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Tower Records

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Tower Records, when it was around, used to have a great jazz (and classical) section. Share your stories of the Tower that you used to frequent!

• Where was it?

• What years did you frequent the store?

• How many different Towers did you visit?

• Any particular titles you remember purchasing at a Tower?


There were two in Oregon: Gresham and Beaverton; I purchased many Miles Davis imports at the latter. There were six in California that I visited: San Francisco, Los Angeles on Sunset, UCLA campus, Sherman Oaks Outlet, Costa Mesa in Orange County, and El Toro. I don't know how a Tower made it to that last location, but they had some Roland Kirk titles I'd never seen anywhere else!

ea487d734c7b4c6a5f79af5b28696227.jpg

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I never lived in a city with a Tower (or any closer than 3 hrs drive from one, though that was before I ever owned a car, in college).

But whenever I did get up to Chicago (from Galesburg, IL - where I went to college) — maybe once or twice a year tops — I was totally in heaven.  And this was at the many-multi-story old Loop location (about a block off of Michigan Ave, iirc), before it closed and moved a little north is the Loop, iirc (I did get to that location a few times a well, later).

Literally 5x bigger than any CD store I’d ever set foot in (the multi-story location), and 3x deeper inventory than I could ever imagine.

I later (once each) visited Tower locations in NYC, London, and Toronto. And maybe Seattle(?), can’t remember. Austin too, a couple times (iirc). Maybe one of the big university towns in Illinois? - was there ever a Tower in Champaign-Urbana? - can’t remember.

Most all the Chicago visits were circa 1988-1998. And most all the others were after I moved to Kansas City, circa 1994-2003 or so (London was on my honeymoon in 2001), and we went to Glasgow too, was there a Tower there too? - I can’t remember.

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From 1967 - 1975 I worked for Discount Records - Chicago - Bloomington, Madison, Boston. A number of friends here bought music from me. Even more on Facebook.

Discount was originally an East Coast operation moving West. Tower was a West Coast operation moving East.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

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My favorites were in NYC (by Union Square and by Lincoln Center) and San Francisco (the city and Mountain View).  I saw Pete Townsend one night at 11:45 at the Lincoln Center store.  
 

At every one of those stores I stocked up mightily on Japanese Blue Note CDs, most of which had not been released in the US.  I used to *love* going there!

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IIRC the first jazz discs I purchased were at Tower La Jolla: Kind of Blue and Time Out, followed by Bill Evans live at the Village Vanguard. I used to visit Tower at least once a month to see what was on the listening stations. One day sometime in the early 2000s I was in Tower when I overheard two guys talking about downloading music. "I'm never gonna pay for music again," said one of them. It wasn't long after that Tower closed. 

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The Dallas Tower Records store arrived fairly late in the company's history; I liked going there.

The Tower Records by Lincoln Center had a nice selection. There was a small Tower Records in the basement of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue that I went to a fair number of times. One had to pass through the lobby of that monument to bad taste to get there.

 

 

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In those days I lived in Brooklyn, then suburban CT, was not yet majorly into jazz, and purchased mostly classical/opera recordings.

Tower Lincoln Center had the best selection of classical, but Tower Greenwich Village had the sales Annex with lots of cutouts. I frequented both. There was also a surprisingly decent (but of course much smaller) Tower in Yonkers, southern end of Central Park Ave. (NY-100, big strip mall / retail thoroughfare). That was the heyday of brick/mortar CD shops (overexpansion, which was obvious even at the time); there were huge Borders, Barnes/Noble, Virgin and J&R (the latter lower Manhattan only) outlets all around.

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They opened up the store on South Street (forget if 5th or 6th Street was the cross street) in Philly in the 80's.  Three stories tall, plus two separate related Tower stores (classical annex and book/video store) across the street.  Then, in the early-mid 90's, the miracle occurred.  They built a fairly large store less than a mile from my house in King of Prussia!  I used to look forward to the big all-label sale every January, and for the months when Blue Note and OJC were on sale, and enjoyed stopping in every week to look at the new releases on the shelves and appreciated the Pulse! magazine every month.  They died a year or so before they closed the doors, became just another CD store with high prices and limited inventory, rather than the marvel they had been.  My first visit to a Tower was in San Francisco in the 70's.   They had a third store in the Philly area, out in the Northeast, and I visited there a few times when I was in the neighborhood, back before the King of Prussia store opened.  I remember visiting one on Decatur Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans (while on a business trip to Platforum, held in the Earl K. Long convention center) a very few years before Katrina.  Decatur Street also was (Is still?) home to the Cafe Du Monde, and was by far my favorite part of the French Quarter.  Very very different from Bourbon Street, which runs parallel just a block or so to the West.  My most memorable Tower Records visit was to the store at Picadilly Circle in London while there on a short-term mission trip in July 1991.  Picked up a bunch of British label CD's that were unobtainable in the USA.   Philly had a chain called Sam Goody (originally out of New York, I believe), and back in the early 70's (and before, I assume)  they seemed to have the same philosophy as Tower, of trying to stock "everything", though their corporate structure made them "just another chain" much earlier on.   

