Tower Records was a retail music chain that was based in Sacramento, California. It currently exists as an international franchise and an online music store.[1]

From 1960 until 2006, Tower also operated retail stores in the United States, which closed when Tower Records filed for bankruptcy and liquidation. was purchased by a separate entity and was not affected by the retail store closings.


Tower was founded in 1960 by Russell Solomon in Sacramento, California. The store was named after his father's drugstore, which shared a building and name with the Tower Theater,[2] where Solomon first started selling records. The first Tower Records store was opened in 1960 on Watt Avenue in Sacramento. By 1976, Solomon had opened Tower Books, Posters, and Plants at 1600 Broadway, next door to Tower Records. It was also one of the first retailers to move online in 1995 as[3]

File:Tower Records Sunset.jpg

Seven years after its founding, Tower Records expanded to San Francisco, opening a store in what was originally a grocery store at Bay and Columbus streets. The chain eventually expanded internationally to include stores in the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Ireland, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina. The Tower Records stores in Japan split off from the main chain and are now independent. Arguably the most famous Tower Records outlet was the one located on the north side of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California.

Elton John at Tower Records, 1975

Elton John at Tower Records, 1975

In addition to CDs and cassette tapes, stores also sold DVDs, video games, accessories, toys and electronic gadgets like mp3 players, while a few Tower Records locations sold books as well, such as the Sacramento, Brea and Mountain View stores in California, as well as stores in Nashville, New York, Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

In New York City, Tower Records operated a suite of stores on and near lower Broadway. The main store was located at the southeast corner of East 4th St and Broadway, consisted of four levels, and sold mainstream items. The Tower Records Annex was in the same building, but located 'in the back' at the southwest corner of East 4th St and Lafayette, and stocked items that were older and a bit more obscure. (As the CD replaced the LP, vinyl moved from the main store to the annex.) The third store was called Tower Video, and was located on the southeast corner of East 4th St and Lafayette; it specialized in video (for a while, the second floor of this location also sold books). The main store in the East Village was famous in the 1980s for selling albums of European new wave bands not yet popular in the U.S. and was a noted hangout for teenagers from the wider metropolitan area. Their location near Lincoln Center was a magnet for those working in the field of Musical Theater

The company published a music magazine, Pulse!, which was distributed free in its stores.

In 2005, the company began using "scan and listen" stations in its stores. These stations allowed customers to audition a CD, to listen to audio samples from the disc, and it allowed them to search for particular songs, albums and artists. This model of listening station is still used at the Arizona-based chain Zia Records.[4]

In 2006, the company introduced the Tower Insider program. The program was free of charge and allowed the customer to receive a membership card which could be scanned with each purchase, allowing the customer to receive coupons and notification of special deals via e-mail.


Tower Records entered bankruptcy for the first time in 2004. Factors cited were the heavy debt incurred during its aggressive expansion in the 1990s, growing competition from mass discounters, and internet piracy.[5] Mismanagement, managerial incompetence, and crippling restrictions from the first bankruptcy deal also contributed to Tower's demise.[6]

Some observers took a pragmatic view. As Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer, has stated: "I'm sorry if Tower Records' and Blockbuster's sales plummet. On the other hand, it wasn't that long ago that those megastore chains drove a lot of neighborhood record stores out of business."[7]

The debt was estimated to be between $80 million and $100 million; assets totaled just over $100 million in February 2004.[8]


File:Tower Records 3.jpg

On August 20, 2006, Tower Records filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy[9] for the second time in order to facilitate a purchase of the company prior to the holiday shopping season.

On October 6, 2006, Great American Group won an auction of the company's assets and commenced liquidation proceedings the following day, which included going-out-of-business sales at all U.S. Tower Records locations, the last of which closed on December 22, 2006. The Tower Records website was sold separately.[10]

The managers of FYE, a music store chain based in shopping malls, had negotiated a deal to acquire the two historic Tower locations in its home base of Sacramento, but they later backed out, stating that the "leases aren't what we thought they were". FYE did acquire the lease of the West End Avenue store in Nashville,[11] which eventually closed in 2011. A Tower Records in Torrance, CA was also taken over by FYE which continues to operate.

Rasputin Music, a new/used music/video store based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is expanding in the Central Valley of California by acquiring the leases for the former Tower Records stores in Fresno and Stockton. The Tower Records store in Stockton, located at 6623 Pacific Avenue, closed its doors permanently on December 19, 2006. A Rasputin Music store replaced it on April 28, 2007. Rasputin Music also operated the former Tower Records store in Mountain View as one of its own through the end of 2011, and its store in Pleasant Hill moved into the former Tower Records store in Concord, California.

Other stores Edit

The Landmark Plaza Tower Records Store in Alexandria, Virginia was permanently closed on December 18, 2006, and the Tysons Corner, Virginia, store was permanently closed on December 21, 2006. The noted 24-year-old store in Washington, D.C. (Foggy Bottom) was closed down on the next day, as was the store in Atlanta, Georgia.

On Friday, December 22, 2006, the last Tower Records store in New York City was closed down. It had been located at 1961 Broadway, one block north of Lincoln Center on Manhattan's West Side. It closed permanently along with all of the other remaining Tower Records stores in the United States. The final Tower Records store (in the Pacific Time Zone) to be closed was the one in Mountain View, which closed at mid-afternoon.

One building in Sacramento had been a Tower Records store for 40 years, and the lot across the street had been the location where Solomon began selling records in 1941.

R5 Records closed on June 4, 2010, and was sold to rival Dimple Records, which will reopen the store in mid-July 2010.[12]

The Tower Records building in Boston, located at the intersection of Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue, was instrumental in the conversion of the former street's commercial value. The eight-story building, renovated by Frank Gehry in the late 80s, is prominently visible from eastbound Interstate 90. The store (which occupied the first five stories) featured gold stars of Boston artists (including Gang Starr, New Kids on the Block, and Yo-Yo Ma) embedded in the front landing. Virgin Megastore took over the store from 2002-7, and the space is now occupied by Best Buy.


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