Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Feb 6, 2013.
Hell, an actual date would have been the cherry on top of the ice cream!
But not so far from there and not long before, a bunch of pointdexters with military clearance at UCLA had sent the first message over ARPANET - so the seeds for such futurelust were being sown at that very moment...
The one in Mountain View was decent enough, but was lacking in "atmosphere." The SF one was much better.
In Berkeley, Tower was obviously inferior to Rasputins for used stuff (they had none), but often better for new stuff (better prices when they had sales). That said, Leopold's had sales on new stuff that no one else could touch, when they had sales. The best thing about Leopold's were the dollar bins, back when they were on Telegraph between Durant and Bancroft. Huge, and their throughput was high enough that good stuff mistakenly got priced into those racks. At one point, they had so much "dollar" stuff moving through that they opened that bargain annex further down Telegraph. This was when the operation was so sprawling that they had a separate soul/jazz store on the next block, which had its own dollar bins...
The downside to Rasputin's was (and is) that the owner was a #### and I hated lining his pockets. That goes for the lousy Blondie's he owns, as well.
Back when Tower was thriving, they also had a store on the corner of Telegraph and Durant that sold only posters and greeting cards. (Tower Posters). That only lasted a couple of years and seemed like a dopey concept from the start. Rasputins temporarily moved budget stuff into that store location, too, after Tower left.
Leopold's was great until they were bought out by The Record Factory in the mid '80s, and subsequently they were bought out by The Warehouse, who were subsequently bought out by FYE. Once Leopold's wasn't independent anymore, they were only barely differentiated from the superior Tower next to them.
Heh heh, he offered me a job too when I first moved to SF. What was his name again? Oh yes, Ken!
I did like Blondie's Pizza though... Lotsa garlic in the crust, yum. I always grabbed a slice whenever I'd cross the bay to go record shopping.
Yes, Ken Sarachan
And here he is in the '80s, in case you're forgotten. He comes off as something of a doofus who's not as funny as he thinks he is in this video, but in reality he was much worse...
Hmm, I remember him being fatter...
Summer 1976. I was living at 2211 Jones in San Francisco, a short walk from the Columbus & Bay Tower Records. I heard a cut from the just-released Viva! Roxy Music album on KSAN 95 FM and rushed to Tower to buy a copy. Naturally it was a magnificent Monarch pressing (Delta numbers 21089 / 21089-X).
Don't recall Ross Music -- I was at Eastland Mall in the early 1980s. I worked at the Harmony House at Macomb Mall for just one summer right after I graduated from college. Mike Ramsey, the last manager of the Berkley (Woodward) HH is an old buddy of mine. It's now an FYE that carries a pretty stocked vinyl section....
Talk about lacking in atmosphere, that Tower on Durant was completely devoid of it. My friends and I would venture into the Durant Tower only if there was something we absolutely couldn't find at Rasputin's or Leopold's, on the off chance that Tower might have it. That place was not a good representation of what Tower was all about. The SF and Mountain View Towers were much better, atmosphere or no atmosphere.
Rasputin's owner was/is, um, let's just say eccentric, but you could not beat Rasputin's selection in the 80s (when they were on Telegraph between Durant and Bancroft), at least for the kind of thing I was interested in (UK imports, alternative, new wave, punk, indie, etc.). Besides, I didn't learn about the owner until later, when I was older and knew people who worked there (some of whom left for Amoeba). Sadly, Rasputin's is a pale shadow of its former self these days, and has played second fiddle to Amoeba for over two decades. As the years wore on, I was finding fewer and fewer things there and got used to walking out empty handed.
Leopold's basement, where all the rock-related vinyl was kept, was a cool place. I always went there for stuff that I couldn't find at Rasputin's, and their prices were very reasonable. Plus, they had a pretty good import section.
I was not aware that Leopold's was bought by the Record Factory and then the Warehouse in the 80s - it didn't seem to affect their import section downstairs. I was periodically finding good stuff down there - stuff that no one else had - at least until the early 90s. They were, however, gobbled up by Tower in the mid-90s.
I was incredibly lucky to have lived in the Bay Area for so much of my life! So many great record stores and awesome memories. I do miss some of the record stores around the Bay that closed shop, though, like Warped Records in San Leandro, Monster Records and Rocket Records in San Francisco, Village Music in Mill Valley, etc...
