A couple of weeks ago, we at Saturday Morning Productions learned that Stuart Maclean, of CBC’s The Vinyl Cafe, passed away of melanoma. It was a loss felt keenly by all of us (Liv, Ada and Chris). When I (Liv) started working at Saturday MP, I was happy to discover that I wasn’t the only Vinyl Cafe listener on the team. Stuart’s Dave and Morley stories cracked me up on a regular basis, and some of the musicians he had as guests over the years had become regulars on my playlists (especially Owen Pallett and Harmony Trowbridge).
I was lucky to see his show live twice, both times in Ontario. He came to Peterborough in October 2005, and told the story of how Dave and Morley prepared for parenthood when they were expecting their first child, Stephanie. Dave was worried that he might not have key parental instincts, like not rolling over and squishing your baby when you were lying next to her. He practiced by filling a ziplock bag with peanut butter and laying it next to him in bed. When he woke up the next morning – you guessed it – Dave had rolled over on it and there was peanut butter everywhere. “I killed her!” Dave screamed in anguish. The audience howled.
A few months later, I got to see his Christmas show in Toronto. It was the day before I was supposed to fly home to Saskatchewan for the holidays. The show was at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall. The building was ancient and stately. The acoustics were incredible. The hall was packed. I was two rows from the front. Stuart told “Dave Cooks the Turkey,” of course. He was touring with a talented young man named Owen Pallett. Owen Pallett is a violinist, who records himself as he plays, and then builds layers of melodies consecutively as the song wears on. It sounds like a whole orchestra, but it’s just him. I remember him playing a tune called “Song Song Song.” Have a listen. The layers of melody circled higher and higher, weaving like a sinuous cat around the pillars and rafters, higher and higher into the winter night before evaporating like snowflakes. It was so beautiful that I was almost in tears by the time the last notes played.
I found out after I started working with Chris and Ada that The Vinyl Cafe was a fixture in their lives too – often, it played on the radio in their kitchen. It’s the kind of show that had no fixed demographic. It didn’t seem to matter who you were or where you came from. Everyone could relate.
I had always planned to go and see another show, but it wasn’t to be. I moved. Life happened. I suspect there are a great many who will mourn the loss of Stuart and The Vinyl Cafe. He was all of us, in a way. The stories were about small things. Relatable things. I’m not sure what show I’ll tune into now as I putter around on Sundays.
And yet, I know it’s not good-bye. It’s just so long for now.