All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (SXSW 2015 Film Review)


Colin Hanks acts as the driving force behind this almost unbelievable story, I say unbelievable but the whole story is absolutely true. We all know the story of Tower Records, once a giant machine that is now almost nothing, but do we truly know the whole story? This film charts its rise from the back room in a drug store to being the first international brand. We get to see a bunch of young no bodies rise up and become the heads of one of the worlds most influential businesses. Sadly we already know how this film will end and we know it ends in disaster. Knowing the ending here won’t leave you disappointed because the destination isn’t the point, it’s the journey that really matters.

There are so many reasons to watch this historical gem and this really is a gem. From start to finish I really could not take my eyes off the screen, I mean I watched this film at 3 am and was already going past 20 hours without sleep and I didn’t bat my eyes once, as soon as the film began I couldn’t stop it was just fantastic. I feel that the greatest strength that this picture has is the fact that it puts a human face on Tower Records and that is the face of Russ Solomon. As a teenager, Russ had the unusual idea to sell discarded record singles from the counter-top jukeboxes in for 5 cents a piece. Eventually his father would give him his blessing and a shelf in the back of the drug store. There is no way anyone would predict that this would lead to him running a billion dollar a year music empire.

Russ would eventually open his own store in 1960, one that people had no faith in, after all a store that only sells record, who would want to go there. This man had a magnetic persoanlity and a passion for music, these factors drew people to him, like minded people, people he encoruaged to run each store to nurture and build on local music tastes, an idea almost unheard of in the modern business world. Sadly by 2006 most of this great empire was left in ruins and this film aims to show the how and why. It wasn’t just downloading, though that was touched upon, the film will show that no one straw breaks the camels back and along the way will have some great stories to tell, in particular Elton John’s story is a major highlight..

When I was a kid working in a record store seemed like the coolest job, favourite films growing up where High Fidelity and Empire Records so this really spoke to me, hell I used to spend every Saturday in Virgin Records (RIP), Ourprice (RIP), Golden Disks (RIP) and HMV (thankfully still here), I had and still do have a masive music collection, cds, vinyls, mini discs, tapes and MP3, music dominated my life, I could never play but man could I listen, these stores where my haven, these are the places where I was cool, sadly to borrow a quote from the film Almost Famous –

“Yeah, you’ll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle. Your writing is damn good, it’s just a shame you missed out on rock ’n’ roll. It’s over. You got here just in time for the death rattle, last gasp, last grope.”

I never really belived that until these stores started vanishing, of course I fund new safe havens online and in indie clubs and at festivals know one knows about but for me music belonged in those stores and for a brief time watching this film brought me back to those places again and for that I need to thank its creators and tell you all go see it ASAP it will make you feel young again before dropping you off in the 21st century.

Twitter: @towerrecordsdoc | Facebook: towerrecordsdocumentary

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