All Things Must Pass

Sunday night, we seized the opportunity to have one last go at this documentary about the rise and fall of Tower records, with a Q and A session with Director Colin Hanks and Executive Producer Glen Zipper. It was a last minute add after two nights of previous screenings that we were not able to make it to. I can happily say I am really glad to have made it to the film, it was a fascinating look into the history of one of the great retail stores that catered to music lovers around the world. The movie examines not only the impact that Tower had on the culture of music but it also provides a unique example of history, a detailed look at an  American business in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

Russ Solomon is the founder of Tower Records and an out-sized personality that took to the music business after selling used records from the jukebox in his father’s drugstore. The film follows his story as he builds a business, expands it almost accidentally and creates a unique business culture that empowered the managers of the stores he owned to imbue them with their own personality. Hanks started the process of putting this film together more than seven years ago, and he was able to get many hours of interviews with his subjects over that time. As with ever film, the story evolves from the material that gets developed and the editor hones it into a narrative that makes some sense. This turned into a look at the “family” that was created by the Tower records approach. Ultimately that family has to go through a pretty harsh crisis and when it gets to that point, we have been surprisingly brought into the fold to share it with them.

In the Q & A, Hanks explained that everyone had stories about their experiences with Tower. One of the questions from the audience concerned a specific location. As the director put it, “Those stories are better told over a beer in a bar than they are on screen.” The one really great exception occurs when the story is told by one of the biggest rock stars of the last forty years. Elton John is interviewed and through a quirk of fate, there is even film of him going over his lists of music as he shops at Tower on Sunset Blvd. Personally, I always liked going to Tower wherever I happened to be. In 1977, we were at a Debate Tournament in Sacramento and we went shopping at Tower one night while we were there. I picked up an 8-track of the Bee Gees Mr. Natural at the home store for the chain. Most of my later Tower experiences were with the stores in Buena Park, Brea, and Hollywood.

There is a good mix of personalities from the company to tell the story. They all seemed to love the company although they did not always seem to like each other. The fall of the company may have been casually blamed on Napster, I seem to remember Justin Timberlake making a snide comment as the character of Sean Parker in “The Social Network”, crowing over the corpse of Tower, but in this movie, the collapse was shown to be a lot more complicated. On-line music has not killed the sold off Tower Stores in Japan, so there might still have been a place for the company, if they had not been so heavily leveraged and the economy had not tanked.  Technology has changed the marketplace, but there is still a large segment of the population who love physical media (like me) and wish we had a paradise to indulge in browsing, handling, sharing and dreaming in real time rather than the virtual world.

My friend Michael, met us at the theater and he is a big music guy. In addition to being a former projectionist, he is an aficionado of analog vinyl  music. He seemed to really appreciate the movie as well. It is a great opportunity to see some old clips of Los Angeles and San Fransisco as well as to bend another persons ear about the good old days of record stores. Licorice Pizza, Music Plus, The Wherehouse are all gone, but none of them are recalled with the fondness that people have for Tower records. If you have any interest in the story, this is a film to check out.

We took an extra few minutes to cruise down from the Archlight and visit the old Sunset site. Hanks had been on the Mark in the Morning show the Wednesday before the weekend, promoting the film, and he had mentioned that they had restored some of the look of the old building for an opening party that they had. It probably won’t stay that way forever, but if your nostalgia itch gets to be strong enough, take a trip down the blvd. and let your heart jump in hope that the past eight years has all been a nightmare and we can now stop in and find out what’s new in the music world.

Double O Countdown: Live and Let Die

Enter Roger Moore for a long stay as 007. The Moore films are remembered as being light, full of humor and self depreciation, as well as being over the top. The only people for whom Moore was the best Bond are kids who first saw 007 in the 70s and fondly recall how much they enjoyed the films. Sir Roger has his moments and I think he managed to fit well with the films given their styles from that period. This is his first one, and in my opinion it was one of his best.

001   The Best Poster From any Bond Film

I did a write up a couple of years ago on the Bond Posters, and I named this as my favorite. A couple of other people shared their opinions but I’m sticking by my guns. If you want to read the whole post, click on the beautiful image below.

002   One of the Stupidest Things I Ever Did as a Kid

I had a couple of friends as a kid who were far and away crazier than I was, but I happily followed them down the path of madness. We took the shaft of pen cartridges and cleaned them out, crimped one end, put them between a bobby pin and stuffed them with sulfur from matches, creating little canons that would shoot rock salt. James Bond never did that, but… he did do this…and so did we. I’m lucky I’m not blind.

003 The Film’s Motif.

I’m going to cheat here to get in some extra elements that I like about the movie. It is full of blaxploitation, voodoo, Southern Gothic, fortune telling crazy stuff.

A guy with a claw for a hand.

Tee Hee is a big guy as well, towering over Bond. He inspires one of my favorite quips from Bond. When Bond is a prisoner and Mr. Big orders Tee Hee to take his watch so he can use the serial number to test Solitare, the henchmen fumbles with it and Bond mutters “Butterhook”.

Solitaire, the Bond Girl of the film, played by the beautiful Jane Seymour, reads the future for Mr. Big and Dr. Kananga. The voice over while Bond is traveling to the U.S. is full of foreboding fun.

I gave my daughter who is also a Bond fanatic, a deck of these cards as a Christmas gifts four or five years ago. The imagery on the cards is used in the poster and it was cleverly used by Bond to infiltrate the Mr. Big organization. He was Solitaire’s destiny by  design.

The Funeral in New Orleans as the CIA man is disposed of with a coffin made for clean up duty on the streets.

One of the themes that was kept from the original story was the way Mr. Big controls a lot of his followers through the superstitions around Voodoo. Bond’s treacherous partner Rosie, freaks out at the hat with the chicken feathers, Bond trails his suspect “Whisper” to a retail outlet specializing in the occult, and on the island that Kanaga controls, his enemies are murdered in a voodoo ritual featuring the King of the Dead Baron Samedi himself, sometimes a nightclub performer, sometimes a robot and sometimes an actual specter of doom.

004   An Amazing and Entertaining Boat Chase through the delta lands.

While it does introduce a comic supporting character that is unwisely included in a second Bond film, the boat chase should not be diminished by the presence of  Sheriff Pepper.

003 Yaphet Kotto as the Villain Mr.Big/Dr. Kananga

This wonderful actor with a distinctive pronunciation and voice, is one of the best villains in the Moore years. He has a real part and gets to play it up duringthe story, he is not some vague megalomaniac millionaire trying to destroy the world, he is simply a clever gangster who dreams big and knows how to get what he wants.

When he and Bond have their climatic fight at the end of the movie, he wields a knife like he knows how to use it. Trapped underwater (In a shark tank of course) Bond forces an anti-shark pellet down his throat.

The result is explosive.A funny and fitting end to the bad guy.

006  If They Hadn’t Done it for Real, you’d hoot at the idea.

Bond is trapped by Tee Hee on an island in the alligator farm where the heroin is manufactured. He has run out of chicken pieces to distract the gators with and must figure a way out that avoids being the main course. The exit the writers cooked up is preposterous, but the stunt was really performed on camera, live. It was dramatic, silly and a laugh that earns it an honored place on my list.

007  The Opening Titles and the Title Song

The best theme of the 007 Rock era, is played over naked women in silhouette, with fire and exploding skulls. Paul McCartney proves that post Beatles, he had the best ear for a catchy tune of all the fab four.

That’s all for now,

James Bond will Return in:

 “The Man With The Golden Gun”.