All that cardboard!
August 29, 2014 6:37 AM   Subscribe


 
Life is a giant heap of All Things Must Pass.
posted by pracowity at 6:52 AM on August 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Was there in 1971. It freaked us out a bit, music was going megabucks.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:55 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Chicago III Double LP... only $5.88!

That's $34.59 in today's dollars. Megabucks indeed.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:06 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tower Records was pretty much my favorite place growing up. The one near where I lived (Concord, CA store) was a combination Tower Records/Books so I could combine my favorite pasttimes of "browsing through record stores" and "browsing through bookstores" in one visit. Whenever I had any sort of money to my name I would inevitable end up at Tower.

My first job out of college was working for a company who had a contract with Tower Records corporate to sell all of their stores nationwide the labeling tape that went on the dividers between CDs listing band names. Every Wedensday I had to put together a report for their main buyer. It felt so cool to be associated, even in this very loose way, with the store that had been such a vital part of my childhood.

It's hard for me to get too sentimental about Tower's demise though. When they closed all of their stores, someone pointed out the irony to me, as in its prime Tower was looked at by smaller, independent records stores as the megacorp putting all the mom and pops out of business. Getting nostalgic for it was sort of like getting sentimental over the closing of your local Walmart.
posted by The Gooch at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Amazing, seeing all those albums just stacked on top of one another.

Also, I covet that sweater the guy in the first scene is wearing.
posted by xingcat at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2014


Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Me and Bobby McGee would like to thank you for letting me be mice elf. Again.
posted by 724A at 7:19 AM on August 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Chicago III Double LP... only $5.88!

That's $34.59 in today's dollars. Megabucks indeed.


And the spooky part: One dollar in 1971 would buy, in today's dollars... $5.88
posted by Sys Rq at 7:24 AM on August 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


That was the best Tower in Southern California. Tower Records were kind of hit or miss...the one in Brea was great for a while when my friend Rick worked there because he would order all sorts of bizarre shit that he'd never heard of, and then I'd come in and buy Smegma or Nurse with Wound or whatever. The Pasadena Tower was never decent from the time I moved there in '91 until they folded and now I buy mattresses there. What I really miss is Vinyl Fetish and Bleecker Bob's and Aaron's...but at least we have Ameoba.
posted by malocchio at 7:27 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


now I buy mattresses there

Wait.

Plural?

You, um, need a lot of mattresses?

Really hoping you're just building a cool fort.
posted by aramaic at 7:34 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Looks like the price-point for a basic album is $3.55, which is a bit over 20 bucks. More or less what I remember paying at a non-indie store when I still bought music. My local record store haunt as a teenager (RIP Burt's music in Newark Delaware) would go a little bit cheaper, with independent label stuff selling for 8 to 15 dollars.

Are the cassette items at the end 8 Tracks? Reel-to-reel?
posted by codacorolla at 7:36 AM on August 29, 2014


I didn't realize Tower was so old. I grew up with the various Tower Records in NYC.

By god, I miss Tower Records. I spent thousands of dollars and, I think, thousands of hours there, in NYC, Philly, Boston, LA, even London. It was my favorite place to buy music, hands down.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2014


Are the cassette items at the end 8 Tracks? Reel-to-reel?

There's a sign that says "8TK + CASSETTE" and that's what they look like to me. (Cassette means cassette.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2014


They ran the place without computers for tracking inventory or printers for signs.

1971 at the Nostalgia Machine. Not as good as 1973 but a few great ones.
posted by stbalbach at 7:53 AM on August 29, 2014


Note the large blowup zeppelin hanging from the ceiling. Cue the change from sixties icons to seventies.
posted by Ber at 7:55 AM on August 29, 2014


Looks like the price-point for a basic album is $3.55, which is a bit over 20 bucks

Didn't the recording industry promise that every new format would be cheaper than the last? Amazing how we fell for that, right? Every album was $20 right through the CD era.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:03 AM on August 29, 2014


Thanks for this; it brought back memories. I kept looking to see if any of my college friends would show up (I hardly ever got off the Occidental campus—no car). At one point I wanted to holler, "No, girl, don't buy that Paul McCartney album!" And of course I reflected that all those wonderful young people are now in their sixties, like me, and that grizzled guy is dead, and that baby might be a grandparent now. Also, they don't write music like that any more. Get off my lawn.
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


Although I'm sure the math is right, a $3.69 LP (at Disc-o-mat, NYC; with tax, $3.99) didn't feel as if it "cost" as much as buying a $20 album would today.

