The SXSW Film Festival is beginning to not be as chaotic and crazy as it was for the first couple of days, as the chaos will now switch over to the Music aspect of the festival. One of the things that I was looking forward to at this festival were not just the amount of documentaries playing, but the music documentaries. We had the Mavis Staples documentary a few days ago, and earlier today I caught the world premiere of the doc All Things Must Pass. This is not a documentary on the late-Beatle George Harrison (Martin Scorsese already took care of that one for you) but this is a documentary about Tower Records, which was the largest record chain in the United States and possibly the planet for years, until its demise in 2006. Being a fan of collecting records and of music in general, this project has been on my radar for a while now, and I had forgotten about the film until it was announced as one of the films with the festival. Here’s the review.
Directed by Colin Hanks (son of Tom, with a very impressive young acting career), he documents the rise and fall of this massive record chain that broke boundaries that many thought would’ve never been broken with a tiny record store. Founded by Russ Solomon in the 1960s, he was able to build this record empire by expanding across California, then the United States, and in the 70’s, Russ decided to build some stores in Japan, and by the 90’s, Tower Records had nearly 200 stores worldwide in dozens of countries. They even amassed a net worth of 1 billion dollars by the end of the 90’s. Many would think that their demise was because of the boom of iTunes and Napster, but the story is a little more complicated than that.
I didn’t really know this story of Tower Records, but I was immediately hooked once the film progressed. You could tell that this store for many years was much more than a record store, but a way of life. We get interviews from music figures that range from Music execs like David Geffen, Jim Urie, and musicians like Elton John, Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen, as they all discuss their love of Tower Records when they would be in California in the 70’s. And the documentary gives you a feel of the party atmosphere that the store and its employees had during the 70’s, when Tower Records was beginning to boom. The turning point, in a way for the store, is when the 80’s hit, and they began discarding all the vinyl they had in the store in exchange for CD’s, which was a sexier and cooler concept. There were also economic woes and mountains and mountains of debt that clouded the business for years until its 2006 end.
What I really admire about Colin Hanks’ All Things Must Pass is that its a love letter to music and the music industry, and instead of a music documentary about the musician, it’s about the business, and the place where we all went to buy those records by those musicians. All Things Must Pass is honest to god one of the best documentaries about music and the music business that I’ve ever seen. I really fell in love with the film, and when Tower Records finally is at its demise, I felt sad, because the people who were interviewed for the film had been with the company for decades, and they had all started out as clerks in the stores and eventually made their way up the corporate ladder. If you’re a fan of music, and of an era of music and the business that was once was, I highly recommend that you go see All Things Must Pass, whenever this film will be released.