Bleecker Bob has died
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Robert Plotnik, the titular owner of NYC’s iconic Village record store Bleecker Bob’s, has died. The sad news was confirmed by friend and store partner Jennifer Kitzer. Bob had been in declining health for some time after suffering a stroke in 2001. The store stayed open till 2013. NYC/Brooklyn store Academy Records offering up this tribute:
RIP to Bleecker Bob, a true legend on the NYC record store scene and probably the most singular character among that very idiosyncratic bunch. I first got to know Bob and his wise cracking sarcasm as a teenager in the late 70s as I soiled my fingers flipping through his grimy reused record sleeves. I also quickly learned that he loved an equal dose of sarcasm in return and our interactions were some of my first tastes of what it meant to be a real New Yorker. When I first opened my store in 2001 it was a real badge of honor when he came to check it out and told me it didn’t suck too bad. Catch ya on the B side..
Bleecker Bob’s Golden Oldies was one of the most iconic record stores in NYC, with Bob’s brusk tone being as well known as the shop’s selection of vintage vinyl. Bowie, Robert Plant, Frank Zappa and others were regular customers, and Bob’s was famously a plot point in a 1993 episode of Seinfeld. (Watch a clip below.) When the store closed in 2013, SPIN ran a big feature on it, Bob, and the store’s legacy:
“Bleecker Bob’s record store was the first store I ever saw that was the model for the little indie record shops that are now everywhere,” says Blondie guitarist Chris Stein. “It was very funky, and Bob was a very specific odd character. There’s definitely a movie in there somewhere.”
One punk-era character — Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye — frequented the shop so much that Plotnik offered him a job. Kaye worked at Village Oldies from 1970 to about 1975. Long before he and Smith even considered playing music with one another, Smith would come in and hang out at the store, just spinning records. “We mostly listened to group-harmony records of the South Jersey, Philadelphia area,” the guitarist now says. “We’d play Maureen Gray’s ‘Today’s the Day,’ the Dovells’ ‘Bristol Stomp,’ the Blue Notes’ ‘My Hero.’ And the occasional Smoky Robinson, of course. She’d come in and if nobody was in the store, we’d do a little dancing around. It was nice. She lived around the corner. It was our local hang.”
Kaye credits the way he played his favorite 45s from the ’60s at the store as one of his inspirations for his celebrated 1972 compilation of psych- and garage-rock, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968. “Late on a Saturday night, when no one was around and I’d have a beer, I’d just be pulling records off the shelf,” he says. “So when I had the chance to do Nuggets for Elektra, I had kind of a basic map of the types of groups and songs that would fit into this concept. They were my favorite records from the ’60s. I’d pull out 13th Floor Elevators, then I’d pull out ‘Liar Liar’ by the Castaways and follow that up with [Count Five’s] ‘Psychotic Reaction.’”
Rest in peace, Bob.
Watch a documentary about the final days at Bleecker Bob’s, and clips from the Seinfeld episode, below