2 Bloor Street W | Toronto, CAN.
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Wednesday, 18 May 2011 13:00

Life Well Done With a Side of Music Featured

Written by  Dane Taylor
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I can’t remember a time when Song and Script hasn’t been a part of my adult life. If a retail store could tell stories, what would those stories be about? Well they would be about people. About the people who worked there. The people who shopped. The browsers. The TWs or Time Wasters. The neighbours that you like and the crazies that you can hopefully avoid. Its about the neighbourhood. Yorkville.

Yorkville in the 1960s was home to the hippie generation. The coffee houses were filled with artists, musicians, draft dodgers, philosophers, and hangers on. It was the neighbourhood that bohemians gravitated to. You didn’t drink coffee. You had a cappuccino or a latte and you paid an unheard of price of $2.50 for that quaff and the privilege to sit in a hole in the wall coffee house and listen to the music of the day. If you were lucky, you got to hear Phil Ochs or Gordon Lightfoot at the Riverboat. Most of the time you went to the Penny Farthing, Jack and Jill in the Colonnade, or the Mont Blanc just north of Yorkville on Avenue Road. There were sit ins to protest Viet Nam and love ins just because there could be. Long hair, bare feet, and peace signs were the dress of the day. Situated on Bloor Street, just east of the University theatre was Song and Script, a unique little music store that sold records and sheet music. You could browse the racks before a movie in one of Toronto’s beautiful old movie houses. You know the kind. The University Theatre had grand staircases, smoking lodges, lounges for intermission, and a facade that still remains today because of its heritage designation. If you walk through the doors of Pottery Barn on Bloor Street today you will be standing on the threshold of that long gone movie palace. As a child, I saw Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor at the University Theatre. It was a special reserve seat engagement and tickets cost a very expensive $5.00. When the overture started, I was immersed in the music. There was no Dolby. There was no THX. There was incredible music.

In the 1970s Yorkville began to change. The coffee houses made way to the discotheques and the chic little bistros that sprung up on Cumberland Street. It was the changing styles of music that influenced and changed the neighbourhood. Just like Carnaby Street had its effect on London in the 60’s, Yorkville had a major effect on Toronto of the 1970s. If you wanted an evening out the right way, you made sure you had a reservation at Don Juans’ at 90 Yorkville. You sat on velvet loveseats and were served cocktails on marble coffee tables by beautiful waitresses and handsome waiters. You dined on French food at the adjacent restaurant and ordered Dom Perignon for an extravagant $35.00 a bottle. The boutiques stayed open late and so did the music stores. Art galleries began to thrive in the neighbourhood and anotyher culture bloomed on Hazelton Avenue. Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra introduced a new kind of music and we danced. Developers and investors had their eye on the Village of Yorkville in the city of Toronto.

The houses that housed the restos and discos and galleries were slowly and unspectacularly bought and demolished. Hazelton Lanes was built north of Yorkville Avenue on Avenue road. The Manulife Centre was built on the southeast corner of Bloor and Bay Streets. The Four Seasons Hotel rose across from Toronto’s staid Park Plaza Hotel. These were new and exciting places to visit. Not only could you dine at the Manulife or shop at Hazelton Lanes but now you could live there too. Song and Script found a new home at 1200 Bay Street, just a few doors east of the original location.

The music industry had changed too. There were cassettes now. Music on tape. And there were 8 tracks. Music on bigger tape. Video Cassette Recorders (VCRs) both Beta and VHS brought a new form of home entertainment. Not only had the music industry started to change but now you rent a movie and watch it in the comfort of your own home. The question of the day was whether or not the movie industry would die. Who would by the popcorn? Meanwhile people were replacing their records with cassettes and 8 tracks and quadraphonic sound was already on the way out.

It was 1982 when the first Compact Disks and CD players became available for the consumer. CDs were a spinoff for the short lived and soon defunct laser disc which was developed jointly by Sony and Philips (don’t quote me but I think this is accurate). CDs were basically the planned successor of the LP or Vinyl as the lexicon of today. I always chuckle to myself when someone comes into the store and asks if we sell vinyl. I like to see the reaction when I reply “Not for decades!” My dry humour is usually lost in the moment.

At Song and Script we have sold CDs ever since. Yorkville, however, has changed greatly. The neighbourhood is now home to Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Vuitton, Cartier, and Tiffanys along with Toronto mainstays like Holts and Ashleys. Ashleys Fine China is worth a trip to Toronto by itself. In the 1990’s when Toronto theatres were thrilling audiences with Phantom and Les Miserables, most theatre bus tours detoured to Ashleys. “Look Martha, it’s the Great Wall of China” and the funny thing ..... It really is a great wall of china plates. Condominiums are still increasing the Yorkville skyline and a small pied a terre sells for a million or so dollars. That’s the bottom end of the scale.

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At the beginning of 2007, we found ourselves moving for the first time in over 30 years. Even a store like Song and Script could not escape the “Greedy Landlord Syndrome”. We moved a few steps east to our present location in Cumberland Terrace. There was very little satisfaction as we watched our previous home vacant for the better part of the year. The stock market plummeted and in 2008 we found ourselves at the bottom of a very deep recession. Our little corner of the world had always managed to ride out the recessions, but this has been very different. Even the very rich among us are holding tight to their money. Song and Script Music Store has been very lucky. We have a remarkable and loyal clientele.

Last modified on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 13:41
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Our doors are open Monday to Saturday 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm.

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2 Bloor Street W, Suite #C07
Toronto Ontario M4W 3E2
Tel: 416-923-3044