Tower Records arrived on The Sunset Strip in 1971. The owner of Tower Records, Russell Solomon, who died at the age of 92 in 2018, realized his vision but Tower Records on Horn and Sunset Boulevard has had to carry on without him. The Tower Record Building is as much a landmark as the Capitol Records building, Paramount Pictures Studios gate or The Chinese Theater.
It’s used as a point of reference that everyone knows. Living a short block from Tower Records, for 25 years, has made it a part of my life and the surrounding West Hollywood neighborhood.
But having Tower Records just outside my window and in view from my balcony was not without its drawbacks. There were many times when the traffic on Sunset Boulevard was bumper to bumper due to big trucks with equipment preparing for a concert or from the influx of music fans flocking to the store or parking lot, a block away.
Then there were the endless hours of sound checks that blasted music throughout the neighborhood. But those were minor complaints when you weigh them against hearing a concert from Rod Stewart, (as in 1998), or David Cassidy, (at the height of his “Partridge Family” fame), singing songs from his upcoming album. But they paled in comparison to the concert given by Lady Gaga and Elton John, in 2016, that closed down that part of The Sunset Strip.
Dave Grohl was a Tower Records employee for 2 months in 1990 before joining Nirvana. In the early days when Tower was open every day, until midnight, you could see stars shopping like we normal people. Stars such as Robert Plant, Stevie Wonder, Robert Stigwood, Ella Fitzgerald, Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Elvis Costello, actor and Paramount Pictures head Robert Evans, Smokey Robinson and even George Burns, (before he was God), going through the endless stacks and rows of records just as you or I might.
When John Lennon was plugging his solo album, he made a recording played on radio stations that also plugged Tower Records as the place to get it. Whenever Elton John was in town he could be seen rifling through the records there. Aerosmith, James Brown, Dolly Parton, Mariah Carey, to name a few, all had album signings in the store. Grace Slick signed copies of her autobiography that drew grateful Jefferson Airplane fans. Then there was the time David Lee Roth, (soon after leaving Van Halen), propelled himself down the side of a fake mountain constricted on the roof to promote his 1988 album, “Matterhorn.”
Tower Records stores, 235-250 worldwide, (depending on who you talk to) opened its doors in 1960 and lasted until 2006. The building on Horn is 8,990 square feet and was once named “the largest record store in the world by The Guinness Book Of World Records. Today it’s owned by Adherence Capital Management, which they bought in 2016 for a mere $35 million. When Amoeba Records was closing their store in Hollywood, they considered moving to Tower Records but the rental fee is apparently more than anyone wants to pay…$220,000 a month.
Today this towering monument to vinyl records sits empty. For a time all remnants of Tower Records were removed but when movie and TV companies wanted to use the location, the space was restored to it’s former glory for the purpose of looking back. Today you can rent a parking space by the day, the week or the month, but Tower Records basically does all its business on their website.
No longer can I go to my balcony or open my window and hear loud music wafting through the air unless I want to hear the loud music emanating from The State Social House bar on Sunset Boulevard that finds it’s way up the neighboring hills until exactly 1:40 every morning.
Won’t somebody out there please rescue the Tower Records building from obscurity? We need it now more than ever!