The sobering thought that you come away with after watching All Things Must Pass, is that we are the last generation who had big record stores with all the albums, tapes, CDs, T-shirts, posters and other merchandise you could dream of. Record stores are/were not only places to pick up your favourite bands, but also places that remain in your memories years later.
My memories of Tower Records are from the London store. I remember going in there to get the Japanese version of Everything Must Go and the Japanese version of the second Menswe@r album. It is where I bought Orlando’s classic ‘Passive Soul’ record and I also met Kenickie there when they did a gig/signing to promote their debut album. Everytime I see or hear things about these records, I am instantly back there, in a musical mecca filled with all of the treats, all those Beach Boys albums that I had never seen, all the imports with the elevated pricetags, different packaging and tracklisting. All those music books imported, where I picked up my Beach Boys books when my dad and I went to London once a year. Once we saw the biggest queue ever outside Tower and my dad asked one of the women what was happening and we got the excited shouted reply “BARRY MANILOW!”. I’m sure each of those ladies remembers that day as clearly as I remember my Tower adventures. Magic. Magic days.
This excellent documentary is essentially lots of people doing what I have just done, remembering events and days spent looking at all the records eyeing up the girls and watching culture change but music being the only constant. You meet all of the top brass at the company, but I am sure that they would not want to be described as such. More adventurers on the great boat Tower, more enthusiasm than experience, the tales of them turning up at work drunk or puking on the job are funny and sweet, it seems there was an unwritten rule that however bad you felt, you would come to work, even if you then had to leave after an hour. Everyone loved the boss and everyone loved their time there. Sure, you can tell from the title that things are going to get more unhappy as the film goes on, but magically no one has any regrets about their time at Tower and everyone is always ready to tell another story.
All Things Must Pass is a great documentary about some of the greatest times in popular culture. Will the kids be making films like this in thirty years about ‘that time I streamed my favourite album’? It seems unlikely, but then you can now buy vinyl in the supermarket so perhaps the physical release is ready to rise again. Just in less special places than our record stores. Of course, the ultimate irony might be that this Tower Records story DVD is exclusively available at HMV. Enemies become friends when the gunfire ends…