When I was growing up in the sixties, shopping for vinyl records was like a scavenger hunt. There were several places in town that sold records and no way of knowing which one had the album I wanted. Woolworths was my favorite because that’s where I shopped for cosmetics and their records went for $2.99, a buck cheaper than the fancy Record Shop in the mall that also sold Hi-Fi equipment. Unfortunately, Woolworths had no designated record department manager so customer service was non-existent. This was especially annoying when I discovered a new artist and had to hit every record rack in town to search for their latest (or first) album.
Tower Records on Sunset was one of the first places I checked out after moving to WeHo in 1971 and it was like Disneyland for vinyl junkies. Every record I could ever want was right there under one roof just a few blocks from my apartment. In addition to a bazillion records, there were music magazines, band T-shirts, and other fun stuff. I made it a habit to hit Tower every Tuesday when the new releases came out and were stacked up on the floor.
Not only was Tower a great place to shop for records, but it was also one of the better spots to see celebrities. When my best friend from high school came for a visit, we saw George Carlin in the checkout line. There were regular appearances by artists plugging their new albums that drew long lines in the parking lot outside.
My love affair with Tower Records went on for several years until I started working for music biz trade magazine Cash Box and was introduced to Aron’s, a shop on Melrose that gave credit for promo albums and also had the lowest prices in town. I would frequently drop by Aron’s on Thursday afternoons after work so I could pick up the latest L.A Weekly along with the new releases.
After the turn of the century, I made another discovery: downloading music. On the day iTunes opened I went crazy searching for all the songs I didn’t have on CD and buying them instantly for $.99 each. Eventually, I would combine my iTunes purchases with the songs I ripped off my CDs for a collection of more than 1,500 pieces of music that I used to make lists for my car and special occasions like Christmas parties. It was like everything I ever wanted all in one place like I could have only dreamed of when I was a kid going from one record rack to another.
I hadn’t thought much about Tower until I saw the documentary “All Things Must Pass” a couple of years ago. It brought back many memories of the good old days of in-person record shopping and the fun of discovering new music. Losing the original Tower store on Sunset left a huge hole in the landscape of West Hollywood but at least those of us who shopped there can get nostalgic over the cool music we found there.