Open Letter To Anyone Who Hasn't Seen 'All Things Must Pass' Yet!

Tower Records founder Russ Solomon
I'd been looking forward to seeing "All Things Must Pass", Colin Hanks' documentary on Tower Records, during its brief theatrical run, but, alas, it never made it to Chicago so when a promo screener arrived in my mailbox last week, I actually felt a pang of excitement.

While I was busy with other things, I occasionally found myself questioning my initial excitement. After all, what was I expecting? No matter how great the documentary would be, it still wouldn't bring back that beloved yellow and red logo and the aisles upon aisles of stacked vinyl.
Instead of watching that first night, days passed without a viewing. Why was I hesitating to take this walk down memory lane, I pondered.

In all honesty, I have seen my fair share of posthumous documentaries related to rock's halcyon days of yore and, for the most part, I can almost predict how such documentaries go at this point: get a few key folks involved with the inner workings of the company to describe what it was like, fill out the rest with Dave Grohl and dozens of rock stars pretending to wax nostalgic for 90 minutes or so, then roll credits.

The truth was, I feared "All Things Must Pass" may have set out to be so much more than that during those optimistic initial stages of development, but quickly realized that, if they wanted folks to tune in, they'd have to make certain concessions.

Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong.

Granted, Dave Grohl does make an appearance, but he did, in fact, work at Tower Records so we'll let it slide this time. The only other rock stars who appear in interviews for the film are Bruce Springsteen (his involvement feels a little tacked on, if I am perfectly honest) and Elton John, who claims to have spent more money in Tower over the years than any other human being on the planet.

Tower's Sunset Blvd. location
Having seen him numerous times with my own eyes at Tower Records on Sunset during my years out west, his love for Tower - and the experience of buying records -  is palpable.

What Elton and others reminded me about that, sadly, I had forgotten, was how much of a social factor there used to be to buying music. Sure, bragging about downloading the new Radiohead album on your Facebook page may be a social activity for some, but it's a far cry from engaging with a knowledgeable clerk or total stranger about music and, for a moment, feeling a meaningful connection to this thing called music.

Endless stacks of vinyl at the La Mesa location, 1978.
After all, if it weren't for that, I would have never found myself in a discussion of music with Sir Elton, who literally came up to me and demanded that I buy the new Fountains of Wayne record that had just come out (Utopia Parkway). For five minutes, Elton gushed about the band's first record and how much he loved their songcraft. I replied that it was obvious at least one guy in the band had a few Elton records in his collection and Elton responded as if struck by lightning. "You might be on to something there," he responded with a laugh.

Without going into specifics that might take away from your enjoyment of the film, let me just say that Colin Hanks does an absolutely masterful job of getting out of the way and simply letting the people behind Tower Records tell their story. In doing so, you quickly realize what a perfect storm of circumstance the creation and success of Tower Records was and how such a thing could and should happen again.

Every generation deserves to have a story like this, only with a happier ending.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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