Quantcast
TALES OF TOWER

Tower Records founder and titan of retail Russ Solomon died on 3/4; his departure has sparked not only a flurry of recollections about the man but also considerable reminiscing about the experience of working in his stores. We invited a few folks we know to stroll down the aisles of memory. If you have your own recollections to share, hit us up here.

Doug Davis, Attorney
RIP Russ Solomon. My first paid job was a summer in the cassette department of Tower Records. I learned a strong work ethic, and a lot about music and people. I had to work weekends while all my friends had them off. Tower was open late—I had to vacuum after midnight and lock up at 1am. I learned a lot of responsibility; a register shift at 16 was real life! A short drawer got you locked up in the office.

But wow, what an incredible experience it was. It took me out of my orbit. It was eye-opening to be a kid working alongside people from other walks of life, people I wouldn't otherwise have met: from the projects, the Midwest, the Lower East Side and from overseas.

Tower Records had everyone: the punks, the nerds, the blue-collar kid from Jersey yapping about Springsteen. Everybody got their turn to pick an album to play in the store, so I got exposed to music nobody else was sharing with me. Tower Records was THAT summer job for me.

Looking back, even when it sucked, Tower was incredible. Vacuuming an empty store at 1am on Saturday in the summer teaches you a work ethic that stays for your whole life. Dealing with obnoxious tourists with no respect for me and others taught me how to treat everyone fairly.

And a stock boy at Tower Records wasn't exploited at minimum wage. We made $5.25 an hour, which was a decent and respectable wage in 1988.

Thank you for having me, Russ; I'll have some whiskey tonight in your honor.

 

Gary Helsinger, publisher/musician

Few people in the music business have had as big an impact as Russ Solomon, and I was lucky enough to work for him for three years in the ’80s. Working at Tower Sunset changed my life. I met so many friends that I still have today, I met ALL of my music heroes, and it launched my music-business career as well as my band.

Russ was always approachable and friendly and fun. The man fully enjoyed every minute to the end. Once we barged into his office in Sacramento just as Green Jellö was launching, and I attacked him as [costumed character] Shitman. He laughed his head off. I’m so glad I got to hang with him at the screening for the Tower doc All Things Must Pass at the Grammy Museum and again at the premiere party inside our old store (#131!) on Sunset two years ago (where this pic was taken). He drank us all under table and kept the party going ’til 1am. He was the youngest person I’ve ever known, and he made it to 92 years old! Thank you, thank you, thank you, boss!

PJ Bloom, SVP of Film & TV Music, Warner Bros./music supervisor

Michael Jackson would come in fairly often and we'd close the store so he could shop privately. One time he showed up with Emmanuel Lewis (Webster); the two were palling around circa the Bad album. They were both in disguise—Michael in a floppy hat, sunglasses, fake rubber nose and what could only be described as old-man clothes, with his pants pulled up past his navel. The two came in about 15 minutes before closing and wandered. We (the staff) played interference with customers trying to approach them and did our best to clear the store quickly. After we closed, the two shopped freely although never taking off their disguises. Before leaving, Michael chatted for a bit and signed paraphernalia for each and every one of us. I had him sign the “Bad” vinyl single, which I still have today.

I was working behind the counter when Sebastian Bach from Skid Row came in. The band’s first album was screaming up the charts during the hair-metal era. Sebastian walked up to my register and said, “Dude, can I see that magazine behind you?” I turned around and eyeballed a copy of Hit Parader magazine with—of course—Sebastian on the cover, hair blown out and flowing like water. So I gave it to him. He flipped through and pretended to read the article, all while standing right in front of me,  then said, “Hey man, can I have this?” I said, “Can you have that magazine?” He said, “Yeah, dude!” I responded, “No, dude!” Then he said, “But dude, I’m on the cover!” To which I replied, “Then you should be able to afford $2.75 for that magazine—dude.” Sebastian stared me down for a moment, threw the magazine back at me, shouted “Dick!” then walked out of the store. 

Needless to say, it was one of the greatest exchanges of my life.



Bill Tutton
, musician

Tower Sunset was a great place to network before you knew you were networking.

Night shift was the best, because that was when all the people (who were out hustling during the day to get a “real” industry job) were there. I met folks who became rock stars, producers, label weasels, whatever. I’m still in touch with many of them.

Late one night, we caught a popular recording artist hiding BOXES of their newest LPs, so when the label came in to do counts, the hidden LPs would be counted as units sold.

Many celebrities were nice and cool and good to their fans. Bruce Springsteen, especially. He usually came in early on Sunday mornings. One day he comes to the counter with a basketful of cassettes and asks the clerk his opinion on each of them, and the reply formed three piles of cassettes; good, bad and haven’t heard. Bruce bought the good and haven’t heard piles and left the haven’t heard pile for the clerk to listen to, so he could tell Bruce what they were like when he came in next week.

One time a Japanese news crew came in to ask questions. Since I was the manager, they asked me the questions. I was on Japanese TV, man! Among other questions, they asked me what LPs were the four or five top-sellers of the day. I answered “Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet, George Michael, Faith, something else, and Throbbing Gristle, 20 Jazz-Funk Greats.” I like to think that [TG frontman] Genesis P-Orridge got an uptick in Asia that week.

U2 were in EVERY day when they were doing the promo jaunt for The Joshua Tree. They looked exactly like they did in all those videos.

 

J.D. Hinton, singer/songwriter, composer

I worked at Tower Records on Sunset (April-July 1974). My association with Tower began in Sacramento, where Tower began. I was DJ and Music Director for KROY, so I was friends with their management guys. The last time I saw Russ was at a dinner out at Granita in Malibu (late ’90s or early 2000s). I sat next to Russ and it was a grand evening of memories.

MARSHMELLO TOASTING UP
BIG DEAL?
He's smokin'. (6/21a)
BROCKHAMPTON MARKS RETURN WITH FALLON APPEARANCE
Also on the show, SNL's Pete Davidson confirmed his engagement to Ariana Grande. (6/21a)
TOP MONEYMAKERS: SPREADING THE WEALTH
Juice WRLD made the most moolah. (6/21a)
TOP 20: CARTER COUNTRY & SUMMER HEAT (UPDATE)
It's a horse race. (6/21a)
SUSPECT CHARGED IN XXXTENTACION SLAYING
Motive remains unclear. (6/21a)
WHO ARE THE RAINMAKERS?
We promise this special issue won't be dry.
HOW ROCK IS STREAMING FORWARD
Amps sold separately.
PIZZA PLACEMENT
Songs by the slice.
A.I. AND OUR FUTURE
Planning for Skynet.
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)