All Things Must Pass
":The rise and fall of Tower Records (96 minute DVD)" – MVDvisual

“All Things Must Pass” The rise and fall of Tower Records (96 minute DVD) – MVDvisual The death of Tower Records was a major blow for many of us who grew up purchasing vinyl LP’s, seven inch forty-fives and CD’, laser discs, and DVD’s. This triumphant and reflective DVD “All Things Must Pass,” is Colin Hanks feature-length debut as a director who spends a great deal of time talking the employees who built Tower from a Sacramento drugstore and turned it into signature named powerhouse chain that was well-known by music fans and aficionados nationally and around the world. Hanks captures this special era of the then successful music business and the sixties/seventies/eighties/nineties youth/drug culture that somehow allowed Tower to become a unique family-run business where many common everyday workers became executives. The film does a very good job stringing together interviews with relatively unknown workers and makes it work with smart and high-paced edits and alluring musical passages that neatly ties this documentary together and keeps the viewers minds fascinated and drawn in.
From the highbrow side their is commentary from Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, David Geffen, and still shots of Clapton and Jimmy Page takes us for a delightful stroll down memory lane. At the center of it all was Tower’s founder Russ Solomon who was a daring, ambitious and hard living – took Tower’s brand around the world, and had a blast doing it too. Through it all they weathered the onslaught of Disco music and propped themselves up when MTV exploded onto the scene. There were worries when LP’s started to fade giving way to digital CD’s and it was off to the races all over again for Tower.
Through the eyes of director Hanks illustrates why Tower Records brick and mortar stores mattered to people on both sides of the counter. But even though Tower evolved into a retail music institution – by the turn of the century the music industry vastly and forever changed, especially with the speedy arrival of pirated and free digital downloads. Tower had expanded too quickly opening far too many stores and racking up tons of debt. These same financial institutions became impatient demanding that assets and stores needed to be sold-off and/or closed. The banks took control and began restructuring the company as their debt-load became too cumbersome to go forward. After forty-six years the once powerhouse Tower Records needed a fire-sale and was completely liquidated in 2006.
This is a moving documentary especially for those of us who grew-up browsing through record bins, making weekly sojourns to Tower (and other record shops) talking with likeminded patrons and knowledgeable employees talking about music old and new. It was a way of life – lifestyle.
Endnote: The documentary concludes with Russ and his wife visiting Japan where Tower Records currently flourishes today with eighty-five locations throughout the country. This is a very touching segment as ten years after the closing of USA/Tower operations the Solomon’s are saluted and applauded by the Japanese Tower execs and employees. So bittersweet, making me wonder if this Far East/Tower model still successfully operates – could it have been kept alive in the USA? Sadly we’ll never know. But always remember Tower’s tagline “No Music, No Life.”

For 17 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal with his Sounds of Blue radio show. Hear new Homegrown Sounds of Blue internet radio shows: Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Music Editor for the Yonkers Tribune & Bob was also the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting. Putignano can be contacted at: