In 1960, Russell Solomon opened a record store in Sacramento, California. He called it Tower Records. He didn’t stop with one store. By 2006, when they declared bankruptcy and closed all the stores, they were all over the country…all around the world. There were 93 stores in the U.S. alone. I shopped at Tower in New York City near Lincoln Center, in New Orleans in the French Quarter, in London’s Piccadilly Circus, in Memphis, Tennessee, and a gazillion times at Tower in Chicago at Clark and Belden. And if I needed a hard to find classical disc, it was Tower on Wabash. When Chicago’s own Rose Records chain closed, I did think, oh no. The big old Tower Records is taking over. But I soon found that a lot of the Rose people were hired by Tower, and everyone else there had a passion for music.
And lots of knowledge. There’s nothing like it now.
[photogallerylink id=117169 align=left]I always wished they had shopping carts like they do at the grocery store. I could fill it up going to the Classical room, then to Jazz/Blues, then Show Tunes/Lounge Music etc, then back in the main room for Rock, Soul, Anthologies…a mother lode of music. Then over to the magazine stand, and the DVD’s, and then to the checkout counter and hope my credit card was strong enough for the treasures I’d found. Some I was looking for. Some recommended by the wonderful employees. Sometimes I’d bump into an XRT listener who’d point out something new to me. And it was more than just a store. The friendships I made…the chance to talk music with listeners…the artists that performed there. Every time I see Rufus Wainwright he reminds me we met at Tower with Sean Lennon. How could I forget? Blondie. Tom Jones. The Smashing Pumpkins. Squeeze. Patti Smith. Wow. I still get a twinge of nostalgia when I drive by the old store. I still use those sturdy orange Tower bags for all sorts of projects at home. The ultimate in recycle/reuse.
Well Russell Solomon realizes what a cultural icon his chain of records stores is, and is working to archive the history of Tower Records. He has donated over 200 boxes of material. Artwork, photographs, memorabilia, awards, office stuff, and even neon signs. He’s asking former Tower employees and shoppers to donate objects they’ve saved. They will begin cataloging all this stuff beginning in September, and hope to have a traveling exhibit by 2015. For more information on the project and how you can get involved, visit towerrecordsproject.org.
He can’t have my Tower bags, though. I’m still using them.