When I saw the sign on their store thanking us for the memories, I was a bit melancholy. They were more than just a record store – they were a place to hang out – spend hours with headphones listening to samples.
The people who worked there were for the most part, characters. When I was into classical music, there was a woman who worked at my store who was their classical music expert. She’d recommend to me the CD to get with her preferred conductor. If you liked jazz, there was usually a jazz person. And so on.
There was no company dress-code – no cookie-cutter approach to store architecture at their various locations around the world, no corporate single face.
At the height of their success in 1999, they had over a billion dollars in sales. Seven years later, they declared bankruptcy.
It all started from a corner drugstore, and a teenaged boy selling used records from their juke box at the soda fountain of his father’s drug store. At their height, they were a musical powerhouse that influenced the record industry immensely.
The colors for their famous sign seen around the world used the colors from the Shell Oil Company logo.
Just saw an interesting documentary on the subject by Sacramentan Colin Hanks. I always thought that Tower was just a victim of technology and changing times – brick-and-mortar stores vs. Amazon.
While that was a factor, it was not the factor. Their 85 stores in Japan, which they were forced to sell by creditors, are still thriving.
There are interesting interviews with recording powerhouses from David Geffin to Bruce Springsteen and Elton John. John was by his own admission the biggest customer at their Sunset Blvd store in Los Angeles. Of course, founder Russ Solomon is telling you about those times.
The story of how he found the location of his first store outside Sacramento – in San Francisco at Columbus and Bay Streets, is hilarious. Let me just say he was a bit hung over from the previous night.
All Things Must Pass is in a limited run, but if it is in your town and Tower Records was a part of your life, it is a must see.