11 October 2006

In memoriam: Tower Records

Tower Records holds a special place in my heart. The store in Piccadilly Circus was one of the places I would try to visit every time I traveled to London. Back in the early 80s the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street was the place for obscure music, but by 1990 they had jacked up the prices and cleared out the unpopular stuff. Tower kept the prices reasonable and had an unrivaled selection of imports and obscurities. It was there that I discovered DEVO, and later completed my collection. It was there that I found Holger Hiller.

When I visited the US, Tower in Boston was second only to Newbury Comics. But another ten years went by, and Tower started to go downhill. Prices rose to HMV-like levels, and some idiot decided it was a good idea to file every disc by genre, a decision made worse by splitting electronica into ambient, house, techno, acid, dub, trance, and so on. Quick, where’s the Aphex Twin? Err…

So I wasn’t surprised when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2004. And I’m not surprised that they’re filing for bankruptcy again now, this time for good. A quick browse reveals only 2 Tangerine Dream albums, both priced at $38 (yeah right). There are practically no CDs priced below $18. Thom Yorke’s solo album isn’t listed (who he?), and if I didn’t already have Hail to the Thief I wouldn’t buy it from Tower for $34.

So it goes. Music sales is an unforgiving business. Stores seem to go through a golden age of awesomeness, but at some point the prices get too high or the selection gets too poor and they slide into irrelevance. Newbury Comics was heading that way when we left Massachusetts, sad to say.

So where do I get CDs now? Mostly from half.com and Amazon marketplace; stores typically break the $12 limit.

© mathew 2017