The Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. circa 1988 (note the poster for the Coming to America soundtrack)
This utterly enthralling footage of the Tower Records on 8801 Sunset Boulevard was shot by Sacramento City College professor Darrell Forney in 1971. It’s available on archive.org. It’s ten solid minutes of pretty much random footage on a typical day, scored to Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” and Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” Anyone who’s old enough to remember those days—or simply anyone who’s into record collecting—set aside ten minutes to take this wonderful footage in. Then set aside another ten minutes to watch it all over again.
Tower Records was based in Sacramento and had existed since 1960—when this footage was shot, the Sunset Blvd. location had been open for only a year. It would be a mainstay for Los Angeles music lovers for more than three decades, until it finally closed in 2006.
I love how they just stack the records in the middle of everything. New albums appeared to cost $3.55 for the most part—not all that cheap, that translates to about $20 today (a good number of those albums in reissued LP format would run about $20, no?). We can see staff members unpacking many, many boxes of George Harrison’s 1970 triple LP All Things Must Pass. Does anyone see an album that definitely dates this at 1971? I thought I saw Elton John’s 11-17-70 but it was actually his self-titled album. Fascinating to see 8-track cassettes being sold in large quantities and also, not ironically.
Hey, that clerk is smoking!! Surely he was risking a fine?? Oh, what am I talking about, this is 1971, nobody gave a hoot about stuff like that. (There’s even an ashtray on the checkout counter.) At least two handsome pooches are also depicted, I can’t imagine they were letting dogs in by the time 2005 rolled around.
There’s a lingering shot of someone thumbing through a new copy of the Schwann Stereo Record Guide. I’m going to assume that this was an essential bit of stereophile literature, but it’s before my time. I was a little surprised to see that the familiar red-on-yellow typeface was already in place this early.
I’ve been a CD/mp3 person for most of my life, but last autumn I finally gave in to the LP impulse—this is the most mouth-watering thing I’m likely to see all week. Luckily Amoeba Records has already done the bloggers of 2056 a big favor by thoroughly documenting the scene there, including live performances and inviting fun people to spend a hundred bucks in the store during their “What’s In My Bag?” web series.
Here’s a promo for Tower Records that John Lennon taped during an in-studio radio appearance on KHJ in 1974. The album he was promoting was Walls and Bridges. This cute montage uses a whole lot of Professor Forney’s footage. (You can actually see Paul McCartney’s first album, which is a little odd.)