All Things Must Pass – The Rise and Fall of Tower Records – Part 1 – This Is About Me

Sometime in 1983 I was living near LA and killing time before attending a concert. I walked into a nearby Tower Records store.

It was my first time in a Tower. I’d heard they had a good import single selection, but all I could find were top-100 and oldies 7″s. I walked to the front counter and asked if there was a special section for imports.

The clerk didn’t look me in the eye. Not that I could really tell — he was wearing sunglasses. I guess it was pretty bright in there.

“Everything’s alphabetical, man.”

I left without buying anything.

A year later I’m in West Sacramento, standing in the offices of TRIP, Tower’s import warehouse. Keith, the head buyer, is leaving to run Tower Japan, and they’re looking for a successor.

Keith and I talk for awhile. It’s more an informal chat than an interview. Keith asks what kind of music I’m into and seems to perk up when I mention YMO, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Eno, Zappa, and Todd Rundgren.

On the way out, he introduces me to Earl, his boss.

“How is he about drugs?” Earl asks Keith.

I feel bold enough to answer for myself.

“Never touch the stuff.”

“Good. Thanks for coming up. We’ll be in touch.”

Other than my talk with Keith, that was the interview.

I was hired a few days later.

Over the next couple weeks I packed all my belongings and moved to Sacramento.

A few months later, I was informed a buyer for a SoCal store was flying up to pick an order. Would I meet him at the airport and drive him to TRIP? Of course I would.

He picked his order, walked into my office, announced he was bored, and asked what there was to do in Sacramento.

Being rather new in town myself, I told him I didn’t know much about Sacto hotspots, but we could grab some takeout and kill time at my cramped studio apartment in midtown before his flight, if he’d like.

We got to my place. He looked around. I got him a glass of wine.

He took a Quaalude, ate a couple bites of dinner, and passed out on my couch twenty minutes later.

While trying to figure out how I was gonna pour this guy into my car and get him to the airport, I suddenly realized…

…yes, he was that everything’s-alphabetical-man from my first visit to Tower in LA.

We’d come full circle.