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RIP: Russ Solomon, founder of Tower Records

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  • RIP: Russ Solomon, founder of Tower Records

    Passed away at age 92 while watching the Oscars and drinking his ubiquitous glass of whisky.

    I worked for Tower from '87-'97 in various capacities and locations. Russ (he never wanted anyone to call him Mr. Solomon) was a big influence on my life in terms of what I took from that job in the way of business and management philosophy. Tower was a unique store in many ways, not the least of which was the way everyone who ran the company came from the bottom up and the way each store was allowed to operate as autonomously as possible and each employee given the opportunity to be as involved and responsible for their own success as they were able and willing to be. The success I have had in my various business ventures since then I owe a great deal to always having Russ on one shoulder giving me his input.

    Many people loved those stores for their unique atmosphere and culture but I don't know how many understand the degree to which all of that came from that "just be yourself and pretty much anything goes as long as you show up on time and do the work" ethic that all came from Russ.

    I only ever met Russ a handful of times and had dinner and drinks with him, I believe, twice. But he was truly a good man with a good heart who put people before business. He wasn't a particularly great businessman---he let others in the company handle that part of it---but he had the vision to ride the wave of the booming record business in the 60s and turn it into something very special.

    For anyone with fond memories of the store, I highly recommend Colin Hanks' documentary from a few years ago "All Things Must Pass". For some reason, I never got around to watching it but last night when I heard of Russ' passing, I downloaded it and watched it. It really hit the mark and was particularly on the spot for me as I personally knew almost everyone featured in the film from the company. While I don't have the fondest of memories of ALL of those people, virtually everyone who worked for the company and knew Russ personally loved him.

    RIP, Russ. You will be missed by many. I'll sip on a glass of some good stuff tonight in your honor.
    Last edited by guido61; 03-07-2018, 10:29 AM.

  • #2
    sorry for your loss. I don't think i was ever in a tower records

    Comment


    • #3
      I spent tons of time at the Tower Records location on Beach Blvd. (and occasionally the one on Sunset - which is now occupied by Gibson IIRC) when I was in high school (and beyond) - I have lots of fond memories of Tower Records. I'm sorry to hear that Russ has passed...

      I never knew you worked there guido - what did you do, if you don't mind me asking?

      I'll definitely have to seek out "All Things Must Pass" and watch it. Thanks for the tip!


      **********

      "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
      - George Carlin

      "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
      - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

      "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
      - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post
        I spent tons of time at the Tower Records location on Beach Blvd. (and occasionally the one on Sunset - which is now occupied by Gibson IIRC) when I was in high school (and beyond) - I have lots of fond memories of Tower Records. I'm sorry to hear that Russ has passed...

        I never knew you worked there guido - what did you do, if you don't mind me asking?

        I'll definitely have to seek out "All Things Must Pass" and watch it. Thanks for the tip!

        Like most everyone else who ever worked there I started out as a clerk because that was the only job I could get and keep my long hair and have a schedule flexible around my band needs. This was in Las Vegas. I moved up the ranks as a product buyer and store manager and was also part of the crew that was sent out to open up new locations for awhile. I eventually transferred to a store in Sacramento and finished up my run there. After about 10 years I realized I wasnt likely to move up any higher in the corporate structure so I left to took what I learned and strike out on my own.

        the best time I had was the period I was the product buyer for the Vegas store. That also meant I was the guy in charge of reporting our weekly sales figures to Billboard magazine. This was still in the days before Soundscan and everything was done by hand.

        The amount of promo CDs, concert tickets and other goodies I received from the record labels was astounding. Almost made up for the crappy pay. Lol. We got a lot of celebrities and musicians through that location as well.

        Very good times and memories for me. And in hindsight very glad I got out when I did as the chain and really the whole industry didn’t last much longer. From what I know from my friends there (and is covered well in the movie) the period when the banks took over and ran things was horrible.

        Comment


        • #5
          In the early 80s my wife and I had a regular Saturday night ritual of pizza at Two Guys from Italy and then Tower Records in Mountain View. Good times.
          Please send me evenings and weekends
          ...

