Last Call

One of the advantages of living in New York is that no matter what your state of mind it is a fairly safe bet that you can blend in if you like. It’s a big city with a lot going on and not much makes the average New Yorker stop and notice.

I mention this now because today I spent some time walking through the Tower Records near Lincoln Center. I spent a lot of time in Tower Records growing up. Early on, mostly a little disoriented from one thing or another and then later on frequently disheartened by one thing or another.

I went to NYU from 1991 to 1995. The Tower Records on Broadway and 4th was packed on a regular basis. I remember vividly that trying to go there on Friday’s early in the evening could sometimes be next to impossible the crowds were so big. I discovered a lot of music there and had a lot of fun doing it. It was, as I’m sure most people’s college experience was, exciting to discover music at a time in my life where my interests seemed to be moving in new directions every day. Standing there, and not that I can remember this precisely now but I’m sure it happened, there was a certain sense of awe at what was on the shelves. I mean there was a lot of music there I was interested in.

After college I worked in an indie music store in New York called Kim’s. I had similar experiences there, but it was a little different. I had seen a little bit more by then and had a better sense of what I thought I wanted to see more of. Tower was more naive. I can still remember hitting a stack of Poison CDs with Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, while on hallucinogens for the first time, and scolding the Poison CDs for being bad CDs.

I think my relationship with Tower changed once I started a record label. Tower was no longer there to educate me with hidden treasures. Instead I knew exactly what I wanted out of Tower. SALES……

Up until August of this year I expected all of our recordings to be in Tower without question. If they weren’t I assumed that it was because of sell through and demanded immediate restocking from my distributor. I often complained to my wife that we needed to be better represented in Tower. As a side note I brought my wife to Tower on our first date. I wanted to pick up an issue of Pulse, Tower’s long defunkt in-store magazine. It featured an interview with Henry Threadgill connected to our first releases. I proudly showed it to my future wife. I felt pretty good that night.

I have to say there was always a part of me that missed my early relationship with Tower. We had grown apart. It was no longer the packed store that people flocked to for musical enlightenment and I no longer went there to spend money but instead to make it. Since working at Kim’s I have pretty consistently shopped at indie stores as I still enjoy the culture very much though I feel that relationship changing as well.

So it was with an incredibly heavy heart that I went through Tower today to see what remains of it. Five days till their doors will close forever. It was crowded. Not as crowded as it was when I was in college, but more crowded than I’ve seen it in a while. Everyone going through what remained on the shelves. Sort of like picking over a corpse. Looking for anything remaining that might have once served a purpose. I didn’t recognize too many of CDs that were left. Weird to me that those artists might have once stood in Tower, perhaps like me, a little awed by it and wanting badly to be a part of it in some way. And now they are all that’s left of it. To have finally had their wishes fulfilled. To be on the top shelf of the record bin or at the end of aisle. And all because in the weeks leading up to this everyone else rushed in to buy whatever they could get their hands on on sale.

Weird how things work out. I couldn’t find anything I wanted so I left.