Memories of Bleecker Bob’s
Bleecker Bob’s closed today, and like the end of CBGB’s, I find myself lamenting the end of a place I hadn’t been to in years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need or want the Village to be turned into more of an NYU-blanded mall than it already is, and I genuinely miss the days that I could wander the streets and find odd mom and pop shops who carried interesting things.
But I always had a conflicted relationship with Bleecker Bob’s. An older music-loving friend introduced me to the existence of Bob’s, and showed me ‘the circuit’ of record hunting in the Village. But I never had a positive experience in Bob’s. There were absolutely times that he was the only one that had what I needed and yet I would almost always get sneered at when purchasing. I mean, I get it, and I am one of the biggest musical snobs I know, but I’m not doing that to someone who is PAYING ME MONEY.
I don’t remember the Bleecker Street location; my acquaintance began with the McDougal Street store, when it was next to the Capezio store. I would come there to buy bootlegs. I would go there to buy copies of the NME and Sounds and Melody Maker. When I was a junior and senior in high school I would tell my mom I was going to the theater or the museum or something (and most of the time I was actually doing that, just later) and get there a little before 10am, waiting on line for the gate to open so I could buy the UK singles that were just out that week. Bob used to pay someone to courier them back every week. That was an amazing thing. That was the equivalent to a leaked prerelease torrent. People would be fiercely jealous of my ability to take a train and walk a few blocks and get this music.
But I never liked going there. I can remember taking out-of-town friends there who wanted to buy a copy of “My Generation” on Brunswick and I knew Bob had it for $75. He wouldn’t take the fucking thing off the wall for them to look at until they had taken the money out of their pocket and showed it to him. I mean, I get it, you don’t want to take an expensive single off the wall and show it to looky-lous and maybe he’d had too many that day, but your average Joe or Josephine doesn’t walk in off the street asking for that particular item.
He had the first real copy of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby…” with the picture sleeve and I was delighted when I found it at a record fair (RIP Rockages if you want to get all RIP about things music-related) and didn’t have to pay Bob. He had Piece de Resistance for $125 and I would stand there and stare at it and calculate numbers in my head. I certainly didn’t have the ovaries to try to bargain with him. (I eventually got it at one of those 8th Street stores that were upstairs for $75, which was STILL a lot of goddamn money).
I remember going to see the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization at the 8th Street Playhouse and Bob appeared on the screen in an interview and the entire place exploded in BOOOOS. In that context I understand the badge of honor element but seriously, it is no wonder that I spent most of my money at record fairs and that place downstairs on Cornelia Street or Bleecker St. Records.
I support his right to be the crabby old record guy and hire other crabby old record guys and a lot of people liked the ritual of him being so obnoxious, and would just laugh at him. I don’t like the store going away because it was just there, this place I would walk by and flip the bird to whenever I walked by. But I would go in and buy a magazine and check the stacks and then I’d get a slice at that pizza place on the corner (it wasn’t bad) or some felafel from Mamoun’s and go sit in Washington Square Park and read my magazine or look at my purchases and eat and enjoy the air and the scene, just digging the fact that I was hanging out in Greenwich Village. I miss that too, but I’m not 18 or 22 or, hell, 32 anymore either.
Vaya con dios.
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