          Ed Phobes has taken music to a place where it has never been before, and will never go again. In my life, I have heard great music, and I have heard terrible music. Now I have heard this. Thank you. – sydfan

          https://soundcloud.com/ed-phobes

          Comment


          • #6
            It was a very exciting place in the late 80s when I first went. By the mid-ninties, Amoeba and Rasputin had giant shops in Berkeley and the Virgin Megastore in downtown SF opened up. Although I preferred to buy used, I ended up buying tons of albums from Virgin because of their listening stations were turning me onto music I wasn't hearing on the radio or anywhere else. Tower had listening stations as well, but they seemed more corporate while Virgin's seemed like someone local was doing the programming.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Zooey View Post
              It was a very exciting place in the late 80s when I first went. By the mid-ninties, Amoeba and Rasputin had giant shops in Berkeley and the Virgin Megastore in downtown SF opened up. Although I preferred to buy used, I ended up buying tons of albums from Virgin because of their listening stations were turning me onto music I wasn't hearing on the radio or anywhere else. Tower had listening stations as well, but they seemed more corporate while Virgin's seemed like someone local was doing the programming.
              That’s interesting. The listening stations were all programmed in store, but certainly the labels did what they could to get their product in there. I can’t imagine it was any different at Virgin.

              Surprised the Berkeley and SF stores weren’t more eclectic. If any stores should have been!

              BTW I hated those listening stations. They were always breaking down or the phones were going bad.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by guido61 View Post

                That’s interesting. The listening stations were all programmed in store, but certainly the labels did what they could to get their product in there. I can’t imagine it was any different at Virgin.

                Surprised the Berkeley and SF stores weren’t more eclectic. If any stores should have been!

                BTW I hated those listening stations. They were always breaking down or the phones were going bad.
                The SF location near North Beach was small and funky. There was a bigger location in the Stonestown mall near SFSU and that's where the listening stations were. My recollection is that I was more likely to see releases from small labels like Thrill Jockey or Mo Wax at Virgin and that's what was exciting me at the time. I spent time in both stores, both are now long gone.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Zooey View Post
                  It was a very exciting place in the late 80s when I first went. By the mid-ninties, Amoeba and Rasputin had giant shops in Berkeley and the Virgin Megastore in downtown SF opened up.
                  Amoeba is still around - at least the Hollywood location is. Great store. There was a Virgin Megastore out in Ontario, but I only visited it a few times. Not bad, but I liked Tower in its heyday and Amoeba better. YMMV.

                  **********

                  "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
                  - George Carlin

                  "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
                  - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                  "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
                  - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post

                    Amoeba is still around - at least the Hollywood location is. Great store. There was a Virgin Megastore out in Ontario, but I only visited it a few times. Not bad, but I liked Tower in its heyday and Amoeba better. YMMV.

                    If Gibson is in the old Tower Sunset building (do you work out of that building or visit it?) you’ll probably like the bit in the documentary where Russ talks about building it. It was an empty lot at the time and he had his cousin who was in construction throw up a very cheap building as it was still a very small operation at the time. I don’t think it was intended to last 50 years. I wonder how much work they’ve had to do in it?

                    IIRC even back in the 80s there were problems with the roof leaking and such.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by guido61 View Post


                      If Gibson is in the old Tower Sunset building (do you work out of that building or visit it?) you’ll probably like the bit in the documentary where Russ talks about building it. It was an empty lot at the time and he had his cousin who was in construction throw up a very cheap building as it was still a very small operation at the time. I don’t think it was intended to last 50 years. I wonder how much work they’ve had to do in it?

                      IIRC even back in the 80s there were problems with the roof leaking and such.

                      I've met some very nice people who I think might work there, but I myself haven't been in the building on Sunset since it was a Tower Records store. I'm very familiar with how it looked when it was though... I do think Gibson fixed it up on the inside and reinforced it structurally (IIRC, it's used as a showcase and event location now), but they largely restored the outside to its original iconic appearance.

