Play It Again Records closes — knew it well

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 1:42 pm by George Smith

Over 30 years ago I don’t think there was a day I wasn’t at Play It Again Records on the south side of Bethlehem.

When I was at Lehigh, it was a 5 minute walk from the chemistry building, easy to hit at lunch and the end of the day.

Play It Again was the only retail business that would carry Chainsaw fanzine, which was a diy punk rock pub put together by my ex-wife and myself. And it wouldn’t have carried Chainsaw if I hadn’t cajoled the owner, Joe Hanna, a man of open mind, into selling indie vinyl after I got tired of having to buy mail order. Plus it sold my record and our only Chainsaw cassette, “Annoy Your Neighbors With This Tape.”

A few years later, the store was also a hub for the community summer staff for WLVR, Lehigh’s college radio station.

It was a great place, indelibly part of the history, the good part, of the Lehigh Valley.

Hanna was actually the singer in a band we put together in the 80s, Senseless Hate, too. We rehearsed in the store — the original place at 333 S. New St. before it moved up the block to the place pictured. There were a few amusing if pointless shows, one song which made it to a punk rock omnibus.

From a recent Morning Call piece on the closing:

The space at 129 W. Fourth St. remained, at least Wednesday, equal parts retail store and dream dorm room. Wrestling figures, quirky posters and untold bric-a-brac share the business with rows and rows of records and CDs. The cassette stock has dwindled, but there are some of those, too, and CD-display stands.

Hanna, of Salisbury Township, will still own the building. He said he’s closing because he got an offer he couldn’t refuse from a restaurateur, John Okumus, looking to open a [pizza restaurant] there.

Hanna plans to remain open until Aug. 10, a few days before Okumus gets the key…

[When] Hanna started out, buying music to play at home was the only alternative to sitting by the radio waiting for your favorite song to come on.

“If you wanted to hear your song when you wanted to hear it, you pretty much had to buy the record,” Hanna said. “That was it.”

Buy the record. How quaint.

The business had been stable, I was informed, but the restaurant offer was a very good one. The south side of Bethlehem has been transformed. It went from a long time as a slum off Lehigh to being nice retail and entertainment real estate. Plus, 35 years is a fine run, all things considered.


  1. anon said,

    August 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    It was one of the rare, truly cool places for less than mainstream kinds of music in the Valley, back in the day.
    I bought this, in the audio cassette format, at Play It Again.

  2. George Smith said,

    August 3, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I had Husker Du records from it. Flip Your Wig was my favorite. I liked going to Third Street Jazz in Philly a few times a year, too.

    Speaking of nostalgia, the Call ran a story on another place I used to patronize. Willie Joe’s.