The Rasputin's (formerly Tower) in Mountain View did as well, at least initially, if I'm remembering correctly. I went into that Concord Tower once, back when it actually was a Tower.
I wasn't much into classical, but I do remember that room! I also remember that all the sales clerks did indeed seem really well informed (a bit like many Apple Store employees today).
I know a fellow who worked at this Tower from between 1974 - 1977. We have listened to music at my place a few times. Of those years, he said to me: "There wasn't one day that I did not look forward to going to work."
Nothing else for me to say. I miss that world.
Amazing you remember the exact years I worked. A great time. Let's get together soon.
I stayed in San Francisco 3 times late 80's/early 90's.
There was a big (by UK standards) Tower Records over the street from the Ramada Inn (Fishermans wharf).
It was certainly one of the biggest stores I visited
Wow I miss Tower Records. I used to go to the one in Paramus, NJ every Tuesday for new release day.
I fondly remember looking through the racks from beginning to end and seeing all the new things that came in. So many times I would see something and find some association with music I liked and buy it. So many fantastic hours of enjoying new musical discoveries.
They also had a separate building that housed the classical and the jazz at one point. I remember buying the Gardiner Beethoven symphonies the day they came out. What a revelation!
I used to also go to the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, NYC. They had an amazing selection of European import CDs that even Tower didn't carry all the time. Another great massive selection.
R.I.P Record stores and LPs
Thats the store in this original post Columbus & Bay.
I think this sums things up nicely:
My first visit to a Tower Store was the one on Sunset, circa 1971. What really stood out for me was not only were they open at 10:30pm in the evening, but it was so busy they had a guy directing traffic just to get into the parking lot! Once inside, the bin cards not only had the name of the group/performer, like other stores, but also had cards for the album titles as well. They didn’t just have couple of selections for each group/performer, but had multiple copies of every release by an artist.
I worked at the Bay/Columbus shop for three years in the early 90's.
Now, it's a Pharmacy...
In later years (after 1990) the Tower Store that had the greatest attraction for me wasn’t the Sunset location, but the Sherman Oaks store. Not the main Sherman Oaks retail store, but the “Tower Outlet” across Ventura Blvd. It was full of CD, LP “cutouts and overstocks. All titles were at least half off their normal street price. Most titles for CD’s were priced $3.99 - $6.99. These weren’t the normal no name crap releases you often find in cut out bins at most stores but many of the same releases that were selling for $12.99 – 18.99 across the street at the Tower Retail Store.
Yes, by the end of the 1970s, I believe they were open until midnight every night of the week -- and that included holidays. There were quite a few occasions in the last 30 years where I realized, "damn! I forgot to get so-and-so a Christmas gift!" and I'd race over to the nearest Tower on Xmas morning to grab something quick, like a DVD or a boxed CD set at the last minute.
They definitely had a rent-a-cop directing traffic on Friday nights and Saturday nights at the Sunset Tower. I gave up trying to park there on nights like those, and instead would sneak into the Videotheque across the street, or just park behind Tower Classical/Tower Video on the other side of the street, which usually had a couple of open spaces. I'd make a whole adventure of it, going through each Tower department and sometimes swinging through Book Soup as well. I don't think I ever dropped less than $100 per visit, and it was usually $200 -- and I swear, I did this for more than 20 years. Quite a bad habit, and a hard habit to break. I miss them very much.
"or just park behind Tower Classical/Tower Video on the other side of the street, which usually had a couple of open spaces. I'd make a whole adventure of it, going through each Tower department and sometimes swinging through Book Soup as well."
I remember doing the same; in later years I spent much more time in the Classical Store than the main store, parking behind the Classical Store and a stop at Book Soup was always part of that side of the street.
One of the things that I most enjoyed about record stores like Tower is that they always had some great music playing on their in-house system, and I almost always heard something new and interesting that I would have to find and buy. It was in a record store in Charlottesville, VA in the early 1970s that I first heard Little Feat, and at the Tower in Washington DC I first heard Paul Kelly & The Messengers....Anyone else hear some favorite groups/LPs for the very first time in a record store?
This thread is killing me with memories. I remember the cop at Tower on Sunset. I remember when the Whisky had cleaners stripping off the old posters on their building and the remnants of previous posters were visible underneath and people stopped to take photos (i.e., Otis Redding) of the old posters. I remember Book Soup, as well as the Book Soup Restaurant close by which was EXCELLENT. Had dinner there a few times in the 90's.
Separate names with a comma.