                      Do a Google search for "Sunset and Horn, West Hollywood CA" and click on street view, rotate the view a bit, and you can see what it looks like now.

                      **********

                      "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."
                      - George Carlin

                      "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."
                      - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                      "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."
                      - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post
                        I spent tons of time at the Tower Records location on Beach Blvd. (and occasionally the one on Sunset - which is now occupied by Gibson IIRC) when I was in high school (and beyond) - I have lots of fond memories of Tower Records. I'm sorry to hear that Russ has passed...

                        I never knew you worked there guido - what did you do, if you don't mind me asking?

                        I'll definitely have to seek out "All Things Must Pass" and watch it. Thanks for the tip!

                        I too, spent a lot of time in the Beach Blvd. store as it was the closest to my house in Cerritos. I liked how tower would paint the cover art on the windows and was roomies with a girl in Whittier who worked the Whittier Blvd. store as their "Art Director". She painted most of the art in and on that store.
                        Last edited by gp2112; 03-08-2018, 10:34 PM.
                        Sprinkles are for winners...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gp2112 View Post

                          I too, spent a lot of time in the Beach Blvd. store as it was the closest to my house in Cerritos. I liked how tower would paint the cover art on the windows and was roomies with a girl in Whittier who worked the Whittier Blvd. store as their "Art Director". She painted most of the art in and on that store.
                          The art was one of the coolest things about the Tower stores. Each store would have 3-4-more employees who did nothing else but paint, draw, cut, paste, glue etc. Most chains would just hang up whatever posters were sent to them by the record labels. Usually in the exact spot dictated to them by the corporate powers-that-be.

                          Not only was Tower well known for its original art, I don’t know how many people realized it was all unique to that location and done by someone who worked there.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by guido61 View Post
                            Passed away at age 92 while watching the Oscars and drinking his ubiquitous glass of whisky.

                            I worked for Tower from '87-'97 in various capacities and locations. Russ (he never wanted anyone to call him Mr. Solomon) was a big influence on my life in terms of what I took from that job in the way of business and management philosophy. Tower was a unique store in many ways, not the least of which was the way everyone who ran the company came from the bottom up and the way each store was allowed to operate as autonomously as possible and each employee given the opportunity to be as involved and responsible for their own success as they were able and willing to be. The success I have had in my various business ventures since then I owe a great deal to always having Russ on one shoulder giving me his input.

                            Many people loved those stores for their unique atmosphere and culture but I don't know how many understand the degree to which all of that came from that "just be yourself and pretty much anything goes as long as you show up on time and do the work" ethic that all came from Russ.

                            I only ever met Russ a handful of times and had dinner and drinks with him, I believe, twice. But he was truly a good man with a good heart who put people before business. He wasn't a particularly great businessman---he let others in the company handle that part of it---but he had the vision to ride the wave of the booming record business in the 60s and turn it into something very special.

                            For anyone with fond memories of the store, I highly recommend Colin Hanks' documentary from a few years ago "All Things Must Pass". For some reason, I never got around to watching it but last night when I heard of Russ' passing, I downloaded it and watched it. It really hit the mark and was particularly on the spot for me as I personally knew almost everyone featured in the film from the company. While I don't have the fondest of memories of ALL of those people, virtually everyone who worked for the company and knew Russ personally loved him.

                            RIP, Russ. You will be missed by many. I'll sip on a glass of some good stuff tonight in your honor.
                            I have fond memories of the Tower Records on Sunset and Horn.
                            I loved the way Tower made a record release into a Cultural event with fans and the Artists.

                            Rest in Peace Russ !!!! .... He made Music in Life, extra special !!!!
                            How many guitarists does it take to screw in a lightbulb ? Five , one to screw it in , hit the switch and four to sit around bragging how much better they could have done it !!!! 😱👹😲

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by AJ6stringsting View Post

                              I have fond memories of the Tower Records on Sunset and Horn.
                              I loved the way Tower made a record release into a Cultural event with fans and the Artists.

                              Rest in Peace Russ !!!! .... He made Music in Life, extra special !!!!
                              No Music, No life.


                              Comment

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