Thursday, 28 June 2018

Influential Albums - Day 3

Day 3

This is the third post in a series of ten documenting the albums I consider influential. My first post, found here, provides some insight into the rationale behind this journey. The first album I selected was the Soundtrack to "Oliver", which I discovered in 1973 at about age 8. My second choice can be found here and was The Cars Debut album. I am moving chronologically and this post lands us in a new decade - The 80's.

In March of 1980, at 14 years of age, I traveled from Kingsville to London, Ontario on a Greyhound bus. I was going to spend the March Break with my dad, who had moved to London, in advance of the family, to work at the London Free Press. We were in the process of selling our home in Kingsville and, by year’s end, we would move to this bustling metropolis. This was my first opportunity to explore my future hometown.
I had about $30 in spending money - which was earmarked for my favourite stuff - video games, National Lampoon magazine & submarine sandwiches! However, I knew that I wanted to buy a Rush album. The tiny hamlet of Kingsville had one store that sold records - The pharmacy at the corner of Division and Beech street. However, they had one rack - with about 20 of the current top records to choose from - lots of K-Tel Top 20 releases and Donna Summer … but nothing as eclectic as Rush.
I had become obsessed with the band since hearing the song “Cinderella Man” played by at a high school dance (Grade 9 at Kingsville District High School). I still have no idea why that song was selected - it’s not a dance song...but, it was the early 80’s...and many in attendance were wearing their “Disco Sucks!” T-shirts. So, I guess 70’s prog-rock was a reasonable alternative.
Anyway, I had a full week in London, $30 and a plan. My dad would drive us into town each morning and we would park at the London Free Press building. He was assigned to the courthouse at that time, so I followed him from trial to trial as he looked for a story. Eventually, I left to discover the city. I’ll admit, I was overwhelmed in an incredibly positive way. Having spent the last 5 years living in a town with a population of 2000, this was a liberating experience. Multiple arcades, several record stores, a library with more than one floor - and you could borrow records! I was the perfect age for this transition. Old enough to be independent and young enough to be completely untethered from responsibility.
I spent two days debating my record purchase, diligently comparing prices at Sam the Record Man, Mister Sound and even the department record stores - Eatons & Simpsons. Really, it was a crash course in music. I flipped through hundreds of records and absorbed details - cover art, band names, track listings, dates.

Eventually, I settled on the double live album “All the World’s a Stage” because it was the best value for the buck. After making my purchase, I went directly to the Central branch of the London Library and convinced the librarian to let me use the headphones and the record player - despite having no library card or any form of identification. This is where I would spend the next three days. Plugged into a library turntable - listening to both discs over and over again. As the first live album, it covered songs from the first four Rush releases - so it was like taking a journey through the evolution of their music - from their 1974 debut through to the 1976 release “2112”. There were no lyrics in the liner - so I carefully tried to decipher each line. ... "Bastille Day", "Soliloquy" ... there was some heady stuff going on here. Check out the inside of the gate-fold from the double album ... this was pretty awesome stuff to a kid who had never seen a concert.

It was truly the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the band. I would eventually own their entire catalogue on vinyl and I would get to see them perform live many times - including their final Toronto concert in June of 2015 on the R40 tour. The lyrics, the musicianship, the Canadianity of it all. To this day, I will still punch up a Rush record on Spotify - and listen through it in entirety. It will immediately transport me to a simpler, carefree time. Taking the bus into London’s core - for a game of "Galaga", a can of soda and a trip back to the library to plug in headphones and escape.

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