Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Free Be Jeebies

[This title kinda reminds me of the time my moms took a phone message for me about meeting some friends for a show at CBGB's--only she had misheard the name as Heebie Jeebies. Most decidedly not Pandora's Golden ones, though.]

FREEBEING RECORDS, 129 Second Avenue just south of St. Marks Place. Or was it Free Being? I've seen the name of this late, lamented '70s/'80s record shop spelled both ways. According to the aforementioned Mike Fornatale, it "was one of the few places buying/selling used LPs in 1972...(sigh)...those were the days!" I recently rented the DVD of The Nomi Song--a required-viewing elegy for both a man and an era gone by--and among the many excellent extras is a brief "slide show" of some of director Andrew Horn's fave old East Village haunts. To a photo of Freebeing's front sign, he narrates as follows:

I think this was the first record store that I can remember where I started noticing the first sort of independently produced records. There was a point at which the bands at that time started realizing that for a few hundred dollars you could press your own record, and suddenly there was this explosion of records all over the place. And every week or every day [the store] would paste the new single that had just come out in the door, and the door would be full of all these singles. And I think this is the first place where I ever saw the B-52s single and the Elvis Costello.

Some other customer recollections are available here, here, here, and here, but unfortunately they have more to do with records found there than with the vibe and appearance of the store itself. I visited the store a few times as a tentative teenybopper during my earliest solo East Side expeditions (only after fully exploring the Greenwich Village frontier was it finally time to venture beyond Broadway's DMZ). Can't recall any specific items I bought, but I do remember the shop as a loud, crowded, lively hive of frenzied record-flipping activity. I'm not sure when it closed down, but ISTR a San Loco taco stand appearing in its stead by the late '80s. If I'm not mistaken, around that same time there was a record shop on Carmine Street calling itself Freebeing--but I may have the name wrong, and even if I am correct it may not have been a new location for the original. [Despite my iffyness about the Carmine St. shop's name, I can clearly recall how overjoyed I was upon finding a mint vinyl copy of the Jam's All Mod Cons there during my big 1988 Paul Weller phase.]

Since I never got into Friends I haven't seen this, but apparently one of the storefronts near Central Perk was named Free Being Records in honor of executive producer Kevin Bright's fond memores of the shop. As for the real storefront, it is currently home to Cinderella Falafel.

UPDATE 7/20/2006: Just found out that The Big Takeover's Jack Rabid worked there in the mid-'80s.

UPDATE 11/1/2010:  This photo was recently posted to the NY Rocks Facebook group--a portion of the store's sign is visible in the center.

Also, quite a while back I located some ads in the 1971 Voice which revealed that the store was originally  called Silverlight.  Here's one example, from the 7/29/71 issue.


Anonymous said...

I went to college in NYC and visited Freebeing a few times. First and most memorable was an in-store appearance by the Ramones (fall 1976, maybe??) The store was almost empty, other than a few band members, when we arrived in late afternoon. I vaguely remember the store as being bright and only a couple of aisles wide. Joey was sort of draped over one of the bins of albums, and managed to scrawl his autograph for me, on the reverse side of an library receipt for an overdue book. Now that I think of it, I should take a look at that receipt and see if it has the full date.

Hernan Hernandez said...

I periodically check the Internet for any "Freebeing" sightings... I was a huge fan of the store, brought hundreds and hundreds of records there... and spent hundreds of hours there as well. I discovered it back in 1973 and I was instantly hooked. That led to my being a HUGE record collector as well as for learning to appreciate the beauty of well-preserved used records.

Freebeing (and it was one word, not two) was a tiny but very clean and extremely well organized record shop. Browsing was simple, elegant, physically comfortable and always a thrill. The collection available for sale was always amazing. Simply amazing stuff. They also sold a handful of "New," still sealed records and that is how I purchased the Beatles two hits collections back in 1973: the Red and Blue double albums.

I discovered the store on walks with my dad to the East Village. We lived in the Lower East Side and on Sundays, on occasion, dad used to take me for a walk to St. Mark's Place. I was a child then but am now convinced that Dad enjoyed these trips because St. Marks was lousy with Hippies back then, and Hippie chicks were rather free with breast feeding in public, right on the curb on St. Marks. Sometimes there be 3-4 of them doing so, back-to-back. Ha! Well, dad's voyeuristic jaunts led to me discovering Freebeing Records and that led to a life of record collecting and a deep and abiding love of all things Classic Rock. Thank you Dad, Thank you Hippies, Thank you St. Marks, Thank you FREEBEING RECORDS!!!

I would love to see some photos of the old Freebeing Records if anybody's got some!

Signed D.C. said...

Wonderful and hilarious comment Hernan, thank you! Believe it or not, according to my Dad public breastfeeding in NYC was fairly common even before the hippie era, at least among folks from the "old country"...Italy in his case, and this would have been in the '30s and '40s. He claimed it even happened on the subway!

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Yvonne Babineaux said...

I also bought used records at Freebieng and yes it did move to Carmine street, same owner. He told me he regretted the move.

Signed D.C. said...

Thanks Yvonne--glad to know I didn't hallucinate that.

Mike Fornatale said...

I'm going to settle the Freebeing vs. Free Being controversy -- by making the somewhat delightful point that it can't be settled. The sign out front definitely had it as one word. The price tags, on the other hand, just as definitely showed it as two. ;)

Unknown said...

Back in '72 I frequented FreeBeing quite regularly. It was there that I got a job as a columnist with Circus Magazine from '72-'74. Those were the days!