All Things Must Pass…Even Tower Records

I’ve loved music ever since I can remember. When I was four I loved Barry Manilow and would insist on listening to him in the car until the cassette mysteriously broke. I was obsessed with Judy Garland and would sing her songs every time I was in the bathroom (good acoustics). As a teenager I was crazy for Pearl Jam and would daydream that their tour bus would break down in from of my house and Eddie Vedder would magically fall in love with me. To this day I can recall a conversation my mom and I had when I was 15. She asked me what was most important in my life and I quite seriously answered, “music.”

A few years later I was a lonely young adult navigating the choppy waters of college and early adulthood. Always a bit on the shy side it wasn’t an easy transition from high school and often when the weekend would roll around I’d find myself stuck at home while (I figured) my peers were surely out having the time of their lives. But there was one place that I could always count on and would turn to whenever I was feeling low – Tower Records.

On those nights I would hop in my car and head to my local store. Their familiar red and yellow logo was a beacon of hope and I pulled into the parking lot. I would head inside and all was suddenly right in the world. Aisles and aisles of albums. Listening stations filled with songs just waiting to be discovered. And a separate jazz room filled with the smooth sounds of Ella and Miles. I would spend hours at the store looking around and listening and finally deciding on one choice album to bring home at the end of the night. I’d head back to my car,  immediately unwrap it and listen to it on the way home. Life was good again.

Needless to say, when Tower Records closed I was heartbroken. Even though at that point I was a full fledged adult, graduated from school and working full time, and not visiting the store as frequently. Yet, I was still sad that such an instrumental part of my life was gone for good. I wasn’t the only person feeling this way. Tower Records meant a lot to a lot of people, including Colin Hanks. Inspired by his love of the store he spent the next several years putting together a documentary about it called All Things Must Pass. Coming to DVD on September 13th I snagged a review copy and sat down to watch it recently.

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This heartfelt film tells the complete story of Russell Solomon and his groundbreaking creation, Tower Records. Filled with a vast amount of archival footage and images and made with the complete cooperation of  Solomon and his staff it’s a comprehensive look at the unique organization. From its humble beginnings in Sacramento to its rise as a world wide phenomenon to its inevitable fall in the age of digital music it’s as dramatic a story as any fictional work. When the film detailed the heady early days I felt genuine excitement at the store’s success and when it documented its final hours I was as sad as when I first heard of its closure.

The film also features several interviews with those personally associated with the store including former patrons Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Dave Grohl. As interesting as their anecdotes were the true heart lies in the stories from the former employees and Solomon himself. Tower was truly a family enterprise. Almost every executive started their career as a clerk in the store and had a real devotion to the company. They loved music, they loved the store and they loved each other and many were in tears by the end of the film.

Watching the film I was reminded that Tower Records was truly a wonderful place. It meant a lot to Russ Solomon, Colin Hanks, its employees and me. It was a special place and I’ll never forget it. All Things Must Pass is a beautiful ode to a once in a lifetime experience and I’m better for having seen it.

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