I’m a native Clevelander, and have always been a keen record shopper. I bought my first record with my own money, Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love,” at the Disc record store in Severance Center mall, across from the cinema where my Mom and I had just seen the movie starring Sidney Poitier. As a kid I shopped ‘em all: Record Revolution and the Record Exchange on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights; Tommy Edward’s Record Heaven in the Memphis-Fulton Shopping Center in Cleveland and the venerable Record Rendezvous in downtown Cleveland, among others.
When I moved to New York City in the late Seventies, my record jones sent me out on regular excursions around Greenwich Village, both east and west. Sounds on St. Mark’s Place was my East Village haunt, while Bleeker Bob’s, closer to the West Side, was a little more out of the way. It took awhile for me to warm up to Bleeker's – or rather – for the store to warm up to me. I experienced my own version of a scene from High Fidelity the first time I walked into Bleeker Bob’s. There was a terrific song on the turntable. It was brash, a little jarring, clarion-like – it kinda sounded like a joyous train wreck. Twenty seconds in, I knew I wanted to buy it, but when I approached the counter, the clerk refused to sell me the record. Another customer, a regular, laughed and urged the clerk to lighten up and chided him into selling me the record. It was kind of a rite of passage, and the snooty clerk – the store's namesake aka Robert Plotnik – relented and never gave me any trouble after that. The record, by the way, was Wire’s “Dot Dash,” and I still own it.
When I heard Bleeker Bob’s was closing (its last day was April 13, 2013), I immediately remembered that experience and thought about how sad it was that record buying immigrants to NYC would be denied that kind of rite of passage. I wasn’t mourning the loss of being treated shabbily, but the acceptance into the scene – the feeling of walking into a record store and being at home, being part of a group as passionate about music as I was. I never found that feeling again until I walked into my new favorite record store, Blue Arrow Records in the Waterloo area of Cleveland’s North Collinwood neighborhood. Point is, there are still great record stores all over the country, the world. And it's important for music lovers to support them, not just as retail establishments, but as gathering places, forums for discussion and debate, centers for learning and enjoyment – places to share music with others in the real-ist of times.
In honor of Record Store Day on April 20, I say, RIP Bleeker Bob’s, and long live the remaining great ones! Go vinyl or go home! Support your local record store! Take 10% off all vinyl records on National Record Store Day, Saturday, April 20, 2013 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's FYE Record Store. Admission to the Museum not required to shop at FYE.
Here are Essential Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Record Store Day exclusive releases to keep an eye out for this Saturday: