He is possibly one of the last of his kind, but in any case he was one of the first … And it’s not long before he’s gone: Platten Pedro with his first Berlin store for second-hand vinyl in Charlottenburg. Farewell visit to a one-of-a-kind.
To be on the safe side, “We don’t have any CDs” is already written at the entrance door on the hand-corrected note with the opening hours. It’s stuck in a window sleeve with a perforated edge and sticks to the window from the inside. “Thieves, salesmen and chatterboxes are not welcome,” he says, but otherwise everyone who loves music is apparently welcome, and there must have been quite a few in the past 53 years – and not just from Berlin. In fact, Platten Pedro, whose real name is Peter Patzek, has made a name for himself far beyond the country’s borders with his range of products, almost inexhaustible expertise and, no doubt, his endearingly quirky manner.
You have to look closely to discover the small store at Tegeler Weg 102: the inconspicuous store front in white wooden frames is barely three meters wide, behind which one of the world’s most famous record antiquarians has been hidden for 45 years. By the way, Pedro created this name in the first place, because until then there was nothing comparable in Berlin in the sixties. And Pedro had everything: from hip-hop to marches (“for the very sick”), from opera to punk, from psych-rock to waltz. Well-ordered everything, of course. And if you couldn’t find your way around the shelves, which were packed to the rafters with handwritten cardboard cards, all you had to do was hum a few bars of the song you wanted to hear to Pedro, who usually knew what you were looking for. Rock, pop, reggae, jazz and blues – he knows them all.
“Love of music is there or it’s not there.” With Pedro, it was there. Very early. “My mother always listened to the radio and whistled along with it, and Peterchen thought it was great,” he recalls. When he was 13, his great-aunt gave him a portable gramophone. And a few records to go with it, that’s how it all started. Then came the boogie and the blues. “I’ve been collecting records since before rock’n’roll was even invented.” Back then, he often skipped school and went to the North Station in the West instead, chopping wood for a lumber and coal dealer. With the money he got there (one D-Mark for 20 boxes of wood), he always went straight to the nearest exchange office and then to a record store in Schönhauser Allee.
When school was over, he first learned to be a coppersmith. A friend of his mother’s was a master coppersmith, so it just seemed like the right thing to do. He didn’t like it. But if his friend had been a master carpenter, there might never have been a Pedro record, because he is fascinated by wood and likes to work with it. He could also have imagined building furniture. Or become a singer-songwriter, a pop singer. “I was one of the seventeen Elvises of Schönhauser Allee,” he grins. With his talent, he eventually went over to the West and performed in pubs.
He also recorded something himself, in 1967, for Electrola. It was his third single, together with Howard Carpendale, who was also just starting out at the time. With him it went better afterwards, well …
Then his wife had the idea that they should open a record store. That was in 1969, in Wilmersdorf. At that time, it was called “Platten Professor Pedro” and was Berlin’s only vinyl and shellac antiquarian shop to date. The nickname was given to him by Rolf Eden, in whose nightclub he had previously worked as a DJ for some time. The records from that time were the basis for the store. They then bought for a while … Since then, Pedro has specialized in used vinyl records. At the best of times he had about a quarter of a million records on his shelves. About 30,000 of them favorite records. He especially likes everything around 1930: “Waiter, two mochas, for Baby and for me, plus a piece of crumble cake …” he sings abruptly and giggles.
At the beginning, the store in Tegeler Weg wasn’t running at all, so he had to find a way to earn extra money, especially since he had five children to look after (one son of his own and four adopted ones). So he screwed together wheels for wheelchairs on the side, for Deutsche Orthopädische Werke. In the end, for 25 years.
“That’s how we made ends meet and I at least did something for my pension.”
A young man comes into the store, carrying a stack of records in front of him. Whether Pedro would like to take a look … He looks. Turns the pages. It doesn’t take long: “It doesn’t look good. The Capri Fischer…” (sings again) “When the red sun sinks into the sea at Capri … The Capri Fishermen are original with Rudi Schuricke. It’s all GDR stuff here, it’s far worse than Rudi Schuricke, you should give it away if you’re lucky, I’d have to dispose of it, you can forget about it … “. The young man seems surprised and says goodbye somewhat irritated.
Yes, Pedro knows his stuff. And has also always gone with the times. Only puts on the shelf what someone else wants to have. And no CDs. They “sound bad and look like shit. Only hazardous waste with packaging”, he is uncompromising.
Today, not much is left of the more than 100,000 records that until recently filled the simple wooden shelves of the small store. There were around 60,000 singles and 40,000 LPs. And then someone came along and bought them all, a Berlin Internet dealer. “He was only interested in the money, he didn’t give a damn about the music,” says Pedro. But basically he is happy about it. Because slowly he has to get rid of everything, even his household. “I’m moving to my girlfriend Susi at the Steinhuder Meer, in Neustadt.” Two stereo systems as well as the most important 1000 favorite albums are already there. That’s why, in addition to the remaining records (Tchaikovsky is now next to Ton Steine Scherben), various junk items can now be found on the remaining shelves: egg cups, vases, porcelain figurines, an old kitchen scale, pictures. But even these attract buyers: a small trader “from the Ukraine” is rummaging around, scrutinizing everything, looking for bargains. “Guys like that are one of the reasons I quit, these grabbers, want everything cheap,” Pedro says, frowning, when the man is out again.
He wants to be out of Berlin by December 15, just in time for his 80th birthday. He definitely doesn’t want to spend it with his family in Berlin. “I won’t do that to myself anymore, eight people at one table,” he says and laughs. It’s hard to believe that he’s actually that old.
As a parting gift, he invites me to take a copy of his book, a compact square work in dark fir green: “Tales of History & Image Maintenance – Record History(s)” is written at the top of the title, and “Platten Pedro’s Projekt” at the bottom. In between, a strip of loud little record covers. “Allet jeklaut” he grins. Then he sings again, “You should have seen him, you would have seen his eye reflecting in the light … bam, bam!” His voice sounds eerie at this and I realize what he means: The Alan Parsons Project with Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe. “What a brilliant record, a record of the century. With the great Arthur Brown as singer” he raves. And I can only agree with him.
It’s a shame that someone like that is leaving the neighborhood. And how nice that there was such a person here.
My name is Sonja and I write reports about your new neighborhood.