I drove by Tower Records in Santa Clara today, not planning to stop, when the “Store Closing” sign caught my eye. I knew Tower was the subject of a bankruptcy auction this week, but I had assumed that somehow the venerable music retailer would keep its doors open. That’s not to be. The liquidator that won yesterday’s auction wasted no time in getting busy with the liquidation. Every Tower Records store nationwide began the process of closing today, and they’ll probably be gone by the end of the year.
I’m going to miss Tower Records. I grew up in Southern California, and I remember when an outing to Tower’s Hollywood super store on Sunset Boulevard was a special treat. It was like going to Mecca. Back then, the Internet didn’t exist. Neither did Amazon or WalMart. Tower was where you kept up with what was happening, to hear something new, to chat with fellow customers and musicians, to browse the racks and (hopefully) come home with some new gems for the record player. My wife got interested in jazz when she heard it a Tower one day. I still like browsing at record stores, but the options in my neck of the woods are becoming pretty limited. True, we do have Borders and Barnes and Noble, and they do have those cool stations that let you listen to snippets of tracks on any CD in the store (a feature that’s saved me a fair amount of money). But those stores have a sterile atmosphere compared to Tower. It just isn’t the same.
Meanwhile, a few blocks further down the road I noted that Big Al’s Record Barn remains open for business. He’s been selling nothing but vinyl for 30 years, and he’s got some of my old vinyl on his shelves. How much longer he’ll be at it is anybody’s guess, but God bless the Big Als of the world.
RIP, Tower Records.