All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

Synopsis: Established in 1960, Tower Records was once a retail powerhouse with two hundred stores, in thirty countries, on five continents. From humble beginnings in a small-town drugstore, Tower Records eventually became the heart and soul of the music world, and a powerful force in the music industry. In 1999, Tower Records made $1 billion. In 2006, the company filed for bankruptcy. What went wrong? Everyone thinks they know what killed Tower Records: The Internet. But that's not the story. "All Things Must Pass" is a feature documentary film examining this iconic company's explosive trajectory, tragic demise, and legacy forged by its rebellious founder Russ Solomon.
Rotten Tomatoes:
94 min

way back when,

when young teenagers had

a collection of 45 rpm records,

to me that was

kind of exciting.

that was almost better

than having

a big collection of cds,

albums, and everything else.

but imagine, 45 records,

45 rpm records

a better quality

and less breakable than the 78

of ten years before,

but with all the music

you ever wanted.

and you could carry it around

in a little box.

that's what tower was about.

believe me.

it was the music

that was meaningful

to young people's lives.

and we were how they got it.

the first record

i ever bought was

bob wills,

new san antone rose.

it was like 35 cents.

the year was 1941,

and my dad had a drug store

called tower drugs.

it was in

the tower theater building.

the drugstore was tiny,

and yet they had

everything in there.

he had toys, he had liquor,

he had magazines,

cigarettes, perfume,

cosmetics, candy,

heh, you name it.

so we had a soda fountain

in that store as well,

and on the soda fountain

we had the jukebox.

one day, my dad said,

"why don't we sell

used records?"

he asked the jukebox

operator bring in

his used records,

which he brought in

and sold us the records

for three cents

and we turned round

and sold them for a dime.

we sold 'em out right away,

so my dad said,

"if we can sell used records,

we ought to be able

to sell new records."

went in to san francisco

where you could buy

all the records wholesale.

200 records cost about

less than a couple

a hundred bucks.

so we said, "fine,

we'll spend the 200 dollars,

give us a franchise,"

and bang,

we're in the record business.

during that period,

my dad actually broke th rough

the wall of the drugstore

into the empty space next door,

a little empty storefront,

and he said,

"we'll put the record

department back th ere."

so we decided to call it

tower record mart.

he couldn't complain too much

because he was getting

some free labor,

but at the same time,

he didn't like the idea

that i should've been in school.

and we realized

right off the bat

that this was a big deal.

i went to my dad, i said,

"well, i want to expand.

i want to go in to this

rack-jobbing business,

expand our jukebox,

and get this and that. "

all kinds of wonderful things

i wanted to do.

he says:

"no way, absolutely, no way.

" don't bother me.

"you want this thing,

"you buy

the record store from me,

and then you do what you want,

but i'm not financing it."

i said, "all right."

he says:

it's yours tomorrow,

"and here's the deal:

"you have the inventory

and you have the bills that

the company owes, goodbye."

and overnight,

i was the owner of this thing.

everything he did

influenced me.

it's, how do you say,

that one imparts

a whole style of life

just by being close to you

and you pick it up

he was a skinny guy

who liked to have

a lot of fun,

loved music, loved dancing.

there was always music on

in our house.

it seems like every evening

my parents were dancing

and partying.

i'm sure there was

some drinking.

i probably started

when i was five years old.

i would go in to work with him

and sort singles.

it was quite a family affair,

so my mother would be there.

i think she was doing

the bookkeeping at that time.

my father had a fantasy

and a dream

and a desire to open up

a supermarket of records.

he then opened a record store

at watt and el camino,

it was a tiny little store,

about a thousand

square feet, maybe.

my wonderful friend

who had been doing advertising

for the drugstore,

mick mickelson,

he said, "well,

we're changing your name.

"tower record mart,

that's too...

"we're going to call it

tower records

"and we're going to use

shell oil company colors.

"and i'm going to design

a letter that'll stand out,

that nobody's

ever seen before."

and he literally,

drew that letter.

you know, in sacramento

there weren't very many places

for kids to hang out.

there was, like downtown,

there was places,

so it was, you know,

tower books and records

were in like this parking lot

surrounded by nothing.

and for kids in high school,

that's what you did.

you know,

you went to tower records.

it was

the beginning of the folk era,

and so we would sit

in the parking lot at tower

on our little sports cars

and play music.

so the guitar guys would come,

and the banjo guys would come,

and we'd play music

in front of the record store

and then you'd go

into the record store

and into the listening booths

and listen

to as much as you could

because you couldn't

afford to buy any records.

.p walk right in .p

.p sit right down .p

i daddy let your mind

go long... .p

there were make out sessions

in the listening booths,

people had sex

in listening booths.

we put really big lights

in there

so they'd be

as hot as possible

so that you couldn't stay

in there too long.

j do you want

to lose your mind... i

this store opened in 1961,

i was eleven years old,

it was the only place i knew.

you'd walk down the aisle

and you could just see

from the front of the store

to the back of that aisle,

just these stacks of lps.

you know, somebody came up

with that terminology,

stack 'em high and sell 'em low.

yeah, the managers

and the employees were young,

they loved music,

they were enjoying themselves.

they were having a lot of fun,

which was a good thing,

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Steven Leckart

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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