All Things Must Pass

Michael Gerber
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Tower Records on Sunset Blvd

Cool car, too

Dullblog readers will likely enjoy All Things Must Pass, a recent documentary on the rise and demise of Tower Records. Directed by Colin Hanks, All Things Must Pass probes all the nooks and crannies of the legendary record store chain, which via the magic of contemporary American capitalism, only exists in Japan anymore. Turns out that the biggest threat to our way of life isn’t “handtruck fuel” (store slang for cocaine), but bankers.

The doc is a fascinating glimpse into Sixties, and particularly Seventies, rock culture, which generated oodles of cash and spawned a million mini-ecologies, from the underground press to the various liberation movements to, yes, hip record stores. And every subculture was social, even the brute commerce of hawking vinyl. All Things Must Pass demonstrates again and again how rock occupied a imaginative centrality utterly alien to how we live today. Actually, I take that back: tech is as central today as rock was then. But imagine if society’s heroes were oversexed, chemically altered musicians, instead of hyperrich, white, male control freaks whose animating principle seems to be making the rest of us as isolated and alienated as they feel.

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Meanwhile, here’s John Lennon’s 1974 ad for Tower Records. (Man, that guy hated jazz.)

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    Man, that guy hated jazz.

    Last night I watched Jazz At The White House. The big finale was a rousing version of Lennon’s “Imagine” but it was all modern-jazzed up with minor keys and extended digressions from the melody. I think Lennon would have been proud his song was selected but appalled at the arrangement.

  2. Avatar Sir Huddleston Fuddleston wrote:

    Wall Street bankers tend to fuck things up?? Who knew? At least we don’t lend (or give) them money, amirite?

  3. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    …particularly [the] Seventies rock culture, which generated oodles of cash and spawned a million mini-ecologies…

    There certainly seemed to be a boatload of $$$ floating around in the ’70s. Some little singer/songwriter or prog band would get signed up by a major label, there’d suddenly be an album in every store; an album that opened up like a book and included two posters, a photo brochure, printed lyrics, etc. And maybe one or two good songs, the rest filler.

    The men in the suits saw the outrageous success of the Beatles and Stones and believed if they cast a wide enough net and signed anyone with long hair, guitars and drums they’d get richer than Rockefeller. And so they were willing to write checks for some depressingly mediocre people.

    There had to be a formula! Long hair + guitars + drums = $$$! The men in the suits were like the people you see in the convenience store buying lottery tickets: “my grandson’s birthday + my license number = jackpot!”

    It was a fun ride while it lasted.

    An Alice Cooper album came with a pair of panties. Every Elton John album came with comic books and photos. It was like the 1940s, when movie theaters gave away dishes and silverware to anyone buying a ticket. They’d spend a fortune on production and marketing but who cared! when there were millions of idiots like me lining up to spend money.

    Remember Rupert Holmes? WNEW-FM made a big deal about his debut album, playing “Wide Screen” over and over as if this was the second coming of the christ. “Wide screen, wind around my eyes…” Millions of dollars were spent by his record company on press junkets. For a brief time I couldn’t escape Rupert Holmes. I confess they convinced me to buy his debut album. And boy, did it suck. It wasn’t until The Pina Colada Song that WNEW understood this sad fact. But they’d moved on to their next big thing.

    The ’80s Reagan recession put a stop to all the foolishness. The men in the suits began belt tightening. No more posters or photo books. One single sleeve for your album and no extras. And the quality of the vinyl deteriorated. They’d melt unsold albums, paper label included, to produce the next round of records. The party was over. We’d all need to make do with less…

  4. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    But imagine if society’s heroes were oversexed, chemically altered musicians, instead of hyperrich, white, male control freaks whose animating principle seems to be making the rest of us as isolated and alienated as they feel.

    As I recall from the 1970s, lots of those oversexed, chemically altered musicians were also hyperrich, white male control freaks whose animating principle was making the rest of us feel as isolated and alienated as they felt.

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