Not to be that guy, but I remember when Rebel Rebel fucking opened! The promise of a crisply appointed, lovingly stocked record and disc shop, meticulously curated and named after a hallowed Bowie anthem? Fuckin’ SIGN ME UP! Given the shop's eye for fastidious presentation, a slight air of exclusivity and a reverent appreciation of the rarefied import, as a rampant Anglophile smitten with hard-to-acquire CD singles from esoteric British indie bands -– it swiftly became a regular stop.
My high school pal and fellow music geek Rob B. and I would routinely pile into Rebel Rebel to rifle through the bins and chat with the staff, giving each secret nicknames behind their backs. Slim and hirsute sales assistant Gary was swiftly re-christened “Boy Gary,” while Dave behind the counter became “French Dave.” If I’m not mistaken, he was thus dubbed because of a tiny replica of the Eiffel Tower behind the cash register, leading us to assume he was French. He wasn’t, of course, but given his somewhat endearingly snotty reputation (essentially “service with a sneer”), he certainly seemed French.
In relatively short order, however, French Dave stopped sneering at us, as he recognized us not only as loyal, regular and paying customers, but I’d like to think he applauded our appreciation for the minute details of music collecting. Once he became acquainted with our tastes, Dave would routinely set certain items aside for us, reserving limited edition copies of hotly-sought-after discs that he knew we’d be interested in. Dutifully, while it may have been more convenient to procure certain albums at places like Tower or some other outlet, we would reverently choose to shop at Rebel Rebel. More to the point, items sold at Rebel Rebel were immaculately presented, and handled with the utmost care.
Rebel Rebel also had things that NO ONE else in the city would ever begin to know about, be it the “Kennedy” single by The Wedding Present through Heaven Born and Ever Bright by far-flung British prog-punk quartet, Cardiacs. Dave knew.
In time, Rebel Rebel’s focus shifted a bit towards club music and, I guess, the proto-EDM one might hear at its neighborhood’s nightlife establishments (I’m talking about gay dance clubs, if you’re failing to decode that sentence). Given the shop’s placement just off Christopher Street, that made perfect sense, and Dave still stocked the good stuff for we rock dorks (like the Killing Joke singles collection, brandished here with red-faced aplomb by my daughter Charlotte).
Like so many other stores of its kind, however, Rebel Rebel started to struggle with spiraling rents and decreased demand for its once-exotic fare. As its peers like Bleecker Bob’s, Rocks in Your Head, Venus Records, Kim’s, Golden Disc, Route 66, Second Coming and more started to fold, Rebel Rebel defiantly (as it would) held strong. But it was looking like an arduous battle.
As the years went by, the store started to clog up a bit, with stock crammed untidily in browser-impeding boxes all over the place, making the shopping experience a bit less simple. I suppose they’d exhausted their storage facilities, but it began to look like a bit of an unwieldy fire hazard. I continued to regularly stop in, but the writing was soon on the wall.
News came down this morning via Jeremiah Moss that Rebel Rebel will shut its doors at the end of this month, effectively driving another nail into the coffin of the New York City of my youth, and the colorful character of downtown.
To borrow a line from Jello Biafra, let’s lynch the landlord.