All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

all-things-must“Music is DEAD”. Well at least that’s what Colin Hanks wants us to think in this documentary based on one of America’s most iconic record stores, Tower Records.

Now, if you were born after 1995 this will probably mean nothing to you so put down your “Applepods” and your “ilaps” and carry on ruining music like the ungrateful sods you are!

But if you were born prior to the music revolution that is MP3, then this may just be the best (or) the worst documentary you’ll watch that fills you up to the brim with fuzzy musical nostalgia, then has you reaching for your keyboard to abuse every greedy consumer out there. Be warned!

“This is for the music lover in all of us”

All Things Must Pass tells the story of Russ Solomon the “God Father” and visionary creator of Tower Records (America’s biggest record store).

Ok, so when I say big, I mean yuge! It had everything, from Reggae to spoken word.  It wasn’t flash, it wasn’t gimmicky, it was music man, and a lot of it! And the people, well the people couldn’t get enough of it!

During the 1960s until the late 2000s Russ opened up more than 200 Tower Records stores around the globe. This documentary tells the story of Russ’ journey, from his modest start in a small town drug store, to being one of the very first American music chains to open up in a Japanese market (and stay open).

Being a musician I was instantly drawn into this story, because like many kids of the 90’s I was obsessed with music. Popping down to the local music shop in the weekend to pick up a new single or an album was all part of life.

I was even lucky enough to work in a music store back in 2006 (Not a Tower Records), so I can relate to this story and how much the music market changed once the platforms switched and money began to control music.

That being said this isn’t just a documentary about music, it’s also about the family behind the music, and it shows the impact it has on people’s lives when you take it all away.

So sit back, grab yourself a drink and get ready for some first rate nostalgia and sad feels!

Does the documentary have any replay value?

I really liked this documentary, though I would probably not watch it again unless I had to explain why music now sucks thanks to the millennials, or maybe I will show it to my future children. You could possibly put a copy of this in a time capsule because it may have some kind of replay value in the future to show the future us that we were dicks.

Who would you recommend this documentary for?

Ahhhh music historians, music lovers and the general public really, this isn’t an overly in your face kind of documentary and it doesn’t push any real kind of message or agenda on you, other than the fact that music was awesome for a really short time, now it sucks, and it’s all your fault!

Do you feel invested in the characters and the story?

When I watch documentaries I always feel there’s a phoney persona people put on and act out in front of the camera, but with this documentary it was real, the feelings were real.

These are people who love music, worked in this company for 30 years and then watched it all fall down in front of them. You can’t help but feel sorry for these guys!

Like most docos this was a little slow at the beginning, but once I got 15 minutes through I was hooked. There were enough music facts and nostalgia to keep me entertained. I had never realised just how big and ambitious Tower Records was in its promise to fill its stores with all the music you could ever want, so it was fun to see just how crazy it got before it all failed.

What was the music/score like?

There could have been more music on this documentary, that way they could have released a freakin kick ass “Save the Tower” anniversary album, just saying.

Was it an original story?

I’ve seen this kind of documentary before, one more famously a few years ago by Dave Grohl called Sound City and this was along the same lines as that, but with more enthuses on how the music industry began to sink because of changing times and the release of online music sharing formats like Napster.

Did the story have a resolve or end message?

Only that there were these really amazing places called “Music Stores” were magic happened! You could even “buy” music there, (I know crazy right).

And even though most of the people who worked there were assholes, those assholes loved music, and they loved talking about music!

It was a community before Facebook, a was a place you could hang out, buy the latest hip song on the radio, and have sex in the listening booth (yeah, it happened.)

It was a long and amazing ride that seemed like it was never going to end, until you fucked it up!

Final thoughts

I’m not quite sure what lead Colin Hanks into filming this documentary but I’m glad he did!

There was a butt load of heart in this documentary and it was clear that this was not a documentary about the music, but the family and friends and the relationships formed from Tower Records. It really did show how good we had it.

I will always look back fondly on my memories of working for a record store and this documentary serves as a nice little reminder of that, so I hope this movie can give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside like it did for me.

Rating – 6/10

All Things Must Pass is available on DVD from MVD Visual

Reviewed by Jimmy Mills

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