Edited by felser

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Spent many hours at the Tower in SF, near Fisherman's Wharf. Seemed like the center of the universe at the time. Growing up in Santa Barbara, I would usually stop at the Sunset Blvd Tower in LA when I had the chance. And living in NYC in the 80s I went to both the Lincoln Center Tower and the one on Lower Broadway.

I bought too many records there to remember any specific albums, though.

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I went to the one on Broadway in NYC quite often in the early 90s (then there was a sister store about a block away that specialized in discount labels -- I picked up quite a few Vogue recordings there).  I didn't go nearly as often to the one near Lincoln Center.  Probably the weirdest thing I picked up at Tower was Randy Greif's 5 CD version of Alice in Wonderland.  I think I still have it.  (And while I certainly did my share of shopping at Tower, I probably spent more time/money at J & R Music in lower Manhattan.)

After relocating to Chicago, I went to the store in the Loop from time to time, though it wasn't quite the same.

And a few years after that, Tower started going under.

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I've only been to Tower stores here in CA.  My most frequently visited store was in Campbell, CA (the location is now a  pet food/pet supply store), but I also  often went to stores in Mountain View (that location was once a Rasputin Records store after Tower closed-- I'm not sure what it is today) and San Jose (I think it's now a Party City store or something).  I also went to the Tower North Beach location (I remember especially going there after attending some shows at the nearby Bimbo's 365 Club) and one in San Mateo, I visited the Tower on Sunset Strip only once.  I also remember once visiting a rather small Tower store in Chico, CA (which is also home of the National Yo-Yo Museum where one will find the World's Largest Yo-Yo, so make your vacation plans early).

There used to be a Tower Outlet store in San Francisco back in the 1990's to maybe early 2000's.  It was somewhere South of Market down by where the new(ish) ballpark is now located. I used to drive up there on a Sunday afternoon once or twice a month and spent lots of hours and dollars there. They had all kinds of good deals there on cutouts and such.  I remember buying a lot of Muse Records cutouts there and also a lot of those "Giants of Jazz" EU compilation discs.

I do remember one day shortly after the announcement of the store closings was made, I visited the Campbell store one morning to have a look-see.  The place was pretty empty and the few customers that were these were pretty quiet, as though they were at a wake.  As I entered their jazz room, the music that was playing in there was Scott Joplin's "Solace".  It seemed more than appropriate for the occasion.

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I also went to the Tower on Broadway in the Village. I used to start out in the discount store, and buy a lot of CRI and other 20th Century Classical Music labels (Serenus, etc...), then go upstairs to the Tower Books and Tower Video floors, and then go to the main store on the corner of Broadway and 3rd or 4th St. to the jazz and classical sections.

One time I did that routine in the afternoon, and spent so much time checking out books, videos and CDs, that it was after midnight when I got out of there. I felt like I got lost in a time warp!

When they started to close, they discounted the store's contents progressively more and more. I worked out a scheme where I hid stuff I needed, like packs of guitar strings, guitar straps, and cables, in the magazine section, which no one looked at anymore because they stopped getting new magazines. I waited until they were reducing everything to 90%, and then got the guitar accessories out of their hiding place, and wound up getting all that stuff for 90% off. I pulled the same stunt in their store on Old Country Rd. in Carle Place on Lawnguyland, and wound up having enough strings, straps and cables to last me for years. Just part of basic musician survival techniques...

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1 hour ago, duaneiac said:

There used to be a Tower Outlet store in San Francisco back in the 1990's to maybe early 2000's.  It was somewhere South of Market down by where the new(ish) ballpark is now located. I used to drive up there on a Sunday afternoon once or twice a month and spent lots of hours and dollars there. They had all kinds of good deals there on cutouts and such.  I remember buying a lot of Muse Records cutouts there and also a lot of those "Giants of Jazz" EU compilation discs.