That said, when I asked my father to get me the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar ($6.99 for that plushy brown gatefold), he asked me, "Are you crazy?" Most likely referring to the price and not the content.

.

For Tower, my fave record (and magazine) store in various locations, including D.C., West B'way and Rockville Pike.
posted by the sobsister at 8:13 AM on August 29, 2014


I have many good memories of the Tower in Foggy Bottom, Washington, DC. The year I was born, my dad bought a fully functional replica Wurlitzer jukebox - I suppose as a midlife crisis gift to himself - and so I grew up with a sense of reverence for old 45RPM vinyl. His office was around the corner from the Tower Records, so on a special weekend day when he had to go in and my mom wasn't home to watch us, we'd all head downtown where I'd buy Fritos from the office vending machine and sit in a meeting room doodling with pens from the supply closet for a few hours until it was time to go to the record store.

It looked quite a bit like the one in LA, only in a much smaller space which you had to climb up to the second story of the building to get into. It could just be the distortion of memory but in my mind the shop is 15'x15' at the most and just stuffed with stacks and stacks of vinyl. I loved getting to pick out a single and bring it home, carefully clean it if there were any scratches, slide it into the rack of the jukebox and type up a label on our old electric typewriter. I think my favorite purchase was "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" which at the time I heard as "stop, dragon!" and was thrilled that Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty shared my interest in fantastic beasts.

I also fondly remember the clearance sale because by that time I was old enough to appreciate getting tons of music on discount, but it was also all on CD which just isn't the same. And as The Gooch alludes to, we do have some decent independent shops.
posted by capricorn at 8:14 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I miss pants with vertical stripes (NOT pinstripes) on men with nice legs (on men with less nice legs, too, to be perfectly honest). They hit the sweet spot between sexy (because SEXY!) and reminding me of my Dad when he was supercool (because familiar and nonthreatening).
posted by crush-onastick at 8:15 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Capricorn,

I share your love for the Foggy Bottom store, but it might have been bigger than you remember: The second floor wrapped around from Jazz, down through World and behind the glass doors of the huge Classical section.
posted by the sobsister at 8:18 AM on August 29, 2014


There's a sign that says "8TK + CASSETTE" and that's what they look like to me. (Cassette means cassette.)

Ah, I didn't see the sign. The cases looked a bit big for cassettes, and for some reason I thought cassettes were a little newer than that.
posted by codacorolla at 8:26 AM on August 29, 2014


for some reason I thought cassettes were a little newer than that

FWIW, they are exactly as new as that. 1971 is the year the cassette went from that thing you put in a dictaphone to a viable music format.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:51 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Funny, I didn't think cassettes were really ever a viable music format. (80s kid)
posted by nevercalm at 9:21 AM on August 29, 2014


All that cardboard!

I wasn't born until the mid-80s, but seeing all the cardboard, linoleum, low ceilings, and fluorescent lights brought on a strong sense memory of the vague cardboard + cigarette smoke smell that seemed to permeate nearly all big stores I entered in my early childhood. You know, the cigarette smell that happened even in places where no one smoked, because there was so much smoking going on in other places that people brought the smell with them wherever they went.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:31 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I could combine my favorite pasttimes of "browsing through record stores" and "browsing through bookstores" in one visit.

Yes, that was a huge part of my social life too. I miss that whole experience of hanging out in record stores, checking out the cover art (!!), getting reviews from other shoppers, reading the billboards to find out about concerts and festivals. Music is so much more accessible in a variety of formats today but, damn if record shopping wasn't more fun then. Also, not a bad way to meet new people based on shared interests. You had to be looking your coolest casual to go do some serious Friday night browsing.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


It wasn't just cassettes in 1971. Upstate, Gordon Moore and pals were building the death machine which would destroy all this.
posted by Devonian at 9:42 AM on August 29, 2014


Didn't the recording industry promise that every new format would be cheaper than the last?

Not in my memory. I think they always focused mostly on improved fidelity. Except for cassettes, where the emphasis was on portability.

