There are a handful of record stores in my area, and then there’s Zoinks, which sells used books and LPs, and, as of last fall, a few hundred 45s, found after basement-emptying and a sudden awareness in the community that their old crap might be worth something. Seeing the 45s made my heart leap, partly because they called out for my combing through them, and partly because it kept me rooted to a place where, when my kids were younger, they’d sit among the stacks reading Marvel SPIDERMAN inclusives while I’d thumb through books and records. My wife and I always had a rule: if a child wanted a book, we would get it for them. These days, snapchat has soaked up a lot of time between the pages, but at least we got books into them when we could, a large haul coming out of Zoinks, and even larger haul out of Book City on Bloor, now closed.
Zoinks sells mostly 3 dollar singles– a fair price, I’d say– but they have some 9 and 10 dollar beauties, which I’ll only buy after selling an extra story or doing a good cash gig or those times when a long lost aunt remembers your birthday, something that hasn’t happened in 20 years. I gathered up a small tower of records: Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On,” The Vandellas’ “Heatwave,” “Sweet Child of Mine,” and, teasing some soft-carpeted memory of 1975, Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” (I hope to write about that soon). Coming to the counter, I noticed a few other singles thumbtacked in their plastic sleeves to the wall. Among them was “Heard It Through the Grapevine” by The Slits. It was 28 dollars. Already, I’d painted myself in a corner.
Last month, I wrote about Slits’ guitarist’s Viv Albertine’s excellent memoir, “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys. Boys, Boys,” so I won’t repeat why I think the Slits were among the most important bands of our time– they were riot grrrrls 30 years before the term was invented– but the disc’s Island Records’ palm tree centre stared out at me, and already, I could hear the song chopping across my thoughts: Budgie’s hardware store side-stick; Albertine’s choked pidgeon guitar licks; the drunk dub bass; and Ari Up’s vindictive, closed-throat singing. I deliberated, for a moment, then threw down, unable to resist the impulse despite the price. I am working with Tom Wilson (Lee Harvey Osmond) on a book about his early (and later) life, and the cheque came Friday and so: fuckit. One day in the future we’ll be driving each other crazy and sick of each other’s scent and I’ll come home and punch this one in on the jukebox. 28 bucks is nothing for reminding us why we love records.