Friday, April 14, 2006

Singles Scene #4

Cookstown: This month, I take a trip out of town. Heading North one particular Friday I stuff my Antique Showcase - Millennium Edition in the dope drawer of my new Caravan, and head up highway 27. There are a couple of small shops along the way, but they produce nothing of interest in the way of singles. They do produce a 6 string Ukulele, just the thing for the boy, who is dying to play guitar, but nothing in small vinyl records. The end goal, however, is not really any of these stores. It is the Cookstown Antique Mall.

I know Cookstown. Sitting on highway 27 at highway 89, Cookstown is a favorite stop on the way home from the cottage. Not because of the Antique mall, but for two other stops. McDonald's at Hwy's. 400 and 89 and, just east of McDonald's, is the Cookstown Outlet Mall. Due to the distances between Parry Sound and Cambridge, this is a good and normal place to stop. But Cookstown itself sits a few miles west of the 400 and, consequently, I've never actually been here.

The Antique mall is in an old barn, about ½ a mile north of highway 89. It sits on the left just as you leave the spartan downtown and is hard to miss; I miss it. Just as I am passing the driveway, and deciding the hell with it get me to the cottage, I spot the roadside sign. Fortunately, Cookstown is not called Reallybusytown for a reason and I am able to make a quick U-turn without leaving too much destruction in my wake. Thinking how pale the family in the van behind me appear, I turn into the driveway of the Cookstown Antique Mall. The drive is maybe two hundred meters long and 5 cars seems determined to park in the 3 small spots out front. I go around back where there is tons of parking and two pick-up trucks pulling campers.

As my journey in search of 45's develops, I have learnt a couple of things: Use the Antique Showcase to look for places that sell "collectibles" and if when you walk in a store and the youngest person in the store, next to yourself, is in the neighborhood of 100, it's a good antique store. This is going to be a great antique store! Two floors of old collectibles and furniture, dolls and books. And the only people who belong in work this Friday afternoon are myself and the cashier; everyone else is well past retirement age.

After a 20-minute search I find the records up the stairs and to the right in the back corner of a stall. They are sitting in an old bookcase and beside them there is an old burgundy leather chair, the kind that Ward Cleaver kept in his study. It looks comfortable and I'm not, so feeling a lot like the Beaver on a dare from Gilbert, I scan through the records in Ward's chair. The pile isn't huge, just 20 or 30 records mostly from the 60's and 70's. I find three that I identify as Canadiana: Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown, Paul Anka's (You're) Having My Baby and Andy Kim's Rock Me Gently - Parts 1 and 2. Neither of theses songs are remarkable, yet they are $3.00 each. One other thing I have learnt this summer - when a store slaps an "Antique and Collectable" sign over the door they are serious about emptying your wallet. No garage sale/flea market pricing here - $3.00 for a 45RPM single. I could download the songs off Napster and burn a CD for $2.00, and it could have 15 songs on it. But budget was never part of the mission plan and the best I can do is start saving receipts and hope that some publisher stumbles across this page and wants to help create a need for taxable deductions.

The cottage is a wonderful place with all of life's little amenities; except a record player. Thus the listening has to wait a few days. Upon getting them home and into my music room I find the records are in good condition. I start off with Sundown, one of my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs, and certainly the best that hasn't been butchered by talent hating, song thieving "Urban Musicians." I remember when this song was a hit and it is the first Gordon Lightfoot song I ever knowingly heard; in fact it is the first I ever heard of Gordon Lightfoot. For lack of a better description, it has a cool sound with the dark, brooding, sexy lyrics. Sung like Levon Helm on downers this is just a great song that stands the test of time well.

Next up is Paul Anka with (You're) Having My Baby a song someone once told me was the most romantic song a guy could write for a girl. He's actually married now so I don't suppose he offered that theory up to too many people other than me. I've always wondered why some feminist looking for something to take offence over hasn't picked this song to get twisted up about. On listening to it, this really is a dated song. The notion of her having his baby, for him makes it a complete and total eye roller:

You're Having My Baby
What a wonderful way of sayin' how much you love me.
You're Having My Baby
What a wonderful way of saying what your thinking of me.

Somebody, somewhere, has got to be kidding me. I'm hoping that by the time he wrote this, Paul Anka was living and working in L.A. and we can excuse it with "that's what happens when a good Canadian boy get's drinking that piped in desert water." But seeing how Anka is from Ottawa, one begins to wonder what came first - Paul Anka or people in Ottawa getting mushy brains? Either way, this song is so bad, I feel like going back to Cookstown and demanding $4.00 back (the extra dollar is for pain and suffering, I did listen to it once).

Then we get to Andy Kim's Rock Me Gently (Parts 1 and 2). Andy Kim holds one of the more dubious achievements in rock music in that he was the voice of The Archie's; probably still gets royalty checks made out to A. Andrews. If you ever hear Rock Me Gently and think, I know that voice, you do. It's the bubble gum guy who sings Sugar, Sugar. In that black part of the mind were oddball facts and twisted little memories meet to form opinions, I have a second recollection of Andy Kim and, as importantly, this song. I was in about grade six when this song first came out, and we quickly deduced that if you changed the word rock for the shortened version of fire-truck you had a much better song. Try it:

Rock me Gently, rock me slowly.
Take it easy don't you know
That I have never been rocked like this before.

It sometimes takes years for adolescent minds to realize that we weren't the first generation to discover sex, thus we naively assumed this ability to improve the song was accidental on Andy Kim's part.

All that said, this is simply a pretty good pop song. Not a great song by any stretch, but not the worst I have ever heard, nor was it the worst I ever bought at the Cookstown Antique Mall. Not the best either, it is fair to say, but not the worst, thank god!

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