Update, December 31, 2004. Wowsville is no more. The pink painted exterior remains, but the store is dark, the sign torn down, and a for rent sign in the window. Let us have a moment of silence for the passing of a landmark... and I didn't get a chance to buy that damn Age of Plastic LP.
Update, January 1, 2005. Wowsville is closed because its owner is returning to Spain after five years of serving NYC's record needs. Godspeed.
Wowsville is a used record store located at 152 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, just off of St. Mark's Place. At the time of this writing, the facade is covered by construction scaffolidng, but the hot pink paint job of the exterior will still catch your eye. Inside the tiny store, you'll notice the hot pink walls, though many of them are covered in record sleeves and posters. At the back corner of the store, a giant statue of Rat Fink stares back at you. This, is paradise.
When you enter, on each side of the door, every vertical surface is covered in flyers for local bands doing gigs, many at nearby CBGB's. A low rack of music periodicals sits on the left side as you enter. Past that is a rack filled with 45s, densely packed, and alphabetically organized. Beneath this are baskets filled with LPs and 12 inch singles, the cut-out bins. Here you will find anything that's in poor condition, doesn't fit in with the normal selection, or is just crap. Among the 45s, however, you'll find indie punk singles, and the occasional single froma well known band. (At last check, they had two Devo 45s hidden in the D section).
On the right, across from the 45s, is the counter. Behind it, a clerk will usually be sitting, playing an LP of whatever strikes his fancy, which will be blasted, quite loudly, throughout the store. On the counter, and behind it you'll find various collectable things that don't go into the LP stacks. A box set of Black Sabbath singles on 45, for example. Often, there's a box of yellow 45 RPM adaptors sitting on the counter, in case you need one for your single. And, of course, there's more flyers.
The meat of the store is further down, red wooden racks holding a massive collection of LPs. They're divided into sections - first a new arrivals section, then a spot devoted to punk, then blues and classic rock, jazz, free jazz, world music, and finally new wave and... obscure stuff. These sections are further divided by wood slats into alphabetical order. Some artists even get their own divider, like Captain Beefheart, or The Beatles.
Gems that can be picked up in the racks include a mint copy of The Beatles' Revolver, A sealed Green Onions album by Booker T and the M.G.s. The Doors' first album without Jim Morrison, A sealed copy of Kraftwerk's breakthrough album Autobahn, and an LP of The Residents' Fingerprince. Hanging above the racks are even more records, rare and unusual. Picture discs, japanese imports, collectors editions and more, all for sale. (And if anyone takes The Buggles' Age Of Plastic LP before I do, I'll hunt you down and kill you.)
On the other side of the store, a yellow rack holds piles of punk CDs, many by local bands. There's not much to see on this side, alas, but if punk is your thing and you lack analog playback equipment (i.e. a record player), this is your place.
Wowsville's prices can be a bit on the high side, but they always stock stuff that's high quality. They're big on the obscure and the weird. One could spend forever and a day in their tiny store. Be prepared with cash, as they don't take credit cards. You'll have a hard time not walking out of there with anything. If you do buy something, their hot pink plastic bags are worth saving. A word of advice, save five bucks for a falafel from the awesome falafel joint nearby.
Gems I've acquired from Wowsville include:
King Missile - Mystical Shit
Microdisney - Crooked Mile
Wall Of Voodoo - Far Side Of Crazy (12" Single)