I forgot about that store. I think it was on Second St - probably around Bryant. 

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I used to regularly shop at the Tower in Piccadilly Circus, London, the one with the elevator up from the Underground. Best place for Japanese imports in the UK from 1990s onwards. 

In the US I also visited the Tower on Sunset Strip, LA and used to like the way that you could easily park there and at its peak, the jazz selection was colossal.  Also used the Santa Monica, La Jolla and San Diego stores. In NYC visited the Tower on Broadway up around 77th St I think, used to shop there every time on NYC visits. I think that store was previously Sam Goody. J&R at the bottom end of town was also a regular port of call.

The Santa Monica branch was good. Remember visiting once when Tom Scott and his band were playing there and signing CDs. Good times.

Edited by sidewinder

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Having lived all my life in Europe and Australia, I never bought directly from them. However, my 1999 Toshiba reissues of the two Monk Genius albums were originally sold by Tower Records, as shown below. I later bought them 2nd hand from a shop in Boston.

IMG_0382.jpg

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I also bought a couple of Japanese Blue Notes from the Tower Store in Tel Aviv. that store was, I believe, subsequently bombed.

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6 minutes ago, sidewinder said:

I used to regularly shop at the Tower in Piccadilly Circus, London, the one with the elevator up from the Underground. Best place for Japanese imports in the UK from 1990s onwards.

Completely forgot about this one! I used to go there as well when I lived in London from 2003-04. But mostly went to HMV on Oxford St.

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44 minutes ago, Misterioso said:

Completely forgot about this one! I used to go there as well when I lived in London from 2003-04. But mostly went to HMV on Oxford St.

Alas, the big HMV closed around 2012. Made myriad visits and purchases there. The last few things I bought there were a couple of the Mosaic Selects that had been ‘purged’ due to the Friday Night SNAFU.

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I have shopped at Tower Records all around the world. I travelled a lot from 1995 to 1998 and in every place I went, I made it a point to find the local CD shops, the local Jazz clubs and the local brewpubs. The best places had all 3 in close proximity. :) I usually planned to visit every Tower in the bigger cities I visited.

The best.... hmmm... the one in Picadilly Circus was pretty damn good but so was the biggest one in Taipei (there were 3 there). The Boston Jazz room was incredible during the CD's heyday but the one in Cambridge, MA had a great Jazz buyer, Bill Nancarrow, who used to special order me Japanese imports, which was frowned upon by his manager. The SF area had several great CD shops, which made the local Tower stores an "if I can get there" stop, although one time I found a bunch of cut-out Japanese CDs in their bins. I went nuts that time. I vaguely remember the New York City's stores being pretty good but I seem to remember that the one on Broadway was better than the other location. I don't think I can pick one. Truth be told, I think I found something cool in many of them.

I've been to Tower stores in LA, Dallas (and Fort Worth?), Albuquerque, Seoul, Atlanta, Washington DC, Hong Kong, Philadelphia, Chicago, Phoenix, and many cities I'm forgetting now. For some reason, I'm not remembering Tower Records being in Germany, France or Sweden, which were places I visited several times back then. If they did have shops, I visited them. Even in these early days of the Internet, Tower's website would lead you to their stores. I would research them and print out a list before hitting the road.

I miss that company.

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Oh yeah, the Boston one for me too (once), circa 1998 maybe?

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My first was the one on Sunset. My second was in Las Vegas. Both visits were in early 1981, so the game was ON!

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I shopped at a few Tower Records shops in NYC, also one in Toronto and one in London,

I did more jazz shopping at J & R in NYC.

Earlier I regularly went to the Discount Records store in Detroit and probably in a few other cities that I cannot remember.

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I used to visit the Tower Records store by Lincoln Center in the City, probably in the late 90s or early 2000s. Think some of my purchases was bop from PD labels like Cool ‘N Blue Records. 

Edited by Brad

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30 minutes ago, Peter Friedman said:

I shopped at a few Tower Records shops in NYC, also one in Toronto and one in London,

I did more jazz shopping at J & R in NYC.

Earlier I regularly went to the Discount Records store in Detroit and probably in a few other cities that I cannot remember.

Did Tower take over the old Sam’s location in Toronto on Yonge Street?

Edited by sidewinder

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I once walked into the Tower Records in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and chuckled when I saw a selection only about a foot wide of country music CDs.  At the Tower Records in Austin, Texas, I always saw a display of country music CDs that was about 6-8 feet wide.

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