All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records


Action / Documentary / History / Music

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 90%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 2002


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by mdroel20 9 / 10

No Music, No Life

Liberation. That is what music is all about. Always has been, always will be. It brings people together, it creates a community, a family. It changes, it evolves, and never dies. This is the central message, the heart, of Colin Hank's tremendous documentary, "All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records." Founded in 1960 by Russ Solomon, Tower Records grew to become one of the most monumental record franchises in the history of the industry. From its very humble beginnings, as an extension of Solomon's father's drugstore, to its international expansion, Tower Records was a cornerstone of the musical world for half a century.

Load video Hank's explored the history of Tower Records through interviews with those in Soloman's inner circle's of 30 plus years, some from the inception to accounts from music industry giants such as, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and Dave Grohl. The store's lax attitude and nonchalant way of business proved pivotal to its success, a business strategy that would sink any business today. Elton John recounts Tower Records being his primary record provider, while Grohl worked at a Tower Records in Washington D.C. before his music career took off and recognized its significance in his musical journey. One particular anecdote that highlighted Tower Record's influence was that when it opened in a particularly desolate neighborhood in Manhattan, the streets flourished and became revitalized in the years following its opening. It is hard to imagine any store, particularly any record store having that power today.

The demise of Tower Records also speaks volumes about the last decade of decline in the music industry. Though Napster and the rise of pirating music is notorious for the music industries steady decline, truly the rise in record prices was the downfall of record stores in general, as is touched on in the film. Though not entirely the reason for Tower Records ultimate demise, it was a crucial shift in business. The slow death of the industry staple was an emotional climax of the film, as it truly captured the importance of Tower Records to many individuals who invested their life to be apart of this journey, and family.

No music, no life.

Reviewed by bgifriends 2 / 10

Poorly edited

This movie had a few good moments that could've been parred down to 45-60 minutes max. There is too much repetition of the same themes throughout. It feels like the director/editor is too close to the characters. It's as though s/he wants to make sure they are in the film as much as possible. Redundant narrative throughout. I got up to go to the bathroom and came back and didn't feel like I missed anything. Some good historical knowledge that gets beat to death by repetition. Feels like old timers making a film and too sentimental to let go. Good for a much shorter version at 45 minutes. Or use it as a sleeping aid as is. I don't recommend without serious redo of editing.

Reviewed by David Ferguson ([email protected]) 7 / 10

No Music No Life

Greetings again from the darkness. I do not envy those experiencing their childhood in this modern era. Sure, they have far superior electronics and hundreds more TV channels, but they also have very little independence (most can't even walk alone to a friend's house or a park) and they likely will never experience the pure joy of perusing the stacks at Tower Records (or any other record store) for hours … experiencing the thrill of discovering a new artist or style of music that rips into their soul. OK, I admittedly suffer from a touch of "old man" syndrome, but filmmaker Colin Hanks (yes, the actor and son of Tom) has delivered both a cozy trip down memory lane and a stark accounting of good times and bad at Tower Records.

With humble beginnings as little more than a lark, Tower Records began when Russ Solomon's dad decided to sell used 45 rpm singles in his cramped Sacramento drug store. He bought the singles for 3 cents and sold them for 10 cents. Within a few years, Russ purchased the record business from his dad, and proceeded to run it as only a rebellious kid from the 1960's could. From 1960 through 2000, the business grew each year. It expanded the number of stores (peaking at 192 worldwide) and constantly adjusted to the musical tastes and the delivery method – 45's, LP's, cassettes, CD's, etc.

Using some terrific photographs and video clips, accompanied by spot on music selections, director Hanks brilliantly and generously allows the actual players to tell the story. The expected celebrity drops are present, and even the words of David Geffen, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen and Sir Elton John carry emotion. However, far and away the most impact comes from extended interviews with the unconventional and charismatic Tower Records founder Russ Solomon and his devoted and forthright employee team. Their sincere recollections provide the roadmap through the phenomenal growth, as well as the devastating end in 2006. We understand how these stores became so much more than retail outlets … they were cultural hotspots for at least two generations. We also learn some things we probably shouldn't … like the definition of "hand truck fuel", and the reason Russ installed hot lighting in the listening booths.

Mr. Hanks surprises with his ability to balance nostalgia and the harsh realities of the downfall of an iconic cultural business. The film captures the key role Tower Records, while also pointing out that the crash was due to more than just Napster and digital music delivery. An interesting case study for business majors highlights the importance of vision vs debt. For more insight from Colin Hanks, check out the interview from film critic Chase Whale:

"No Music. No Life". The motto of Tower Records was somehow inspirational, and fit perfectly for stores that featured mammoth album artwork on their store fronts, their own "Pulse" magazine, and staff that couldn't fathom life without music … much less wearing a suit and tie to work. This was truly "a chain of independent stores", and trust me when I tell you that hanging out at Tower Records was more fun than having hundreds of cable channels.

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