TheKnocturnal was on the scene at the premiere of Colin Hanks’ documentary “All Things Must Pass” at Greenwich International Film Festival on Friday evening.
The rise and fall of Tower Records is one of the American Music Industry’s greatest triumphs and defeats. What was once an international music superstore that supplied seemingly endless listening opportunities to millions seemed to crumble in just a matter of yeas after the introduction of compact discs, or CDs.
How exactly this came to pass is outlined in Colin Hanks’s new documentary All Things Must Pass through a series of interviews. These interviews, conducted by the staff, are used to create a chronology of events from the time when Tower Records was merely an addition to the Tower Drugstore owned by the father of founder Russell Solomon, to when the company was finally liquidated in 2006. Through personal anecdotes of the original staff members of Tower Records in Sacramento, who later became the executives for the international franchise, Hanks’s film gives life to arguably the most legendary of music retailers.
Tower Records began in 1960 in Sacramento and quickly became a local hotspot for all bored teenagers and music fans in the Sacramento area. It was a place where teens could hang out in for hours while their peers, who were also the sales representatives and cashiers, would play their own selection of forty-five’s and thirty-three’s over the stores loudspeakers. As described in the interviews, Tower Records was the place to be for kids in the sixties and seventies.
What made it so special was not only the new obsession for music brought upon by the introduction of higher quality forty-five RPM records, but also the welcoming atmosphere where shoppers felt accepted regardless of how they dressed or the music they listened to. It was this accepting atmosphere that made Tower Records so successful. The universality of music worked in conjunction with the nonjudgmental aura of the store to create a place that catered to everyone.
However, the changing face of music in the late eighties and nineties also changed the face of Tower Records. The introduction of compact discs and the subsequent rapid decrease in popularity of vinyl records created turbulence among the music retail industry. Despite, quick response, the establishment of Napster and the free online sharing of mp3’s was the final blow that took down the empire of Tower Records. Unable to compete with “free”, sales declined drastically and Tower Records liquidated in the following years.
What this documentary aims to accomplish beyond telling the story of a multinational music corporation, is to explain a metaphor that the legacy of Tower Records holds for businesses across industries. It shows the unique methods used by management that both created Tower Records and broke it down to the solely Japan-based retail company it is today. All Things Must Pass does not offer a solution for Tower Records, but rather seeks to explain how an industry so powerful could collapse seemingly overnight. It provides both nostalgia and closure for those who spent their days shopping through the racks of one of the company’s many branches. All Things Must Pass wholly sums up the life and legacy of Tower Records to create a film to inspire and entertain music lovers of all ages.
We spoke with Colin Hanks on the red carpet:
What inspired you to make this film?
Growing up in Sacramento, it was always a point of civic pride that Tower Records was not only from Sacramento, but had always been based there. So there was that connection to it, there was a personal connection in that I always spent a lot of my money at Tower Records, but it was the simple fact that no one really seemed to be telling the story – or no one else thought that it would make for a good documentary, and I just sort of got the feeling that it would.
Were there any challenges in making the film?
I took seven years to make it. There were challenges everywhere.
What do you love most about the medium of documentaries?
I like the fact that if you play your cards right, the people whose story you are telling can tell their story. I like hearing from the people who actually lived it. I don’t need a narrator telling me why it’s important. What I like is when the people that lived it are able to tell you their story in a way that is fun and entertaining.
What is it about Tower Records that made you want to make this documentary the open this festival?
I think it’s a perfect fit for this community that’s so finance oriented to see how a company could be at such great heights and the collapse seemingly overnight. So, it seemed like something that was really ideally suited to open the Inaugural Greenwich International Film Festival.
A fun party followed at Restoration Hardware.