Review: ‘All Things Must Pass’ Tells Story of Tower Records
By ANDY WEBSTEROCT. 15, 2015
“Everybody in a record store is a little bit your friend for 20 minutes or so,” says Bruce Springsteen in Colin Hanks’s breezy documentary “All Things Must Pass,” an examination of the ill-fated trajectory of the Tower Records empire. To anyone who has ever savored a chat with a record store clerk about nuggets in a pop artist’s catalog, the sentiment is familiar. This movie makes you appreciate anew the one-on-one social dimension lost in the music industry’s headlong switch to digital downloads.
Russ Solomon founded Tower as an extension of his father’s pharmacy in Sacramento. Riding the 1960s pop explosion, the store opened a branch in San Francisco. Later, its Sunset Boulevard outlet in Los Angeles cemented its popularity among pop stars: Mr. Springsteen, Elton John, Dave Grohl and David Geffen attest to its value to recording artists in general and to themselves personally.
Under Mr. Solomon, an avuncular, encouraging and epicurean leader, and his colorful assortment of longtime executives, the chain expanded: to New York, London, Asia, South America. It weathered the late-1970s music business recession and bloomed at the dawn of MTV. Mr. Solomon’s early embrace of the CD format prompted another peak. But the overextension of the chain and debts to creditors proved its undoing, in addition to the arrival of the Internet and the resurgence of the single over the album format The last Tower outlet in America closed in 2006.
Yet all is not lost: The movie doesn’t address the rise in vinyl’s popularity, so maybe there’s still hope for the local record store.
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