Saturday, May 22, 2010

Vinyl & Bleecker St. Records on Seinfeld

I'm a big fan of Seinfeld. The other day, I was watching the classic episode "The Old Man." I hadn't seen this one in a while, and certainly not since I've been collecting records, so it never really stuck out to me the role vinyl and record collecting plays in the storyline.

First, Kramer and Newman are trying to hawk some vinyl at a place called Bleecker Bob's Records. In reality, I think, that store is Bleecker St. Records in Greenwich Village. I've been there, and it looks just like the store in the episode. It's an great shop if you're ever in the area, and they have an absolutely insane collection of vinyl, ranging from whatever you can find in the crates, to gloriously displayed (on the walls) rare and super-expensive records (they have a $500+ U.K. Sgt. Peppers, which I think is one of the most expensive I've ever seen in person.)

Anyway, there's this scene (video here--I'd embed, but NBC doesn't get that whole thing, apparently) where Kramer and Newman go into the shop and run into one Tobin Bell, playing the record store owner straight out of central casting: mustached, dressed down, otherwise uninterested in dealing with those two. He dispassionately and routinely offers them "5 bucks" for whatever they have to offer -- which is probably about right, as far as I can tell.

Given how oblivious I was to the vinyl reference in this episode, though, it got me thinking about what the vinyl world looked like when this episode aired -- in 1993! I wonder what people in their 20s, 30s and 40s thought, seeing a record shop and vinyl on the teevee again. I personally have no idea, because I was 5 years old. But given the immense growth of the industry/vinyl world in just the past few years, it's safe to assume, I think, this world looked nothing like it does today. It was probably an even smaller niche than it was now. I imagine there were still crate diggers, but perhaps it wasn't as "mainstream" -- if it even is now. Certainly it wasn't big enough to get a Record Store Day reference on Saturday Night Live.

It's interesting to think, though, about the cycle of vinyl. It was big when it was the dominant form of music. Then, probably around 1993, give or take a few years, it receded into oblivion. Now? Record Store Day is huge for the consumers, and the record companies -- not to mention the shops. More than 1,500 people showed up for the last D.C. record fair. Vinyl's back.

I'm not sure what it all means. But I'm really interested to see what this vinyl thing will look like 17 years from today.

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