Shortly after Record Store Day 2017, it seems, the final iteration of Disc-O-Rama on West 8th Street closed for good. That’s its window above, behind my giggling son. If I’m being honest, the loss of this particular shop doesn’t really resonate too strongly with me, although, to be fair, its closing does mark the end of the physical manifestations of music being sold on West 8th Street. That is, unless, of course, you count buying cracked, used CD’s at the Goodwill shop a few storefronts down.
Prior to the 8th Street location –- never its strongest -– there was also a Disc-O-Rama outlet on the eastern strip of Union Square, but the Disc-O-Rama (not to be confused with Disc-O-MAT, which was a separate endeavor entirely from an earlier era) I remember most was the one at 188 West 4th Street (this being prior to that same location becoming the home of the ousted Bleecker Street Records for a few years). That Disc-O-Rama was actually quite a regular stop for me and my similiary inclined cohorts.
It didn’t cater to any partiular demographic, but they had a wide, respectable selection in the late 80’s and into the 90’s, specializing in rare promotional items that -– in the era prior to the dawn of eBay -– were often difficult to track down. I remember prizing a rare -– at the time -– import compilation by the Red Hot Chili Peppers there called Sock-Cess, and the Limited Edition 3-Mini CD version of XTC’s Oranges and Lemons there. Nowadays, you can find both of those items on eBay without having to put your pants on, but once again, prior to the crippling convenience of the “World Wide Web,” ridiculous crap like this required a bit more effort to track down. And tracking it down was a large part of the fun, which is why places like Disc-O-Rama were so special. They catered to the feverishly fixated collector-idiot as well as the passively undemanding, impartial populist.
Another aspect of Disc-O-Rama that kept us coming back was the guy behind the counter. The shop was managed by an affable Lebanese guy named Simon, who usually rolled his eyes when myself and my friend Rob routinely darkened his doors, searching for some far-flung Sisters of Mercy CD single or slightly misprinted U2 promo 12”. That said, he quickly came to recognize us as seriously loyal customers -– although I think he was under the misaprehension that Rob and I were brothers -- and summarily started to put stuff on hold for us, knowing exactly the type of crap we’d be looking for. He was that kinda guy, and it was that kinda shop.
But, in time, that incarnation of Disc-O-Rama closed, although I can’t remember why. Simon repaired to the Union Square location for a while, but vanished after that. The West 4th Street space re-opened (in a different configuration) as Bleecker Street records, but that’s gone too. Because, y’know, most people don’t consume music in this manner anymore.
The Disc-O-Rama that opened up on 8th Street was filled with lots of seemingly random, poorly arranged stock, and was hard to navigate. The folks who worked there didn’t have much of a clue about what they had, much less did they give much of a fuck. I saw more people buying Lotto tickets there than albums.
A few years back, I was buying a lamb sandwich at a Lebanese food truck called Toum and from within the truck I hear “Hey, Sister-of-Mercy man -- where’s your big brother?” I looked up and saw Simon. He’d given up music retail to get into the mobile food biz.
Hey, it’s a living.