.‘All Things Must Pass’

'All Things Must Pass' documents the rise and fall of Tower Records

FALLEN TOWER: ‘All Things Must Pass’ documents the rise and fall of Tower Records.

Colin Hanks‘ fast, thoroughly pleasing documentary All Things Must Pass opens with two dates. In 1999, Tower Records was a billion dollar business. By 2005, it was bankrupt.

Like Amazon, and like the other Internet companies that replaced these record and bookstores that once stood everywhere from Tokyo to New York, Tower Records prided itself on its eclecticism. But Tower’s founder, the aged but still lively Russ Solomon, seemed to really mean it when it came to informality. One salesman recalls that his only training was being told by his manager: “Everything in the store is $3.88. I’m going to lunch.”

Solomon was famous for his penchant for taking the ties off the necks of visiting executives, as a way of welcoming them to California. Solomon’s own account here of landing his San Francisco space at Bay and Columbus involves a trip out that way to find some greasy food to cure a bad Sunday morning hangover. “I had a Tom Sawyer view of management—let someone else paint the fence,” Solomon boasts. (The hand-painted foam core billboards at Tower made the advent of a new LP seem even more exciting).

Solomon began as the son of a drug store operator in midtown Sacramento next to the landmark Tower Theater. When the younger Solomon started selling records he became a success. Success followed success: his was the first retail store run by American in Japan, without a Japanese partner. In Los Angeles, the Sunset Boulevard branch of Tower became a hangout for musicians as much as fans. Elton John, record producer David Geffen and Bruce Springsteen, all interviewed here, recall how much they loved going to the store to see their records being snapped up: “The audience you always dreamt of is walking through the door right now,” Springsteen said of the experience.

Hanks did his research: evidence of Tower’s rise includes a shot of a newspaper profile of Solomon that Michelle Goldberg wrote for Metro. The story of Tower’s failure is wrapped up in the rise of digital media. They should have seen the crash coming, but how can you blame them? Who could have ever imagined a life without Tower Records?

All Things Must Pass

NR; 93 Mins.
Camera 3


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