Tower Records is back. Once again, the company is selling albums. The iconic chain isn’t opening stores again, but the company has opened an online shop for music fans. The beloved chain first opened in 1960 in Sacramento, California, but sadly closed down in 2006 following bankruptcy and liquidation.
Tower Records isn’t only selling records again. The company’s website features exclusive online performance, as well as Tower Pulse! Magazine. The new masterminds behind the company were initially planning on bringing back its stores, at least as pop up stores. The iconic company was going to return during this year’s South by Southwest, but the coronavirus canceled those plants. The new CEO of the record store company, Danny Zeijdel, is pleased with the warm embrace of Tower Records’ return. “That has been met with tremendous success, feedback,” he said, “A lot of people are so happy taking pictures of when they receive an order from Tower Records posting it on Instagram.”
Founder Russel Solomon passed away in 2018 at the age of 92. The business owner passed away while drinking whiskey and watching the Academy Awards with his family. “Ironically, he was giving his opinion of what someone was wearing that he thought was ugly, then asked (his wife) Patti to refill his whiskey,” his son said. Employees and collaborators of Solomon described him lovingly. He was the “cool boss,” from the sound of it, who didn’t mind employees showing up whenever they please. Solomon had a famous policy against neckties, too, which he would hang on a wall if anyone dared to wear one to work.
Back in 1960, Solomon opened his first store. Eight years later, he got the idea to expand, which one day led to stores in Bogota, London, and all over the globe. During its best of times, the company would see $1.7 billion in revenue from its 173 stores. Just over 100 locations were based in the United States.
In 2006, the record store shuttered after two bankruptcy filings and ultimately, a Chapter 7 liquidation. There’s only one Tower Records left in the world, based in Tokyo, Japan. The chain closing down saddened music fans everywhere. It was a haven for music lovers and musicians, many of whom got their education at Tower Records.
The store still has representation on Sunset Boulevard, where one of its most famous stores was located. Artists such as Elton John, Mick Jagger, and others were granted access to the store before or after closing to browse in silence. Sunset Blvd still honors the legacy left behind the store there.
Tower Records didn’t survive the digitalization of music and the introduction of Amazon and other online retailers. During the late 90s and early 2000s, that’s when Tower Records started to see the writing on the wall. The company couldn’t keep up with streaming and online sales. Over the years, nostalgia for the days of Tower Records has only increased. Actor and filmmaker Colin Hanks even made an acclaimed doc about the chain store, called All Things Must Pass.
As much as Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and other outlets have made music more easily accessible to men, women, and children across the globe, Tower Records is still missed. It’s not just nostalgia, although maybe a little bit of nostalgia. There was something special about Tower Records, where we discovered our favorite artists, our eyes caught the sigh of some cover that suggested “you must listen to this,” and there was a conversation among other music fans, recommending backs and tracks. It was an unforgettable communal experience in an epic environment. It was not just a customer experience. Once the pandemic is over, hopefully, Tower Records will make their popup stores and let people experience the magic of Tower Records again. There are still plenty of record stores in America, but Tower Records was in a league of its own.