Back in October, after Tower Records filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time since 2004, a judge awarded its assets to the Great American Group for $134.3 million. After lingering for the last couple months, they officially closed their doors yesterday. Like many long-time patrons, I made my own final pilgrimage to my local Tower earlier this week. The racks were scattered, shelves disheveled. The jazz section was actually made into a "treasure hunt" area, and its displays were filled with miscellaneous discs and overstock. Though the sight itself was somewhat sad, I didn't mind shuffling through the endless stacks of albums. Tower's inventory was always made for obsessive browsing, and that was the best part of the record-hunting experience, as I'm sure collectors will agree.
Other articles, editorials and blogs out there drone on about the inevitability of Tower's closing due to its lack of presence in the digital music market. This may be true, but at least for me, that's not the issue. While everyone is talking about Tower's recent declining worth as a brand, loyal patrons have always seen it as just a store -- their store. It was a hang, a place to browse, to check out albums you've never seen before, to buy tickets for shows, to talk to other music fans. Lovers of easy-to-find mainstream music may not notice the loss, but jazz listeners will. Fans of "niche" genres will have to turn to other sources -- ostensibly, virtual ones (for those without an Amoeba, Rasputin or equivalent).
Though guilty of "feeding off the carcass," I justified myself by standing by my record as a lifetime Tower shopper. Like Tower, I was born in Sacramento (though I'm quite a bit younger), and as a teenager I spent way too much time and money there.
Amazon.com's cross-referenced album suggestions notwithstanding, there aren't too many places I can come across a shopping bag like this just by wandering around:
Camera Obscura: Let's Get Out of This Country
Vinicius de Moraes: El Poeta de la Bossa Nova
Roy Haynes: Out of the Afternoon
Dizzy Reece: Blues in Trinity
Christian Scott: Rewind That
Yosvany Terry: Metamorphosis
Thirteen Ways (Fred Hersch): Focus
John Zorn: The Unknown Masada
Virtual storefronts may be just as functional but they're not quite as fun.
Huffintgon Post (guest blogger, Alec Baldwin)
Sacramento Bee (hometown pride, after all)
Washington Post (some peculiar points here, but I'll save my arguments for later)