Russ Solomon, 81, began selling records in the 1940s from his father's drug store in the Tower Theatre building on Broadway in Sacramento. In 1960 he opened the first Tower Records, in the capital city.
The effect was revolutionary, writes Dale Kasler in Sunday's Sacramento Bee:
Until then, music was consigned to the nether reaches of department stores and other retail outlets. "There were no stores devoted to music at the time that Russ Solomon came along," said Sacramento musician Mick Martin, a former Tower employee. "You went to Woolworth's."
Tower wasn't just a music store -- it was a record junkie's heaven, filled with obscurities and rarities. "I heard a lot of things for the first time there, hanging around," Martin said. "On Friday and Saturday nights, the hippest place to be was Tower."
The Bee's obituary for the record chain attributes the cause of death to the twin forces of the big-box discounter and the Internet, which Solomon once dismissed as something "that would never take the place of stores."
Tower Records, which once inspired a Rod McKuen poem and sold books and videos in more than 200 stores worldwide, was itself sold at bankruptcy Friday. It is expected to be liquidated.
Mike at Techdirt wrote:
In the end, as sad as it is for those of us who used to spend plenty of extra time (and money) at various Tower Records' stores, it should be a case study for those who don't understand when the market is shifting around them. While other record stores began to recognize that that they needed to completely revamp their business -- from becoming combination music/dance clubs and stores to starting their own record labels or becoming "destinations" rather than just stores ...
Chris Anderson, the Wired editor and author of "The Long Tail," asks:
Et tu, Blockbuster?
I remember walking into my first Tower Records while in college. It was in San Francisco, and it packed the exotic appeal that Coors beer used to have when it, too, wasn't available on this side of the country. That Tower in North Beach had the biggest selection of music I'd ever seen, going deep into catalogues of Captain Beefheart and Bill Evans and John Mayall and all the other good stuff I was always on the watch for.
But I also remember the clerks were some of the most haughty people this side of Jack Black in High Fidelity, and nothing like the Mr. Natural record-store guy in my town who was about the only person I talked to for a few of those dark early adolescent years. That place, too, is long gone, like my Uncle Manny's book and record store where I remember learning one of the more useful rules of small business management: If you have an employee who smokes a pipe, fire him. He's more interested in keeping the pipe lit than in helping people. How could you go out of business with smarts like that?
Over at A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago, Adam Bonin remembers:
When I was in high school, they had twice-yearly trips for us gifted kids to Lincoln Center to see the opera. One big highlight, though, was that as long as the bus arrived early enough, we got to shop at the Tower Records at Lincoln Center before the performance. Back in the days when the only local record options were the Sam Goodys and The Walls of the world, it was really something special.
No word on what would happen at the Broad Street and South Street locations. An Internet cafe and a Best Buy would be appropriate.