This video is weird in that it's immensely nostalgic (I've either bought or flicked past pretty much all of those albums back in the day--it's amazing how immediately recognizable so many of them are just from a partially obscured glimpse of the back cover)--but you could take almost any one of those people and time travel them down onto Sunset Blvd today and no one would take a second look at them. I don't think the same thing could be said for someone plucked from a store in 1938 and dropped into that Tower Records. The broad cultural continuities of the past 50 years of fashion/music/art really are remarkable.
posted by yoink at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Although I'm sure the math is right, a $3.69 LP (at Disc-o-mat, NYC; with tax, $3.99) didn't feel as if it "cost" as much as buying a $20 album would today.

Buying power is an odd mental exercise in perception, associated with comparison and value and all other kinds of things.

When I was buying most of my vinyl (and later CDs), in the era between the late 70s and the mid-90s, I would easily go into a record store and drop $100-300 on new albums every 4-8 weeks. Granted, I was buying some audiophile stuff (American Gramaphone!), and had a fondness for albums with more than just a cardboard cover (gatefolds! with many pages glued inside!)...

But decades of wage stagnation combined with rising cost of living (meat, gasoline, fucking potato chips at $4/bag?!?!?), make for $20 seeming like a lot of investment. "I could buy this record, or I could buy steaks for dinner tonight."

That's a big mental difference in how our dollars matter now vs. then.
posted by hippybear at 9:54 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is precisely the year I made the transition from Top 40 singles to albums. My sister brought Alice Cooper's "Love it to Death" home and that was that. I became completely fascinated by this adult world of music - I would walk through record stores and just swoon.
posted by davebush at 10:03 AM on August 29, 2014


(gatefolds! with many pages glued inside!)

You're quite possibly talking about the Jethro Tull compilation album living in the past, man.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 AM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that the Minidisc failed to become the cassette to the CD's LP. And that 8-track never really took off in the UK...

When I was school age, I found record shops really intimidating. Some of that was because they were where the punks hung out, and to a middle-class 14 year old in a working-class town that made the space very uncomfortable. Some of that was feeling that I didn't know very much about music, and everyone in there did, and I'd look foolish. Also, my best friends didn't have much of an interest in music beyond listening to the radio, so I normally had to go alone.

That changed a lot when I got a bit older, and totally once I'd moved to the big city. And met some punks (who turned out to be nothing like my media-fuelled imaginings). And learned not to worry what other people thought (well, perhaps I'm still working on that one). And had some money. And found some friendly, enthusiastic record shop assistants. And found that the sort of music I liked helped find like-minded freaks and adventurers.

I wish I'd known that a few years earlier. I had a lot of catching-up to do, and the clock was ticking.
posted by Devonian at 10:16 AM on August 29, 2014


nevercalm: "Funny, I didn't think cassettes were really ever a viable music format. (80s kid)"

70's kid here and cassettes serve(d) a very useful purpose. One, was better than an 8 Track in my car. Two, recording other folks albums and of course the over 200 cassettes I still own of live Grateful Dead concerts. Albums were much better sounding and you could play any track with ease, but cassettes were portable.
posted by 724A at 10:26 AM on August 29, 2014


I did not have a Tower near me, but the Record World in Roosevelt Field Mall in the 70s rocked. Also, Korvettes had a great music department.
posted by 724A at 10:30 AM on August 29, 2014


Chicago III Double LP... only $5.88!

That's $34.59 in today's dollars. Megabucks indeed.


This is why I got most of my records as Christmas presents when I was in high school. It seemed like kind of a lot of money then. It's also why I was ecstatic a few years later when I discovered the joys of the used record store!

After that, I was doomed to be an obsessive record collector for many years.
posted by freakazoid at 10:30 AM on August 29, 2014


This is awesome but still is only the second-best youtube of a Los Angeles record store in 1971 I've seen. The best one is the one where Neil Young walks in the front door, pokes around until he finds a CSNY bootleg, and starts giving the clerk shit for selling his music without paying him for it. Then he steals it, tells the clerk he's stealing it, and huffs off through the door and into the night. With his camera crew in tow.

I'd link it but Neil Young is very consistent about some things, and the video has been taken down.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:37 AM on August 29, 2014


That's $34.59 in today's dollars. Megabucks indeed.

That's why we bought ten-packs of 90-minute cassettes for $10 and dubbed 20 albums from our friends or the library on them.
posted by octothorpe at 10:37 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


TDK SA-90s FTW!
posted by hippybear at 10:41 AM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd link it but Neil Young is very consistent about some things, and the video has been taken down.

