Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two thoughts about Colin Hanks' Tower Records documentary

Two things struck me after last night's screening of the Tower Records documentary All Things Must Pass and the Q&A with its director Colin Hanks.

The first was just how sentimental the younger people in the audience were about the idea of record shop culture and how desperately some of them persuade themselves that the current fashion for pristine, newly-pressed Stooges albums at twenty quid a pop indicates anything more than the desire of a tiny handful of people to have something that makes them look both soulful and affluent. 

Hanks asserted that record shops would continue to hang on but was forced to admit that only this week Other Music, the New York store which was the hold-outs' last best hope, announced it was closing in June.

The second thing that struck me was how amazing it was that Tower Records hadn't closed years earlier than it did. I hadn't realised it had expanded in such an uncontrolled, haphazard way. The stores in Japan were opened before the one in New York, for instance. All this worldwide expansion was reliant on borrowed money, which meant that the company couldn't withstand the slightest downturn, let alone the one that arrived.

When the banks finally put their people in one of the first things they did was close down the Tower magazine Pulse! This was very upsetting for the people in the company. I  couldn't help being amazed that they had employed more people to do their free magazine than most British publishers would hire to do a paid one.

P.S. A third thing struck me. People say Hanks looks like his father. I think he looks more like Woody.


  1. Interestingly, there are still two Tower outlets in Dublin. Management bought out the stores and kept the name. Still feels like the old place too.

    Doc looks good - I guess it's the whole record retail business in a nutshell. It's gone and never coming back.

  2. "Stooges albums at twenty quid a pop"

    I assume that would be an Iggy pop.

  3. The Tower stores in Japan are still open and the ones I go to are usually fairy busy.

  4. Can I point out that,allowing for inflation, £20 today is equivalent to about £1.43 in 1971 (apparently the greatest year in the history of the world). So not much of a sign of affluence.

  5. The Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus is the main one of the big three that I miss the most. The alternative music section in that store was absolutely phenomenal. No matter how small and obscure the label, the chances are they would have it. Maybe that was part of the problem. Towards the end they changed the layout on the ground floor and it wasn't right. It didn't seem to gel from a browsing perspective.

    I once turned up at Tower early one Monday morning to get the Steely Dan comeback album (Two Against Nature). It came out on the same day that Smashing Pumpkins released Machina/The Machines of God. The staff had put a copy of that album at the front of every one of the racks, so it looked as if the store sold nothing else. I imagine this might horrify some people. I liked the Pumpkins, but Machina wasn't an album that deserved this degree of extra effort.