Saturday, May 30, 2015

All Things Must Pass

Tonight I screened the documentary All Things Must Pass.

Full disclosure: I was a financial backer of this film by way of a Kickstarter donation in 2011 and my name does actually appear in the credits (1st name, 3rd column if anyone's looking). Since I had absolutely no creative control, I don't think it's a conflict of interest to script a review. If you disagree, then feel free to leave this page.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me tell you how much I loved the film (and am relieved/excited my modest contribution went toward making something so great).

The first ten years of my life in Portland, Oregon, I lived directly across the street from a mall, and in the corner of that mall was Tower Records. There was no place more sacred than this store. Because it was open 365 days a year, my parents made a habit of buying Christmas gift certificates for my sister and me, so we would shuffle across the street and spend hours deciding how to use them. They were the only store open on Christmas and we couldn't have been happier. We also had their free calendar hanging on our bedroom door every year. And numerous album flats they would discard into the trash if we didn't claim them first (Millennials: an album flat was a cardboard image of an album cover used to promote new records; like a poster, only more legit).

In high school, on an extended stay in Washington, DC for a journalism workshop, my new friends and I spent afternoons in the Tower Records store that was near our dormitory at George Washington University—a common bond amongst teenagers from different backgrounds.

When I moved to Seattle at age 23, I spent a lot of time at the Queen Anne Tower Records, attending midnight release parties for U2 albums, etc. I wept when it closed a few years later.

This film isn't about just me, though, it's about the millions affected by the collapse of this eternally likeable brand. Director Colin Hanks gets testimonials from those closest to the company (its founder and executive team, who all came up as clerks) and many notable musicians (Springsteen, Dave Grohl) about what the stores meant to them and what its loss meant to the greater community.

It may sound silly to personify a brand so passionately, but Tower was so much more than a brand, it's fitting in this context.

From the joyful beginning that stemmed from the founder's father's drugstore to the international expansion and fame the company got from its celebrity shoppers (i.e. Elton John, who gives a sincere interview about his obsession with the store here), there really wasn't anything like it and because the way we consume music has changed so much there probably won't be again.

For those who remember Tower's glory, the film will serve as a sort of personal time capsule; for those who are too young to remember, it offers a glimpse of the golden years.

An entertaining final verse, sung with a lot of heart.


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