All Things Must Pass
Over the course of nearly five decades, Tower Records grew from a small Sacramento-based indie record shop run out of a drugstore to a corporation with locations in every major city across the globe and sales totaling one billion dollars. By 2006, the empire imploded, forcing the company to file for bankruptcy and shut down all of its retail stores. However, along the way, the indie-turned-behemoth won over a slew of music fans and musicians alike, including Dave Grohl and Elton John, both of whom are interviewed throughout All Things Must Pass, Colin Hanks’ 90-minute documentary on Tower Records’ rise and fall.
In the beginning, and the through the opening of their early stores, the company was clearly run by die-hard music fans. In interviews throughout the doc, the owners and original employees often get teary-eyed talking about their experiences and reflecting on what they were trying to build the small record store into. However, like their idols, they liked to party—a lot. Despite that attribute, or maybe because of it, the chain continued to attract more and more music fans, which brought about more stores.
In the end, Tower Records was done in by overextending itself on credit—a symptom of simply growing too quickly—along with standard issue record business greed and ignorance: “Let’s price gouge on CDs!” “Let’s ignore digital music!” The documentary delves a bit into the company’s darker side, though Hanks glosses over the price-fixing case Tower and several other big music chains lost in 2002. Overall, it still succeeds in telling a pretty compelling story of music lovers who set out to open a record store and ended up becoming a fixture of pop culture in the process.