I started writing this as yet another requiem to Manhattan’s once-thriving network of amazing, independent record and disc shops, but I can only spin that sorry yarn so many times. Suffice to say, once they were plentiful, and then they became fewer and fewer. Then they became sparse. Now, they’re virtually extinct.
Word came down today that Other Music, a shop whose myriad merits I waxed rhapsodic about only this past October, is going to close toward the end of June. That's myself and my friend Drew in it above. The New York Times penned a depressing story about the shop’s impending demise today, citing in the headline that it’s “yielding to trends.”
Those with too much time on their hands and a keen eye for minutia might glean that I’ve titled this post with the same wording as how I’ve dealt with this year’s unprecedentedly cruel culling of iconic musicians. That’s not an accident, as losing Other Music is just as heartbreaking as losing Lemmy, Bowie and Prince. That might sound histrionic to folks who are content with streaming the latest dribble of the tepid sonic diarrhea that passes itself off as pop music today, but for those of us who’ve spent most of their lives absolutely cherishing music in all its richly diverse permutations and physical manifestations, it’s the gospel. And if you can’t wrap your head around that, you should stop reading now, as I’ll probably shortly write something that’s going to offend you.
If you’re someone who gets excited about indefensibly inane bullshit like Beyonce, Justin Bieber or Drake, you’re not going to understand this, as you’re either too young, too cognitively challenged or music just doesn’t mean that much to you.
Shops like Other Music meant more than simply a place to purchase things. For a start, I don’t think there was ever a time I set foot in the place and didn’t learn about, see or hear something new that spoke directly to my interests. Other Music was a browser’s paradise, especially given its pointedly left-of-the-dial sensibilities. Looking for the new Mariah Carey single, Journey box set or Kesha disc? You were shit out of luck, jerk-off. Looking for an obscure collection of pre-punk pub/garage rock, limited edition Robyn Hitchcock re-issue on vinyl, collection of rarified D.C. hardcore 7”s or a used-albeit-pristine copy of a rare SWANS opus? Other Music had you covered, and would happily chat with you about those excellent selections.
Personally speaking, as the ice floe I’m precariously stranded on drifts further and further away from the continents of “Cool” and “Relevant,” I find myself clinging tenaciously to places where my antiquated language is still spoken. It’s become increasingly rarer to be able to walk into a place where names like, I dunno, Scratch Acid, The Pop Group, The Modern Lovers, The Wedding Present, The Birthday Party, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, Cop Shoot Cop and/or yes indeed…goddamn Killing Joke might actually resonate with the ears and sensibility of a fellow human being. There had been other places – shops like Mondo Kim’s, Rocks in Your Head, Pier Platters, Second Coming, Bleecker Bob’s, Lunch for Your Ears, Rockit Scientist, Subterranean Records, Venus Records – but ALL of those places -- fucking ALL OF THEM -- are gone.
Yes, we still have a not-quite-handful of shops left in Manhattan, like Rebel Rebel, Generation Records, Bleecker Street Records, Record Runner (when it’s open) and the super far-flung Downtown Music Gallery, but with all due respect to those great ventures, they don’t come close to Other Music. I do love Rough Trade across the river, but that's not Manhattan.
Pour one out for Other Music.
And while we’re on the subject, fuck Record Store Day -- stop streaming and show your appreciation for the artists and independent local businesses by procuring your music in physical formats at your local record/disc store all year round. It’s really not that complicated.