Totally not ironically, I'd pay money to see that clip.
posted by eclectist at 10:42 AM on August 29, 2014


"I'm'a run up to Tower Records and get a pizza" - Dr. Dooom, Apartment 223
posted by scose at 11:11 AM on August 29, 2014


This looks like pretty much every used record store I used to haunt in the 90s in SF. Sans the CDs. Good memories, along with a few bad ones (way too many bargain-bin copies of A Northern Soul, A New Stereophonic Spectacular, and Razorblade Suitcase to file through in search of the nugget of gold).
posted by blucevalo at 11:52 AM on August 29, 2014


Also striking to me: how busy it is. It's how I remember the Piccadilly Circus Tower Records and the various HMVs and Virgins on Oxford Street in the 80s and 90s: always packed, whatever the time of day.

Nowadays every time I go to Rasputin -- which isn't often to be honest -- it feels a bit tumbleweedy; unusual to see anyone else browsing in the same aisle.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2014


With the increased societal acceptance of tattoos, piercings in non-ear body parts, mohawks, non-traditionally colored hair, etc., this comment might seem really antiquated, but there was always a certain profile of a Tower Records employee in that he or she generally always looked like someone who could only possibly be employed at Tower Records.
posted by The Gooch at 12:03 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's why we bought ten-packs of 90-minute cassettes for $10 and dubbed 20 albums from our friends or the library on them.

Well, we ALL did that in the 80s. But was that as common in the 70s? Home tape decks weren't as common pre-Walkman, were they?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:36 PM on August 29, 2014


Home tape decks weren't as common pre-Walkman, were they

They were pretty common. A lot of stereo racks had a cassette deck (often with twin players so you could dub from one tape to another) and a lot of people had "portable" but not "wearable" cassette players of various descriptions. I can remember taping stuff off the radio in the mid 70s. And, of course, cassette decks moved into cars pretty quickly.
posted by yoink at 1:45 PM on August 29, 2014


They’re smoking right at the checkout counter, with a big crystal ashtray. Crazy.
posted by migurski at 1:53 PM on August 29, 2014


Goodwill is now the best record store in my town.
posted by davebush at 2:04 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


They’re smoking right at the checkout counter, with a big crystal ashtray. Crazy.

Yeah--that's the one bit of the video (other than the LPs themselves, of course) where I really had a "OMG, that really is the past isn't it!" feeling.
posted by yoink at 2:05 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]




malocchio: the Brea Tower Records was my Tower when I was growing up. And I suspect my uncle shopped at the Sunset Strip one at the time of this film, as he was living on Beverly Glen at the time.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:13 PM on August 29, 2014


This lit up my day, thanks!
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 2:30 PM on August 29, 2014


Man, Tower really was something. I only went to the Sunset Boulevard store a couple of times in the 1990s, but I lived within walking distance of the Tower Annex on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. I think it was a scratch-and-dent/overstock outlet for all of their other SoCal stores. I was flat broke for a couple of years right after landing in L.A., but I could almost always scrape together a couple of bucks and find something there.

I still think of "my" Tower as the giant one at Newbury and Mass Ave in Boston, though. My older Brother went to Berklee and wound up working at Tower, so there was hardly ever a trip in to Boston that didn't involve a stop at Tower. There was really nothing like it; it was so big that they almost always had whatever fairly obscure thing you might be looking for.

When did "smoking is condoned all the time, everywhere?" begin to fall out of favor? I guess I can remember restaurants having smoking sections well into the 1990s, but I also remember being quite taken aback by smoking being allowed at a mall in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1994... ashtrays everywhere and lots of people puffing away in the corridors. I remember it feeling like a real timewarp even then.
posted by usonian at 2:32 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


There were a lot of things I appreciated about Tower Records when I was a disillusioned wannabe punk teen, but in retrospect the best thing about it was that when I shoplifted there nobody responded by gunning me down in the street.
posted by nev at 3:08 PM on August 29, 2014


I was just coming into this thread to say that it looks like a shoplifter's paradise. Lots of shit stacked above eye level, no security system, wide open front door.
posted by item at 3:37 PM on August 29, 2014


The video was lacking in outdoor shots, because, for me, the outside of Tower Records Sunset Strip was its greatest feature, among all the other advertising overkill on Sunset, to have a simple but eloquent display of 10-by-10-foot recreations of record covers, lined up from the door on both street-visible sides of the building. (Later on they'd allow certain artists, like Michael Jackson, take extra-oversized displays on the building, but that seemed like a violation of the spirit of the building.) I often wondered if they just painted over each record cover or replaced them, and if it were possible to acquire old Tower Record Giant Covers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:48 PM on August 29, 2014


Unboxing box after box of "All Things Must Pass" and "McCartney." I would say this is the absolute low point of pop music, but that would be incorrect. It got worse. Far worse. But this is pretty damn bad as it is.

