Thursday, July 25, 2013

Old New York: Catch the Cool Cats at Bleecker Street Records

By Mitch Broder

Creeper and Scuzzball apparently will be moving to a new store, but that shouldn’t stop you from paying a call on them while they’re at the old store. At the old store, after all, you always know where you can find them. In the new store, at least at the start, they might actually get up.


Creeper and Scuzzball are the languid cats of Bleecker Street Records, one of the few consequential record stores left in New York. It’s been said to be closing, due to the typical rent challenges of city stores. But credible sources tell me it’s moving, probably in the fall.

It’s moving, they say, to the former site of another record store — 186 West Fourth Street, once the home of Disc-O-Rama. Disc-O-Rama, which has had several stores, is now just at 44 West Eighth Street. It, too, carries CDs and LPs — but not with the festiveness of Bleecker Street.


At Bleecker Street Records, the main attractions are the walls. There aren’t any. At least not that you can see. If they are there, they are concealed by hundreds of beguiling albums, which recall the joys that were once a part of a hunt for musical treasure.

They include rarities by the likes of the Beatles and Buddy Holly, and oddities by the likes of Carroll O’Connor and Zero Mostel. This may the only place in the world that displays an LP by the Detergents, who answered the bizarre Shangri-Las hit “Leader of the Pack” with their bizarrer hit, “Leader of the Laundromat.”

The albums provide education along with entertainment. They are festooned with labels that tell you things you never thought you could know. A formidable example is found on the label for the Japanese pressing of an album intriguingly titled “The Best of Cheryl Ladd”:

“Did you know this former ‘Charlie’s Angel’ was also the singing voice behind the animated cartoon ‘Josie & the Pussycats,’ and she was very popular in Japan where she enjoyed a successful career and released many Japanese Market only releases!!! Well, it’s all true!!!”

And as if that isn’t enough, the label makes sure to add: “Japanese pressing/Best Quality! ... Immaculate Condition!!!! This Gatefold LP comes with a huge color poster of Cheryl … Va Va Voom!!!!”

Below the displays, the place is packed with recorded music, much of which you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. It spans not just rock and pop, but everything from country to Broadway, with a dash of NoĆ«l Coward, Jimmy Durante, Chad Everett, and Rosey Grier.

Topping it off — almost literally — are Creeper and Scuzzball, two big gray furry meat loaves who doze on boxes by the stairs to the basement. They hardly move and they rarely respond. Evidently, this gives them mystique. One of the store’s best-selling items is the Creeper and Scuzzball T-shirt.

Inevitably, there’s some whining online about the record prices. They can be high. But so can prices on any other antiques. Besides, the bins in the basement are full of surprising bargains. And if you’re looking for “The Best of Cheryl Ladd,” how many options do you have?


The store, more or less as it is, dates to 1972. It was called The Golden Disc, with “disc” referring to vinyl. It changed hands in the mid-nineties and was redubbed Bleecker Street. The new store settled in just in time to enjoy the golden age of compact discs.

Today it counts on record hounds willing to pay the price, says Rob Lecuyer, one of the store managers. “People come to New York to spend money, and this is a real tourist street,” he says. “Some people complain about prices. Other people drop thousands in one sitting.”

West Fourth is also a tourist street, so it seems like a good bet. And that’s good for New Yorkers — at least the ones who still like to hunt.

“Anything and everything will sell,” Rob says. “What you think is crap, somebody else is like: ‘I’ve been looking for this my whole life.’”


Take a spin at Bleecker Street Records, 239 Bleecker Street, between Carmine and Leroy streets, New York City.





FOR MORE RARE RECORDS, VISIT HOUSE OF OLDIES, ON CARMINE STREET, JUST AROUND THE CORNER FROM BLEECKER STREET RECORDS. AND READ ABOUT HOUSE OF OLDIES — AND DOZENS OF OTHER CLASSIC SPOTS — IN THE AMAZON BEST SELLER “DISCOVERING VINTAGE NEW YORK”!