Commentary: Memories of Tower Records

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 20, 2006

I first saw that old neon sign, the one with two teenagers jitterbugging that sits atop Tower Café, in the 1950s, when I was a little girl. The café was a drug store back then but you could buy records there too - real records made of vinyl. 78s at first, then 45s. There were sound booths in the store back then where customers actually listened to the music before they bought it.

When I got older, Tower got bigger. The record store moved across the street. Offerings expanded from albums to bulky eight track tapes, then slimmer cassettes and finally CDs. For the people who worked at Tower, “No Music, No Life,” was more than just the company motto. They could name that tune even if you hummed it off key - and not just rock – R and B, jazz, classical, even country music.

As I grew older, music and Tower Records went in directions I could not follow. In recent years I’ve spent most of my Tower time browsing for books and videos, but pickings became painfully thin. I didn’t have to read the business pages, I could see Tower shrinking before my eyes. When it finally collapsed, I was saddened but not surprised. For a brief, sweet time in my life, Tower symbolized what it meant to be fresh, young and hip. Nice - while it lasted.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.