Monday, March 9, 2009

RIP Virgin Megastore, Mondo Kim's, and No Radio Records

I found out last summer that next month, The Virgin Megastore would be closing for good. This is incredibly sad for me, since every trip I've made to New York City since I started traveling there was never complete for me without a visit to The Virgin Megastore's Times Square location. Part of the fun in traveling down there was to see what I could pick up at the megastore to listen to on the way back.

The store played a huge role in the development of my musical tastes. Over the years, I purchased albums by Bob Dylan (John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Blood on the Tracks, and Desire), The Byrds (Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, Younger Than Yesterday, Sweetheart of the Rodeo), Joni Mitchell (Song To A Seagull, Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, Court & Spark, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and Hejira), Buffalo Springfield's Buffalo Springfield Again, Television's Marquee Moon, Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights, Serge Gainsbourg's The History of Melody Nelson and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Honestly, I have no idea how I will fill that void now that that store will be gone. I bought a few DVDs there too (Don't Look Back, Hullabaloo, Vol. 2), but purchasing music was what made it special for me.

Another music store that's closed recently is Mondo Kim's at St. Mark's Place in the East Village. Before I had Brian to crash with, I would have friends meet me there, and we'd stop to eat somewhere nearby. I bought music here, too, including albums by The White Stripes, Cat Power, The Dirtbombs, and even a curio by Timothy Leary (shut up). The upstairs floor was a haven for anyone who was into foreign and independent films, and even stocked DVDs from other regions. I remember spotting a few Warhol Region 2 DVDs that I dreamt of buying...if I only had the money. The atmosphere was reminiscent of the old, dingy New York that I read about but was too young to witness. Yet another victim of Lower Manhattan's Gentrification.

The last record store that's closing that I'd like to comment on is No Radio Records, which is/was actually in Ithaca, New York, and I only found out about it last night that it would be closing its doors later this week. If I wasn't going down to Austin, I would most definitely be making a point to go to their final shows. When No Radio Records opened in August of 2006, it was the fufillment of a longtime dream for owners Bob Proehl and Luke Fentchel.

I stopped at No Radio as often as I could, and enjoyed making conversation with Bob about music. I also bought albums by Charles Mingus, Peaches, X, Art Brut, My Bloody Valentine, The Kills, and Stereolab there. Other than its opening day, I never saw too many people in there, and its main draw always seemed be live music (I saw The Super Furry Animals there last year), and I wondered if Bob and Luke wouldn't have had better luck opening a live venue instead. When I found out that Virgin and Mondo Kim's would be closing, I had a feeling that the closing of No Radio wouldn't be far behind. I'm sure Bob and Luke will continue to host parties such as "The Cure vs. The Smiths" at the Chanti-Loft, though.

All three stores were at the mercy of the economy of music shifting toward digital downloads and live performance. Nobody buys CDs anymore, except me, and even I'm starting to realize that CDs take up too much space. Oh, well. I'll have memories for my grandchildren, I guess...

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