Hitting theaters this weekend is a new documentary directed by Colin Hanks (son of Tom, star of CBS's Life in Pieces) titled All Things Must Pass, all about the phenomenal success and rapid decline of Tower Records which, for the Millennials out there who don't remember, really was a huge thing in the '80s and '90s. As Hanks explains to CBS, the story is a lot more nuanced than "the Internet killed Tower Records."
He talks to a number of famous music people including Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Dave Grohl (a onetime Tower Records employee), who says, "I don't really understand why it's gone."
Tower Records was founded in Sacramento by Russ Solomon, who at 16 started selling 78s for jukeboxes out of his father's drug store, called Tower Cut Rate Drug Store. After serving in World War II, Solomon opened up his own record business across the street in 1952, and Tower Records was born, ultimately blossoming into a billion-dollar business with iconic stores in L.A., San Francisco, New York, London, and 200 total worldwide. The company quickly collapsed in the first years of the last decade, ultimately filing for bankruptcy and shuttering stores in 2006.
Truthfully I'm not sure there is any better explanation than iTunes (and the rest) killed record stores the way Netflix is killing video stores, but there is something tragic about the fact that the curatorial and educational role of a physical shop and its employees has a value that's now lost much the way booksellers played a role in the lives of book lovers that Amazon can't replace.
As one of the talking heads in the film says, "To be able to go into a store [and talk to] people who really knew music, it's just a missing part of our society now."
The documentary premiered at South by Southwest this year, and Newsweek called it "one of the best documentaries of the year (so far)."
Previously: Photos, Videos: The History Of Tower Records On The Sunset Strip [LAist]