Punk record store no longer played in a changed Soho

Volume 75, Number 49 April 26 – May 2 2006

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Ira Barouch, owner of Rocks in Your Head, on Monday — holding Bob Dylan’s “Self-Portrait” album — two days before the record shop’s last day in Soho. Below, the decidedly unchic exterior of the Prince St. store.

Punk record store no longer played in a changed Soho

By Lincoln Anderson

When Rocks in Your Head opened on Prince St. in 1978, it had only been a few years since artists had colonized the airy lofts in the formerly desolate manufacturing neighborhood. New York City’s punk and new wave music scene was flourishing, and Rocks in Your Head sold The Clash, Buzzcocks and Siouxsie and the Banshees albums before these bands even had American distributors.

But with Soho’s storefronts long since transformed from art galleries to high-end designer boutiques and teeth-whitening salons, the record store’s days were numbered. A sign of the inevitable, a postcard shop dating from 1970 that was Rocks in Your Head’s neighbor closed its doors a few months ago, replaced by yet another accessories store.

Ira Barouch, Rocks in Your Head’s owner, will close the store on Wednesday, and plans to relocate to 133 Roebling St. in Williamsburg.

“I’ve been losing money for the last few years, and the rents being what they are, business hasn’t been good,” Barouch said on Monday. “The name of retail is location, location, and when the location’s not any good, that’s why we’re moving.

“I’ve been complaining about Soho for 20 years,” he said. “This used to be an interesting neighborhood. When I first opened, I could stand on the street and at least half the people walking by were potential customers and interested in music. Now, it’s much less. Hopefully, Williamsburg’s a cooler neighborhood.”

The store’s rent is currently $5,000 a month, up from $300 a month in 1978.

Barouch said the store from the start concentrated on punk, new wave and no wave, not because he was particularly interested in it, but because that was “the zeitgeist” of the rock scene at the time.

Over the years, the place has been a hangout for musicians, producers and others in the music scene. Lydia Lunch used to frequent the store. More recently, Vito Roccoforte, the drummer of post-punkers The Rapture, worked there.

“He got too big with The Rapture. He couldn’t work here anymore,” Barouch noted.

Brad Hargette, of the band Crystal Stilts, working the cash register on Sunday, said the profit margin of the trendy boutiques far outstrips what Rocks in Your Head could make.

“We might make $5 on a CD,” he said. “They’re selling $400 purses. It’s nothing but women’s shopping now,” he said of Soho.

Said Barouch, “When people found out we were moving, they said, ‘Oh no, you’re one of the last ones. You’re like the dinosaur.’ ”