I’ve mentioned Lunch For Your Ears here and there on this blog a few times (most notably here), but it was one of SoHo’s precious few record/disc shops back in the day. Don’t bother looking for it now, however, as it’s long gone. As I alluded in that earlier post, I remember hearing some horrible anecdote about the end of Lunch for Your Ears, but never got the full story. All I do k now is that the shop closed around 1991, and the space it once occupied is now a pricey menswear joint called Gant Rugger.
Anyway, via a random vintage NYC on Tumblr yesterday, I followed the links to the Flickr page of one Diane Worland, who is responsible for a really compelling collection of NYC photographs well worth checking out (you can find them here). This is the first (and only) visual evidence of Lunch For Your Ears I’ve ever comes across. Ms. Worland cites the date as 1977, although I very respectfully question the veracity of that, as I don’t believe the shop was that old. I could, of course, be entirely mistaken.
While searching to validate that point, I came across this excellent article about great Manhattan record and disc shops that Jon Pareles wrote for the New York Times back in the carefree, balmy days of 1991. Here’s what he had to say about Lunch for Your Ears….
LUNCH FOR YOUR EARS prides itself on not being able to categorize its approximately 4,000 CD's and 4,000 LP's, new and used. "All the records that are most interesting are the ones that least fit into categories," says Manny Maris, the owner. "If they do fit into categories, they tend to be imitative." Lunch for Your Ears specializes in albums at the intersection of art-rock, free improvisation, new music and jazz -- the kinds of performers who play at the Knitting Factory a few blocks away -- that are unlikely to be found anywhere else in New York City, since German, British and Japanese labels seem more interested than American labels are in New York's improvisatory underground. The store is also plugged into British and European experimentalism from King Crimson to Annette Peacock.
"I'm looking for albums that have some kind of depth, quality and lasting replay value," Mr. Maris says. "And if I have a choice between something of quality that other stores carry and something the other stores don't have, I'll put my limited funds into what they don't have."
Anyway, I just spotted Ms. Worland’s pic and felt compelled to share it. Be sure to check out the rest of her work, as it’s pretty spectacular.
Meanwhile, back to that Pareles article, at the end of the piece he thoughtfully appended the addresses and phone numbers of each of the shops he’d cited. It’s a pretty extensive list, and not even entirely definitive (for my money, he forgot a few choice spots, notably Rebel Rebel on Bleecker). Although I’ve already addressed the fates of several of these locales here, behold the status (in red for dead, green for go shop there) of Pareles’ picks in 2o12.
Where the albums lurked….
BATE RECORDS, 140 Delancey Street – Gone.
BLEECKER BOB'S, 118 West Third Street – Still there, but credibly rumored to be gone soon.
CASA LATINA, 151 East 116 Street – Still there.
COLONY, 1619 Broadway, at 49th Street – Closed.
DAYTON'S, 799 Broadway, at 11th Street – Closed.
DOWNSTAIRS RECORDS, 35 West 43d Street, second floor – Closed.
FINYL VINYL, 89 Second Avenue, between Fifth and Sixth Streets – Closed.
G&A RARE RECORDS LTD., 139 West 72d Street - Closed.
GOLDEN DISC, 239 Bleecker Street – Changed to Bleecker Street Records….still there.
GRYPHON, 251 West 72d Street – Not sure, but they're not picking up their phone.
HIDEOUT, 5 Cornelia Street - Closed.
HMV, 86th Street and Lexington Avenue and 72d Street and Broadway – Both closed.
HOUSE OF OLDIES, 35 Carmine Street – Surprisingly still there.
IT'S ONLY ROCK 'N' ROLL, 49 West Eighth Street – Closed.
JAZZ RECORD CENTER, 135 West 29th Street, 12th floor – Still there, I believe.
J&M RECORDS, 364 West 110th Street -- Don't know.
J&R MUSIC WORLD, 23 Park Row – Still there.
LUNCH FOR YOUR EARS, 25 Prince Street – Closed (see above).
MIDNIGHT RECORDS, 263 West 23d Street – Closed.
MUSIC FACTORY, 1476 Broadway, at 42d Street – Closed.
RECORD MART IN THE SUBWAY, near the N trains in the subway station at Times Square – Not Record Mart anymore, but there is still a joint you can buy music in, amazingly enough.
RECORD RUNNER, 5 Jones Street – Still there, but rarely open.
REVOLVER RECORDS, 43 West Eighth Street – Long gone.
ROCK'S IN YOUR HEAD, 157 Prince Street – Closed.
SECOND COMING, 235 Sullivan Street – Closed.
STREET RECORD SHACK, 274 West 125th Street – Don’t know, but it doesn’t look promising.
ST. MARKS SOUNDS, 16 St. Marks Place – Still there, but not at all well.
STRIDER, 22 Jones Street – Closed.
TOWER RECORDS, 692 Broadway, at East Fourth Street and 1961 Broadway, at 66th Street – Gone. VENUS, 13 St. Mark's Place – Gone.
VINYLMANIA, 43 Carmine Street - Gone.