“Growing up in Sacramento, Tower was a point of civic pride,” explained director Colin Hanks, at the world premier of his documentary, All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records.
Hanks said finding out Tower founder Russ Solomon’s journey began in a little drug store on Broadway was a light bulb moment.
“If that’s where Russ’s journey begins, and it ends in 2006 closing hundreds of stores across the world - that’s a pretty incredible journey to go through. That sounds like a documentary," said Hanks. “No one else had done it. So I went out and tried to secure financing -- it was when western civilization was bankrupt.”
There was not very much interest at the time, but Hanks and his partner Sean Stuart stuck with it and sought crowdfunding via Kickstarter. The film finally premiered at The South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin Texas Tuesday morning.
“I have no idea,” former VP of Tower Records, Heidi Colter said about why someone would make a Tower records documentary.
She’s one of the subjects of the documentary. Cotler ran the books division of Tower, and was the first female VP of the company. In the documentary she talks candidly about the drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll the company was built on, and how the store clerks grew with the company to be key players in it’s massive expansion.
“For Sacramento, it’s going to be huge,” she said on the red carpet at the film’s premiere Tuesday morning. “When Tower Records first started in Sacramento it was the only place a kid could get a job. You could wear what you wanted, as long as your privates were covered.”
The documentary also features interviews with Elton John and Dave Grohl, talking about what Tower meant to them. Producer Sean Stuart said is was actually pretty easy to get musicians and people involved with Tower to talk.
“What we discovered in this process… the participants all love and adore Tower records,” said Stuart. “People were willing and excited to speak about it and what it meant to their music career or their personal career.”
In the film, Elton John said he spent more money at Tower Records than any other human being. The movie includes a clip of Elton John shopping at the Sunset Tower, with his limo-driver following him holding piles of records. Stuart said the footage was found in a dumpster.
Back to the question of why make a documentary about a failed record store chain?
“I wanted to pop the myth that it was simply because of the Internet,” said Hanks.
So is the whole story behind Tower Records filing for bankruptcy in 2006 after making a billion dollars in 1999? You’ll have to see the movie.