I got in a discussion recently with my colleague Drew about the remaining disc shops worth visiting that were left in Manhattan. I rattled off my standbys like Other Music, Kim's, Rebel Rebel and Generation Records, while Drew cited Academy, a couple of vinyl-only outlets and Norman's Sound & Vision off St. Marks Place. I grimaced slightly at this last choice. Drew defended that he'd landed many a great musical find at Norman's. I could only make the "meh" face.
To be fair, I've regularly ducked into Norman's over the years, usually looking for less-than-rare titles that might be obtained for a less than entirely disreputable price. The racks are crammed to the hilt with discs of varying quality (some looking decidedly used but suspiciously re-shrinkwrapped). Much like Music Matters in Brooklyn, I usually go in there looking for a specific title or two that they never have, and usually end up leaving with something I don't necessarily need.
There's something about the place that feels more like a clearance outlet than a proper music shop. You probably won't find any "High Fidelity"-styled snobs behind the counter at Norman's. Norman himself probably knows his stuff, but the rest of the dudes who work there generally can't be arsed, so to speak. I actually used to see Norman in the neighborhood quite a bit, either walking his dog or taking his kids to school. We usually nod knowingly at each other. Haven't spotted him in a long while, though.
In any case, apropos of absolutely nothing, I walked into Norman's Sound & Vision this afternoon, perhaps subconsciously goaded into it by that conversation with Drew. The place was looking a little worse for wear and devoid of any customers. I did my usual cursory thumb-through. A gent in the back barked from behind stacks of newly-acquired-but-not-yet-sifted-though used discs (I had a discouraging experience trying to sell Norman's a clutch of old CDs not too long back). "Need any help?" I told him I was just looking.
I half-heartedly yanked a copy of the double-live The Name of This Band is Talking Heads out of the racks for a price that didn't make me frown and brought it to the abandoned register. The gent in the back sighed audibly and slowly lurched to the front. "How's business?" I asked, attempting to lighten the mood. "Well, we're moving," he announced balefully. "What?" While I've just spent the last few paragraphs giving a less-than-stellar review of Norman's Sound & Vision, that doesn't mean I want it to leave. The notion of another place that sells music leaving the East Village hurts my heart. "Yep, we're going to Williamsburg in August."
...Yeah, like Williamsburg needs another music shop in the wake of the announcement of the new Rough Trade.
I paid up, wished him well and out the door I went.