I don’t think I ever saved so much money as when I stopped buying those beefy British music monthlies like Mojo, Q and all the rest of them. For eons, I’d dutifully pick them up. They were simply a joy to read — beautifully written, informative, funny, etc. For a slavishly anglophilic music geek like myself, they were hard to say ‘no’ to. That said, they were — and remain — totally too goddamn expensive. Given my continuing lack of employment, they were the first item to go on the belt-tightening list.
That said, I do cheat and pick one up every now and again. There was a lovely-albeit-not-especialy-insightful feature on Killing Joke in the latest Uncut (I always thought that title sounded a bit porny). Likewise, I couldn’t resist picking up the latest issue of Mojo (with Patti Smith on the cover), given the promise of features on the Cocteau Twins and an essay on the ‘noise rock’ of 1985, penned by Thurston Moore (pictured above in fetching SWANS shirt). How could I turn that down?
In paging through same, however, I noticed a curious little paragraph wherein Thurston waxed rhapsodic about the technologically primitive age of 1985…
There was no internet, and you found about bands via fanzines and record stores, which were really important. Pier Platters in Hoboken was the only record store in New York hip to this new music — Bleecker Bob’s certainly wasn’t — and you’d go there to hang out, listen to records and find out who’s who.
Alrighty, Thurston, hold the goddamn phone.
For a start, last time I checked, Hoboken — despite its close proximity — is not in New York City. Secondly, to say that Pier Platters — fine shop though it was — was “the only record store in New York hip to this new music” is also a bit of a stretch. Thirdly, why shit on Bleecker Bob’s?
It should be remembered that Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley was a Hoboken resident (and may have even been a Pier Platters employee at one point, if I’m not mistaken). This would handily explain Moore’s bias towards the store.
And, again, as great as Pier Platters was, to suggest that it alone was the stronghold for the burgeoning noise-rock/piguck/post-hardcore/American indie scene is a bit revisionist. And while it’s commendable to be a loyal consumer, genuine music heads tended to scour whole networks of shops — not simply patronize a single establishment.
Off the top of my head, I’d suggest that Rocks in Your Head in SoHo (now a real estate agency), 99 Records in Greenwich Village (now a comedy club), Venus Records on West 8th Street (now a foot rub parlor) and FreeBeing off St. Marks Place (now a tanqueria) all more than held their own in keeping up with what was going on.
Back to Bleecker Bob’s, Thurston’s shade-throwing isn’t that surprising. Lots of folks demurred from shopping at Bleecker Bob’s, given fabled owner Bleecker Bob Plotnick’s less-that-always-personable style. That said, I vividly remember Bleecker Bob’s prominently displaying Sonic Youth’s “Star Power” 12” upon its 1986 release (I may have even bought my copy there). So, ease the Hell up, Thurston.
Don’t get me wrong, once again — I’m not knocking Pier Platters. It was indeed a great spot. If you’d exhausted the shops of lower Manhattan, it was a simple PATH train ride away, initially close enough to the station to the point where you’d barely have to penetrate the byways of Hoboken (unless, of course, you were headed for Maxwell’s….also gone). I have very fond memories of prizing my copy of Pussy Galore’s Dial ‘M’ For Motherfucker in its comparatively cramped little space.
I’ll defer to more-knowledgable Hobokenauts for this one, but I want to say there was a second incarnation of Pier Platters later on (before it, too, closed).
In case you’re too much of a whippersnapper or were too young to make it across the river to Pier Platters, check out this great little video of Daniel Johnston (another beloved and eccentric figure of the mid-80’s indie scene) performing therein circa 1988). Today, much like Rocks in Your Head, the space that the original Pier Platters shop occupied is now a real estate agency.
More about beloved record shops on Flaming Pablum here:
Great Since-Closed Record Shops
Where the Music Used to Live
Where the Music Used to Live: Slight Return
Where the Music Lived: Remastered Extra Tracks
Where the Music Lived: REMIX
Can't Get This Stuff No More: Music Shopping in `95
Late for Lunch: The Demise of the Manhattan Music Shop Circuit