Bert Myers says he would sell me Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk, if he had a copy at his Yonge and Eglinton shop, Vortex Records.
So take that, Barry of Championship Vinyl, you antagonistic employee from the film High Fidelity, starring John Cusack.
I’m at Vortex to discover if the old independent record shop culture, as depicted in such films as the aforementioned adaptation
of Nick Hornby’s novel and Empire Records, the mid-’90s coming-of-age flick starring Liv Tyler, is of the same ilk.
Myers admits he has seen High Fidelity, and there were good vibrations in his voice as he spoke about it with his employee Mackenzie, clad in a Motörhead tee.
“To some large degree certain portions of the store resemble that, although I’ve never made a list of my 10 favourite records — never done that,” he says, shuffling out from behind the cash counter in thick-framed John Lennon glasses and a tweed blazer. “No desert island involved there.”
“I say there are more customers that resemble those characters than people who actually work here,” Mackenzie retorts.
There’s old blues on the radio — Bo Diddley I think — and a few dedicated shoppers peruse the throng of DVDs, CDs and LPs.
To me it’s Nirvana. I own about 800 CDs and 500 DVDs, much to the chagrin of my wife, and there are shelves, racks and other organizers holding secrets only played by needle or laser.
And I find myself talking music with Myers, who’s been in business for 30 years, 26 of them spent in midtown.
One shopper, an arm cradling six or seven CDs, calls Myers a legend.
Randy Yeo used to visit Vortex when it was at 139 Dundas St. East. That was early 1980s.
There’s talk of music, the genuine love of vinyl — how it sounds better than CDs — and jokes about certain bands, and the passing of musical knowledge from one generation to the next.
“It’s a good place to work,” Burgess admits, adding she has her own Psych-Punk band called VCR. “You learn a lot about music that maybe you wouldn’t have been exposed to yourself.”
Myers isn’t afraid of the digital age, but there’s a hint of cynicism in his voice.
“There’s not many collectors of big band things anymore,” he says. “The demand for that dies out with the people.
“Certain things are eternal, but I can’t see Mackenzie, for instance, embracing Uriah Heep.”
Laughter bridges the gap between words where Myers pauses.
“That was just a for-instance, [but] it could have been any other band I wished to slag,” Myers says, adding he has nothing against the ’70s hard-rock outfit. “No, I love the way [lead singer, David Byron] shrieks, but I never listened to it on my own.”
Unlike Championship Vinyl, there’s no snobbery here. Just a warm place for conviviality, and mutual love of music, lyrics, poetry and the physical means in which to play it.