This is why I spent most of the early 70s buying classical music.

The video was lacking in outdoor shots, because, for me, the outside of Tower Records Sunset Strip was its greatest feature, among all the other advertising overkill on Sunset..

Previously
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:00 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I grew up in NYC and spent all my babysitting money at the East Village and Lincoln Center Tower locations. The EV one in particular had really amazing buyers: great import section, dance music, punk/experimental, a huge assortment of zines. I would not be half the music fanatic I am today were it not for Tower Records.
posted by mirepoix at 5:12 PM on August 29, 2014


Goodwill is now the best record store in my town.

The Golden Age for Goodwill was the mid 90's, people were dumping entire collections to go to CD instead, and there was lots of interesting stuff in good condition going for spare change.
posted by ovvl at 6:56 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Go-go boots!
posted by telstar at 7:52 PM on August 29, 2014


The Golden Age for Goodwill [for vinyl] was the mid 90's, people were dumping entire collections to go to CD instead...

Ahem.
The Golden Age for Goodwill might be TODAY - people are dumping entire collections OF CDs.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:22 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


The best one is the one where Neil Young walks in the front door, pokes around until he finds a CSNY bootleg, and starts giving the clerk shit for selling his music without paying him for it. Then he steals it, tells the clerk he's stealing it, and huffs off through the door and into the night. With his camera crew in tow.

I love that clip. "Green Eyed Lady" is playing through the whole thing, and the hippie clerk just sort of can't believe what's happening. It used to be on Neil Young's website in the 90's, I think it was his jokey comment on the whole Napster thing that was happening at the time. I think it was an outtake from Journey Through the Past.

Unboxing box after box of "All Things Must Pass" and "McCartney." I would say this is the absolute low point of pop music

ATMP is one of my favourite albums ever. Still have the giant poster of George in bearded-hermit mansion-dweller mode.

At one point I wanted to holler, "No, girl, don't buy that Paul McCartney album!"
And it was funny that she already had the Lennon album in the stack of selections in her arm.
Holy year of multiple-Beatle-solo-albums.
posted by chococat at 10:30 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Can records be kept stacked horizontally like that? Last xmas I toured an underfunded archive containing hundreds if not thousands of jazz albums, all stacked flat, boxes upon boxes, and worried about their eventual playability.
posted by goofyfoot at 11:10 PM on August 29, 2014


Can records be kept stacked horizontally like that?

No, you really shouldn't stack them that way, especially a stack that tall with so much weight. I'd hate to be the guy that buys the warped album at the bottom of the stack, after it's been there a week with a hundred pounds of records on top.

Nostalgia for vinyl apparently does not include the massive problems with the format and packaging. I recall many times going back to the record store to return warped, unplayable albums. And then there were just bad pressings. I have one punk album I bought at Wax Tracks Records in Denver that was extremely difficult to obtain as an import, and then it turned out all the first run of records were defective and sounded like crap so they recalled them from stores. I just kept the defective album because I figured I'd never be able to get a replacement. Now it's a collector's item.

The one thing I miss most about the vinyl era is the empty record boxes. I used to go to the record store all the time to pick up record boxes. They were useful as all hell, and not just for boxing up my records. Apparently you can still buy these boxes from record collecting suppliers and holy crap they're like $7 each. The last time I moved, I had to make my own custom record boxes by cutting 14" boxes down to 12". That was a huge pain in the ass, but 14" was the smallest box size I could find cheaply.

Now what the Tower Records clerks should have done was stack the records in their shipping boxes and put a stack of opened albums on top. The boxes would have taken off some of the weight, and they could open up new boxes as the stack grew shorter. Ideally they would stack them with the albums vertically, but that would probably not stack well.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:46 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tower Records in El Toro was my main hangout in the 80s. Many many great memories of driving there (just got my own car!) late in the evening and hanging out until midnight closing. Good staff there - always had Roxy Music, Bauhaus, or Nick Cave cranked up at that hour.

I even saw the Dream Syndicate there.
posted by quartzcity at 9:41 PM on September 2, 2014


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