If you’re a music fan of a certain age and lived or worked in London in the mid-80s and 90s, there will probably still be the urge, when coming up the escalator at Piccadilly Tube station, to head right through the exit where a set of double doors led you to the basement of Tower Records.
Tower blew HMV out of the water: the size of the store, the vast amount of stock (any artist, any genre, any import), the eye-popping hand-crafted signage, and the fab free mag, Top, which was edited by Classic Rock’s own Hugh Fielder. This writer even saw Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler waiting for a date outside the branch one Friday night at midnight, it was that cool.
This crowdfunded documentary maps out Tower’s seemingly unstoppable rise from its 60s roots in California to where it inevitably goes wrong in the modern digital age. The foundation is Russ Solomon, at 90 years old still retaining the wild but cool charm that helped him build the empire that began with selling vinyl in his father’s drugstore.
Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Chuck D and Elton John all lend fanboy weight, but the staff are the stars, long-serving men and women with various skills, from accounts and logistics to just being really good at partying, which gave Tower its rock’n’roll edge and family feel. Honest, hilarious and emotional, the conclusion holds a fitting twist.