We didn't get to say good-bye, Russ. After all you did for us. Thanks for Tower Records, thanks for the way you put a bright spot on the Sunset Strip and shaped a legend—that store will always be yours.
Russ Solomon died last night, watching the Oscars and waiting for a whiskey. Legends choose how they go. . .
Right now, being manufactured at the printer, is Van Gordon Sauter, Robert Landau and Frans Evenhuis's newest ACP book, Tales from The Strip: A Century in the Fast Lane and here's how they saluted Russ:
The legendary store started in the most unlikely of places: Sacramento. In 1960, no one associated the then-stodgy California state capital with the creation of a brand that served the fiercely independent, aggressively non-establishment music world for decades. Sacramentan Russ Solomon, born in 1925, was the son of a druggist. At a young age, Russ began selling music out of his father’s store, and with the help of a relative adept at carpentry, eventually created his own little music store.
Solomon made all the right moves in defining a store that not only sold the music of his time, but also respected that music. And he hired people devoted to that organizing principle. Yet nothing indicated that he had created the first of a powerhouse chain of music stores that would expand around the world, from Sacramento to San Francisco to the Strip—in 1971—to New York and then on to places like Dublin, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and beyond. By 1999 Tower was reported to be a billion-dollar corporation, and yet still somehow felt a bit down-home. A Sacramento intersection featured Tower Books, Tower Music, and a Tower Theatre. Eventually there were 189 stores in thirty countries; everywhere Tower was linked to the music and the musicians.
One of its most well-known fans was Elton John, who, when in Los Angeles, would visit the Strip store on Tuesday mornings to check its newest stock. “It was a ritual,” he told actor and documentary filmmaker Colin Hanks. “And it was a ritual I loved. I mean, Tower Records had everything. Those people knew their stuff. They were really on their ball. I mean, they just weren’t employees that happened to work at a music store. They were devotees of music.”
Rock on, Russ.