Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Condos kill another music landmark...

No, not that one. On January 21st, Ottawa's Record Runner will close its doors after more than 30 years of slingin' some of the Capital's best vinyl, acetate and silicon-wrapped, laser-etched aluminum. The entire block of Rideau street where the store currently resides (a block which also includes The Capital Music Hall, Ottawa's largest non-stadium live venue) will soon be cleared to make way for a two-tower condo development. It's kinda sad and I'll tell you why. Turning people on to new music is one of my passions. There's nothing like the feeling you can get when you help a friend discover art that improves their life. Whenever someone in Ottawa confided in me with a "I really know nothing about music, where should I start?" My response was always the same: "Hit the back wall at Record Runner." That back wall was a compendium of solid advice delivered $11.99 at a time, the Rock and Roll equivalent of a tiny mom and pop hardware store. On it, hung a collection of pretty much everything you needed to build a sturdy record collection: old-school hammers (Zeppelin, Maiden, Sabbath); modern-rock nails (The Pixies, The Clash, The Replacements); song writing hardwood (Neil Young and Leonard Cohen); rock-hard foundation materials (Howlin' Wolf); bright swirls of the greatest instrumental paint (Miles Davis and Charles Mingus) and some of those doahickies that you never quite know how to use but wouldn't want to live without (like Tom Waits and Laurie Anderson). My girlfriend's first Tom Waits album was purchased off that wall. I gave it to her as a test. She passed. One of my best friends has a copy of London Calling from the back wall. I bought it for him to fill a glaring gap in his otherwise encyclopaedic record collection. Not only did he forgive me for being a patronizing prick (I think my exact words at the time may have been "Well, without London Calling it's not really a record collection then, is it?") he thanked me for adding Rudie Can't Fail, Lost in the Supermarket and Death or Glory to his life. Though Record Runner's owner says he'll try to lease a new location in the next while, I fear this closure is yet another sign of greater trends in technology and commerce. In fact, I'm pretty confident that in another decade or two what we know as a record store will probably pretty much cease to exist. Every week, we as listeners are more and more comfortable with music being an ephemeral thing; liner notes have been replaced by website bios, stores are closing to focus on websites and some of the record shops that have remained open are placing garbage cans outside their doors for iPodders to toss away their extraneous jewel cases and cover art on the way home to their computers. None of this is the end of the world; I'm ready for the change. But I sure am gonna miss that back wall.
Well this is a real kick in the pants, finding out that RR is closing out from this location.

The back wall currently boasts Dylan, Zappa, Love, Tull, Joy Division, Sonic Youth: lots of great stuff to conventionally beef up your collection. ANd the prices are usually floating between 8 - 10 dollars.

They always have great prices on new releases too, which makes you feel good about not having to bow out to a store like ... (starts with "H" and rhymes with "STD").

And since their stock was nicely varied, it's a great place to browse and make discoveries: for instance they carried the solo album by the blue-up's Ana Voog (who was camming and writing on the Web before "blogging" was "blogging")
and it was in RR that I tracked down Robert Forster's "New York Girlfriend".

Thanks for posting about this great shop: I hope they can re-locate too because they've given me many meaningful lunch breaks from my desk. I'm going there now..
Indeed. In line at the Feist show last couldn't but wander in and stand slack jawed at the "Closing Jan 21st 6PM" and wonder where I'll be going to buy CDs from...really. I've avoided Humid Maturing Vaginitis like the STD that it is...what's left?

On the Feist side...excellent show, exemplified her vocal talents through loopbacks and backed by a solid band that included some deft wooden xylophone touches. She kept us glued until 1.

Paso Mino played prior to her and were solid, if not reminiscent of Brad Rogers on vocals minus his ego and humming (oh...and locks).

Pete Elkas was unfortunately dissapointing. Solid at a previous solo accoustic Black Sheep he had a full band + 2 female vocal backups. The crowd didn't warm up to them because I truly think they were concentrating on keeping warm en lieu of keeping time. Again, Cap City Music Hall froze everyone for the first two acts...and this has happened before...

hasta la música,
Can't believe I forgot to mention Dylan. Half my Dylan records are from the back wall.
Local independent retailers have slowly been replaced by larger corporate competition. To my eye it is a symptom of conformism, a worm in our belly with an insatiable appetite for the destruction of all that is wholesome and good in whatever culture it feeds upon. It is a monster worm. It is us.
as a former RR patron, this makes me very sad from afar...
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