In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Montreal was far from lacking for places to buy the latest music or classic oldies.
Downtown, there was A & A, the iconic Sam the Record Man; the Eaton's, Morgan's and later The Bay record sections; the Mars used record store on Ste. Catherine West which became a fire trap with all of its scratchy, dusty records piled up in a disorganized way, and overpriced to boot; the two locations of Cheap Thrills, which first opened in 1971; Rock en Stock, where I met the 1983 version of the band Kiss; Phantasmagoria, where all the cool classic rock fans hung out; the huge Marché de Livre on Berri, and its next door neighbour, the messy Fou de Disque; and many others.
Starting in the 1990s, the music industry was still healthy enough that we had two versions of HMV on Ste, Catherine Street West, the main store with all new product and an "annex" that had CDs and cassettes at lower prices — most of it was junk, but there was the occasional hot find.
In the suburbs at local malls, we had Discus, which contained a lot of cut rate records from England; Sherman's, which had very interesting imports; a smaller version of Sam the Record Man over at Rockland; and later, Music World.
Then the apocalypse began.
The first two casualties were A&A and Discus. I don't know if this was a case of cause and effect, both both had expanded just before they shut down — A & A with its own annex right across from Sam the Record Man, where it didn't have a snowball's chance of succeeding; and Discus with more modern looking stores.
Then the earthquake intensified, with the onset of illegal file sharing, and now streaming, on the Internet. Internationally, Tower Records, the Virgin Megastore and HMV in various cities shut down. Locally, we lost Sam the Record Man, Cheap Thrills shut down its original Bishop Street location, Music World closed all its locales and then the behemoth, HMV, shut down all across Canada.
So should we be holed up in our respective homes, in front of our computers, just downloading and streaming?
Heck, no. With the new popularity of vinyl and at least some desire for physical product, there are plenty of places to buy music:
• Archambault: The granddaddy of all Montreal music stores, founded in 1896, at its Ste. Catherine East location. Much of the store is books, knickknacks and musical instruments; but it still has the largest new CD music section in the city. The other downtown location is in Place des Arts.
• Cheap Thrills: The existing location is on Metcalfe, conveniently close to McGill University. Has a great deal of new and used vinyl and books you can't find elsewhere.
• Sunrise Records: This is the closest thing we have to a successor to HMV, with copious amounts of new and even some used vinyl. Located for now in suburban malls like Fairview, Carrefour Laval and Carrefour Angrignon, amongst others. I'm told by a good source that there will be a downtown locale as well. Maybe in the eventually madeover Eaton Centre?
• Volume: This used CD/book store is on Ste. Catherine East near Sanguinet. Not a huge supply of CDs, but they have a lot of interesting product in their oldies section and some unique Beatles CDs. Lots of books (mainly in French) too.
There are numerous other stores, especially on Mount Royal East, and some on Pine Avenue and other hip locales, which proves that actually buying music is still a thing to do these days.