Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pier Platters - An Introduction

Ode to a fallen empire. I moved out to Jersey late summer of '88. The first job I got was at a record store in NYC. And it was miserable. I liked my coworkers a lot, but the store was, well, not my cuppa tea. The main floor was vinyl. This was back when records were still the reigning medium, though not much longer. But I worked in the CD/cassette department. This was a very Billboard centric store. Every Monday, the first job of the day was rearranging the Top 20 wall. Don't get me wrong. This establishment was very involved in breaking artists. Because the owner rented out his basement space to the major labels. If they had an artist that needed a push, the owner would buy boxes of an artists and store them in the basement. That counted as charting sales. When the artist eventually tanked, the owner just shipped the records back for a full refund and whatever he got in return. All on the artist's recoupable tab. Hooray. And for this, I made minimum wage, minus monthly dues to the instore union. I did get a pair of glasses outta the deal, which I still have and use, so I probly broke even on that scam.

Well, after about 9 months there, I finally got the call up I'd been hoping for, but doubted would ever happen. You see, one of the owners of the label I was signed to also co-owned Pier Platters. Now THAT was my kinda record store! The first time I visited Jersey to meet with the label, I ran over to Pier and dropped $200 on records I had only heard about in secret whispers with other hoarders like myownself. German Replacements promo discs with studio outtakes! Both dB's albums on one CD! And holy shit! A double LP of a festival of Austin indie bands that I didn't even know existed!

But right off the bat there was a problem. Ya see, Pier had two owners. The one I was in with was busy running the label. The other guy was running the store. And these two guys did not get along. At all. So here was the label owner telling his partner, "Here's your new employeeeeeeeeeeee!" Yippee.

OK. So I knew this wasn't gonna be easy, but there was no way I was gonna let this gig slip away. The pay was better than I was making, but more important, the perks were killer! The greatest records ever at cost! Little did I know, that was just the tip of the perks iceberg.

So I walked in knowing that I had plenty to offer this shop, but I would have to prove it. And fast! But I had a few things going for me. Besides my winning smile and sparkling personality, I had a mind for obscure rock and roll. I knew who had been in what band, which single had what otherwise unreleased B-side and so on and so forth. Although I quickly discovered that my field of knowledge was far narrower than I realized. There was one more minor issue. I was scared to death of my new boss.

Which brings us to the legend that is Bill Ryan. BILL RYAN! Grumpy, smokey, caffeiney, mumbling, arm itchy, growly Bill Ryan. I'm tempted to say there was a Bill Ryan running every record store back in the day, but it's just not true. I knew a bunch of them. They were no Bill Ryan.

I am absolutely positive that Bill wanted me gone the minute I walked in. I believe it no, I believed it then. He didn't know me. I was brought in by the enemy. Even then I knew that. Didn't take a West Point grad to see I was marching into a war zone.

And so I shall end this chapter with a cliffhanger. I had originally figured I'd write up a nice post on Pier for this blog as a commemoration of a wonderful time and place in so many people's lives, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that one mere post couldn't possibly contain the majesty that was Pier Platters. So many stories, so many people, so many pictures and mementos to gather for presentation. This story must continue! If you have any good stories and/or pictures, please leave a comment or email me for inclusion in forthcoming chapters. For on this blog, Pier Platters lives and breathes.

I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment to mention the first record store to ever employee me. Back in Dekalb, IL, I musta stopped by Record Revolution daily. It was just part of my day. I was always hoping a slot would open up and I'd finally get to live the dream, working at a record store. That slot finally opened up. Two weeks before I was to leave Dekalb for the big move to Jersey and rock stardom. Nevertheless, Mark Cerny, the owner, asked me if I wanted that job, knowing I would be gone in days. I accepted. I think I may have danced around the store as well. Mark took the time to train me and fill out all the pain in the ass employment tax forms knowing I would only be there for a week. Well, after almost 35 years, Mark finally closed up shop and retired a few weeks ago. The Rev will be missed. Mark, Bobbo and all my old friends from The Rev, thank you so much for all the great memories. Yer ol pal O still thinks of you often and remembers you fondly.


  1. Beautiful. I really had an excellent ally at Pier in you Otis, you knew your stuff. Now I'll recall what I said when I called Pier for that last time, "My girlfriend just broke up with me this week.. but I'm really broken up over Pier closing". Time proved it true.. now what the heck was that girl's name ???

  2. I dearly miss climbing over a wall of records just to take a forgetable leak.

  3. Ah, Latelle. You and those like you were the folks that kept Pier around as long as it was. Thanks for keeping a buncha goofballs employed!

  4. Can a brother get a part 2, please?