Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's in the bag, man

Winnipegger's collection from downtown record stores will make many a middle-ager who bought vinyl in the '70s misty-eyed

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Rock and roll never forgets.

One of Cavin Borody's most cherished childhood memories is freezing his fingers and toes outside of Opus 69, a record store that used to be on Kennedy Street, just north of Portage Avenue.

"Every Saturday morning Opus would have a 99-cent LP available at opening time," Borody says. "I still remember standing in line in the snow to get my copy of Pearl by (Janis) Joplin."

Nowadays, Borody runs, an online music outlet with a stock of more than 300,000 vinyl albums, CDs, cassettes and 8-track tapes. Two weeks ago, Borody posted an ad on Kijiji, asking if anybody had Winnipeg record store memorabilia from the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

Borody placed the blurb for two reasons; 1) he recently picked out an LP to send to a friend and figured it would be a nice gesture if he enclosed it in a bag from one of his buddy's old haunts. 2) Borody hopes to open up a physical store one day. He can't think of a better way to pay tribute to the shops he grew up with than to decorate his future surroundings with mementoes from places like Opus 69, Music Explosion and Mother's.

Cavin Borody, meet Beau Hajavitch.

A couple of days before Borody's ad ran, Hajavitch put the finishing touches on a 47-minute-long video for YouTube. During the Spalding Gray-styled monologue, Hajavitch talks at length about his own adventures in record-shopping, back when downtown Winnipeg was populated by at least a dozen independently-owned record palaces.

But the real star of the show is Hajavitch's pristine collection of plastic record-store bags, which he holds up individually as he reminisces about picking up albums at one store or another. (Readers might recognize Hajavitch from his TV days. From 1990 to 1993, he was the host, producer and writer of Hard Rock Heroes, a weekly homage to heavy metal that aired on Videon.)

"When I was growing up in the '70s, the ultimate of cool was to be seen walking down the north side of Portage Avenue carrying a bag from Autumn Stone or Opus under your arm," says Hajavitch, 50, who grew up in St. Vital. "When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to go downtown by myself. So I used to tell my mom that I was going over to a buddy's house. Then I'd lock my bike up on St. Mary's (Road) and hop on a bus."

Visits to friends' homes -- genuine visits, that is -- are the reason Hajavitch began collecting record bags in the first place. Because he didn't have a state-of-the-art stereo of his own, Hajavitch would go to a buddy's house to listen to his latest purchases. And since the Lavallee School student didn't want to be seen with a copy of Kiss' Destroyer in a Safeway or K-Mart bag, he began keeping his record-store bags.

"There was no real eye towards collecting. I would just fold them up nicely and put them in my desk. If I ever needed to take a record somewhere, I'd pull one out. After a while, I just kept saving them, period."

Hajavitch is hard-pressed to come up with a greatest hits list when he is asked which stores were his favourites back in the day.

"Each one had its own individual charms," he says, recalling the "great rec room atmosphere" of Autumn Stone, the floor-to-ceiling rock posters at the Wherehouse, and Kelly's famous "Midnight Madness" sales. "I also went to Music City a lot -- both locations. Except none of us could figure out why they had two stores downtown, within a couple of blocks of each other."

When Bryan Adams performed at MTS Centre last year, Hajavitch was reminded of the time Adams held an autograph session at A&A Records in Eaton Place in 1981.

"The stage Bryan Adams performed on at MTS was literally steps away from where that A&A used to be," Hajavitch says. "I Tweeted him that after the show, wondering if he remembered where that store was, too."

Although Hajavitch has never met anybody else who collects record bags, he isn't surprised to hear that other people, like Borody, have a sentimental attachment to those stores, too.

"I'm sure none of us in our wildest dreams thought records would ever turn into CDs. Or that all of those great stores would close."

Vinyl frontier

Cavin Borody was a familiar face at stores like Opus 69 and Pyramid Records. But he also has a soft spot for Syd's Carousel, a gift shop in the Crossroads Shopping Centre that carried LPs and singles.

"I remember going to Safeway with my dad every Friday," Borody says. "While he was shopping for groceries, I'd head next door to Syd's where I'd watch Syd rearrange the 45s on his wall, in the order they were on the CKRC chart that week."

Here's what a few other Winnipeggers had to say, when we asked them what their favourite record store was:

The one I spent most of my money and time at was Autumn Stone on Kennedy Street. That was also where I met a young Howard Mandshein (from 92 CITI-FM), who taught me a valuable lesson at an early age: never pay retail. I bundled an old Hendrix album, a new Chicago album and a Bloodwyn Pig album from the delete bin for a bargain price.

-- George Belanger, Harlequin

I bought most of my albums at Opus 69. It was just a neat, funky place right across the street from the old Town and Country night club. Opus 69 later turned into a club called Benjamin's, where Free Ride played a lot.

--Wayne Hlady, Free Ride

My favourite store was Autumn Stone. It was a cool shop with new and used records. The first record I bought there was Nazareth's Greatest Hits for $3.69. Honourable mention to the Swap Shop on Osborne. They had a great 50-cent bin where I picked up the first Rush album on Moon Records.

-- Ray Giguere, Argy's Collectibles

As a kid, it was Records On Wheels. In the mid-1980s, there was no web, no college radio in Winnipeg and Rolling Stone covered aging 'boomer bands that had no relevance whatsoever. I started out as a metalhead and later discovered what we now would call indie rock by flipping through albums -- and God help me, cassettes -- by bands I didn't know. I occasionally bought unfamiliar titles out of curiosity. That was a big leap of faith when albums cost $7.99, a small fortune to a 16 year old.

-- Bartley Kives, Winnipeg Free Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2013 E3

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