a lot of my music education by wandering around a Sam the Record Man store.
In my case, I’d be dropped off at the Garden City Shopping Centre in Winnipeg while my mom took my sister to music lessons. I spent untold hours flicking through the racks, watching what other people bought, examining the Top 40 singles display, and paying attention to what was playing on the store stereo. I could only afford to buy so much on the meagre amount I earned through part-time jobs, but I almost always went home with something.
There was also this magical looseleaf book on a metal stand that purportedly listed the artist, title, and catalog number of every record in existence. Submit your request to a clerk and in a mere three to six weeks, that record would be delivered to the store.
There were maybe half a dozen of Sam’s stores in Winnipeg. I patronized them all, especially the ones at Polo Park (where I bought my first-ever 45, Joy by Apollo 100) and Unicity, a mall that was demolished long ago.
When I moved to Toronto, one of the first places I visited was the Sam’s on Yonge Street with its famous neon spinning records. Wandering around there through all the different floors was an experience. Even after the HMV superstore moved in down the street, Sam’s often had records in stock no one else did. When I was DJing club nights in places like Hamilton, I often dropped into that downtown store to see if I could pick up any new CDs to play that night. And don’t get me started on the infamous Boxing Day sales.