I almost didn't go, but something made me hail a cab to Times Square and run in before heading to dinner this Wednesday. Colony Records is a music institution in Times Square. It's been there for 65 years, and on Wednesday, September 19th at 6PM, I walked in to see almost everything in boxes on its way back to Hal Leonard. I was so upset that I think I made the owner feel even worse. It turns out his mother lives in Florida about a mile from me. He told me how the internet and the rent hikes had made it impossible for him to survive.
Before the internet (and yes, there was once such a time when we had to deal directly with humans to get and share information), Colony Records was the place you went to find sheet music and learn about music that was unfamiliar to you. You could walk through the rows of music and find songs you never knew. Single songs. Collections. Records. They always had arrangements in your key. For me, Colony Records was an adventure. It was a treasure trove, with history in every aisle.
The people who worked there knew things. Many of them were musicians, and the customers were as eclectic as the staff. I remember eavesdropping on fascinating conversations when a customer would recognize an employee. "Didn't you used to play in such-and-such band?"The employee would nod, and they would reminisce about the band, the music, and the people they knew.
As he finished the packing, Michael Grossbardt (I later learned he is a co-owner) gave me a deal I couldn’t refuse on the music that wasn't boxed yet, along with some glamorous photos of Barbra Streisand, which I gave to a friend who worships her.
There will never be another place like it. The internet is intoxicatingly convenient, but it doesn't listen to you, show you rare arrangements, or share secrets about the old days. As I left, the owner locked the door for good. He told me that I was his last customer. It's the end of an era.