Finding Vinyl Records in New York’s West Village
There is something special about vinyl records that makes them feel like friends. Vinyl records are more than music — they are an experience. It all starts with the moment when you walk into the record shop and thousands of albums with their bright covers all vie for your attention. There are so many choices to make right in that moment, because there is no way you can possibly make friends with every album. Time, money, and space don’t allow for it. One day, perhaps you can go back and meet some of the ones you missed — assuming no one else has scooped them up at that point. For now, you only get one or two. B, C, and D are usually my go-to letters — theres a wealth of good possibilities right there. You’ve got Beatles, Dylan, Coldplay, Bon Iver…. it’s hard to strike out with such a stellar line up. If I have time, I’ll usually jump over to R and S — also promising consonants.
After selecting a new friend and bringing the album home, you slide it out of it’s cover and place it on a turntable, and it begins. The record spins to life — so much was hidden in the grooves of the vinyl. So much hangs on the constant rotation of the record. It’s also nice that it runs entirely independently of a WIFI connection or computer battery — there is little threat to the livelihood of the music (aside from dust and scratches), as long as it just keeps spinning, and you keep listening.
I have a deep appreciation for albums as a complete package — everything from the cover art to the order of the songs has a meaning, and vinyl helps you to full appreciate each of these artistic aspects of the whole. I wanted to spend an afternoon searching for some records for my collection, and decided there was no better place to go than the West Village, for all of it’s boho history and musical influence. I began on Carmine Street and looped my way throughout — having one of the best day’s I’ve ever experienced in New York.
#1: House of Oldies – Rare Records – 35 Carmine St, New York, NY
Literally one minute up the street from Joe’s Pizza (The famous workplace of Spiderman back in the day of Tobey Maguire) is this little gem. Its full of both old and new records – and they’re not kidding about having the most Beatle’s records in NYC. There are a lot of used records here, so theres a chance that you’ll stumble upon a real piece of history here. Sell your firstborn before you go, though. It’s expensive unless you want Jazz Instrumental albums.
#2: Village Music World – 197 Bleecker St, New York, NY
Not my personal favorite record store, but still fun to look through, and a ton of options. If you like really old records and don’t mind if they’re kind of falling apart, this place is your jam. I saw a lot of the lowest prices in this one. I’m considering going back to get a bunch to hang on my wall, although I don’t think I’ll ever beat the 50¢ record called “I Hired a Wino to Decorate Our House,” that I bought in Jerome, AZ. True Story.
*Note: I have not yet listened to the record – it deserves a special occasion.
#3 Rebel Rebel Records – 319 Bleecker St, New York, NY
I’m just going to have to say it: THIS ONE IS MY FAVORITE. I go in every time I’m on Bleecker Street, and they always have something I want. Don’t bother looking through the stacks that go from ceiling to floor, though. (See the window in the picture? Thats what the whole store is like.) Just mention an artist and the super cool dudes that work there know exactly where to look for your record. It feels almost like the record store version of Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Harry Potter. The selection ranges from Lady Gaga to Boston to musicals – there is something for everyone. Rebel Rebel is literally the size of a closet and jam-packed, so don’t go in with anyone else — keep this one for yourself. This record store is way too small for all of us.
#4 Generation Records – 210 Thompson St, New York, NY
Generation Records is by far the most organized record store in the Village. Everything is alphabetized, and the store is spread across two stories. I kind of prefer the hole-in-the-walls full of oldies, though. Generation does have a broad selection and a lot of newer records, but the chaotic whimsy of the other shops is a part of the experience for me. If you have a specific record in mind, though, Generation might be the place for you.
#5 Record Runner – 5 Jones Street, New York, NY
Record Runner is the most historically significant of the record stores. The album cover shot for Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin album was taken right outside Record Runner on Jones Street. Nifty, eh? (This album also features the world’s greatest song: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright. Go listen to it. Don’t waste your life.
I’m not gonna lie – this place is a little creepy at first. Jones Street seems a little off the beaten path now, and you have to ring a doorbell to be let into the store. (It makes sense, though. The owner, John, is usually in the back running the store himself, so he can’t just leave the door open for the records to “walk” out.) Plus, maybe it was the fact that it was 90 degrees out and there was no AC, but this place smelled really bad.
If you can overlook those details, or if you’re a big fan of Dylan, then you should definitely still visit at least once, though.
There are a ton of Bob Dylan albums here, as well as a bunch of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Stone Roses, and some other cool jams. If you’re looking for more modern records, you’ll find some of those on the higher shelves.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of record shops in NYC, but if you’re in the Village, you could easily get around to all of these in one afternoon. Stop at Jeffery’s Grocery for brunch and then head out for an afternoon with “friends.”