I loved Tower Records, but I never felt a thing about any of the other big record store chains like Sam Goody, Virgin, or HMV Records. I'm sure that over a 20-year period I bought 1,000 albums at Tower Records in New York City, vs. maybe one or two at the other chains. It's easy to explain why; the other majors weren't interesting enough to hold my attention. Their inventories were too superficial; when they'd have just a small handful of Miles Davis titles, Tower had a hundred.
Tower stores were in sync with the local music scene, so their store a few blocks from Lincoln Center had mammoth classical and opera selections. Tower Records was open till midnight seven days a week, and it was a great place to meet and hang with music lovers. Sure, the Internet has a bigger selection, but it's a lot less fun. I met a lot of really knowledgeable salespeople at Tower over the years, and they were exactly like the music geeks that worked at smaller shops in NYC. In that sense Tower had the vibe of a neighborhood shop, but one with a vast inventory.
So when I heard actor Colin Hanks (Tom's son) was on Kickstarter raising money to make a documentary film, "All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records," I had to talk to him.
Hanks is definitely an old-school guy, so when he called, he dialed my number on his rotary phone! Right, he's into vinyl and started frequenting the Tower store in Sacramento when he was a kid. Russ Solomon opened the original Tower in 1960, and before that he started selling records in the back of his father's drug store in the 1940s.
Hanks struck me as a man on a mission to document the story arc of a company that mirrored the good times and bad times in the record business. He's already surpassed his Kickstarter project goal of $50,000 in a week, but he still wants to raise more for the film. There's a lot of work still left to do.
Hanks has already shot footage inside a local Tower, which looks intact, except for the fact it doesn't have any records! He's interviewed Russ Solomon in depth about the history of the store, which in the year 2000 was still doing $1,000,000,000 in business. Hanks interviewed a number of Tower employees for the film; some said it was the best job they ever had, and a couple tattooed their store number on their bodies! Each Tower outlet was unique and gave its employees a great sense of responsibility and pride, not often found within the "corporate" environment. I think that's what I found so irresistible about shopping at Tower.
Hanks reminded me that Tower was the first brick-and-mortar chain to have an online presence! That Tower is history, but Hanks wants to celebrate the chain that was such a big part of the music business for a long, long time.
Contributors to the Kickstarter project will get a credit in the film, a signed DVD, and the bigger donors will get VIP tickets for the film's world premiere in Sacramento at the Tower Theater.