(In Times Square on Broadway @ 49th)
RIP, Colony Music (aka Colony Records, aka The Colony, etc.) The store is giving up its corner in Times Square for an internet-only existence. Times Square is the poorer for it.
When I hauled myself over there after physical therapy on Wednesday evening for one last visit, I realized it had been a long time since I’ve visited — making music isn’t a part of my life the way it used to be. It was a trip down memory lane to be there, though. Everything from fake books to violin études that I’ve owned (they’re probably all still in boxes somewhere here) were piled in dusty bins along with all kinds of printed music, including cheesy organ arrangements of sappy mid-century songs, marches popular in 1910, entire books of guitar music from bands I mostly really can’t stand, and much, much more. Though I don’t use it any more, there’s comfort for me in sheet music, though I realize that makes me a bit of a dinosaur (how many people even know how to read music these days?), especially when we’re talking not just about notes on staves, but about notes on staves on paper. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of what was on offer in the store is available for free on the interwebs these days.
The shop did offer some other things including music-related memorabilia, musicals on DVD, karaoke CDs, and more, but the sheet music always seemed the heart of the operation.
Or really, it was the neon. The neon COLONY letters outside were still glowing strongly on Wednesday when I visited — still animated to spell the store’s name out one at a time, then blink, then go dark, then start over. Which letter is your favorite?
Alas, the jumping girl (“I found it at the Colony!”) who held aloft the prize vinyl she had unearthed in the store’s basement record section, was already missing when I was there. Just a gap in the wall where she used to be. I wonder where she ended up? I hope she found a good home.
The employees were in a somber mood, and didn’t seem to welcome the many well-wishers who offered their condolences. I can’t blame them — finding a job these days is harder than finding a piece of sheet music in a disorganized bin. So I purchased my copy of 42nd Street without comment and walked outside to take one last look at my favorite corner in Times Square. I could feel I was about to start crying — silly, I know, for just some glowing glass tubes and an anachronistic shop on a valuable piece of real estate, but there it was — so I turned away and descended into the subway with my photos and my memories. If there’s no room for Colony in today’s New York City, I can’t help wondering how much longer there will be room for the rest of us dinosaurs.
There’s a documentary about Colony in the works. You can support it here:
Plenty of people have been writing about the end of the Colony shop recently. Here are a few:
(In Times Square on Broadway @ 49th)
You guys, I am heartbroken. The New York Times reports today that Colony Music in Times Square is likely to close soon. Could this be a false alarm? Maybe, but to be honest I always wondered how a sheet music store was able to hang on to such a prime piece of real estate in today’s Times Square. *Sigh* I’ve never been totally happy with my photos of the sign (the blue & red combo is always tricky to photograph since the blue tubes are pretty dim and red relatively bright), so maybe I’ll try to visit again this weekend and get some better photos. Or maybe I’ll finally do what I’ve been meaning to do and rent a better camera for a couple of days and see if that makes a difference.
I wish we could run a Kickstarter campaign to save Colony, but the world has changed and how many people even read music now? To be honest I haven’t been in lately so I’m not sure how much of their stock is now CDs or vinyl, but those, too, are becoming (have become?) artifacts of a bygone era.
The day Colony leaves will be a sad day for Times Square, for New York City, and for neonophiles everywhere. What will happen to the signs? Has anyone asked the owners? I’m a little bummed the New York Times article doesn’t even mention the iconic neon.
As those of you who follow along on Twitter have noticed, I took a trip to Amsterdam this month. Neon wasn’t my focus, but I took a few pics and will post a report soon.
In other Project Neon news, I’m still a bit slow on the neon explorations, as my back problems (herniated L5 disc and S2 sciatica) continue. I started physical therapy this week, though, so hopefully I’ll be fully up and running in time for the fall commencement of neon season.
For some great signage in the mean time, check out Roadside Architecture, a Project Neon favorite. She’s in the midst of a road trip now, and documenting all kinds of great signage, including neon.
Friendly Motor Inn
(In Williamsbridge, The Bronx, on East Gun Hill Road btwn Boston Road & Laconia Avenue)
Oh, you guys, I’ve been sick the last few days and thus am mightily behind on everything. Partly due to the unreliable peregrinations of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, partly due to frigid temperatures, I wasn’t able to make it in time to make a proper visit to the places I’ve visited in Brooklyn & The Bronx before catching this durn cold, but I’ll show you a few pictures anyway. Here’s the first catch-up entry, about my visit to The Bronx one recent frigid night.
No, I did not check into the Friendly Motor Inn… I’m a fan of cheap and even, some would say, sleazy motels, but this one was a little too colorful even for me. I do love the classic look of the sign, though — not one I would have expected to see within New York City limits. In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I purposely framed the shot to eliminate the less attractive lit part above.
The motel sign was a happy discovery, but the sign I went to Williamsbridge to photograph was, sadly, only 50% working. It’s still a great sign, though: The Palomba Academy of Music:
A cheerful sign for what looks like a cheerful seller & teacher of musical instruments. Two kids dragged parents past me as I photographed, eager for music. I hope to see the sign in full glow sometime soon.
There were a couple of other small signs nearby, but it was too cold for me explore too far, and in truth there are only so many creepy old men muttering things at me I can take in one night (luckily I wore my giant goofy hat with earflaps so I have no idea what any of them said), so I packed it in and headed south.
On the way back I made two stops in Harlem, one to find an unlit sign I’ll show you some time when I find it lit, the other to finally see the Harlem YMCA sign alight:
For some reason I had not realized there was a second part up top (2nd photo) when I had seen the sign in the day time. It’s a great beacon glowing across the neighborhood. And I really like the lower sign (the 1st photo) with its slightly seriffed, not a common choice for neon.
OK, a couple more entries to follow — probably tomorrow — including one with a proper neon visit. See you then!