Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Great L.A. Record Stores - Part 2



Of course, the big guns of the 60s, Sight and Sound and Wallichs Music City (spelling is correct), would evolve, if that’s the right word, into the world’s largest record store in 1971 with the opening of Tower Records on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. (Some of you may remember the Wallichs radio jingle: "It's Music City…") While I was more about Aron's and Vinyl Fetish by the early 80s, it was Tower in between, whether the main store or the one in Panorama City across from the Americana Theater. I even worked in the Sunset Strip store for a stint. Aspiring L.A. Actors either worked as waiters (which I did for three days at Otto's Pink Pig) or they worked at Tower.

Tower Records was the first Southern California location of the Sacramento-based chain, and the most famous. Before Tower was built, the corner had been a drive-in restaurant in the '40s, a coffee shop in the '50s, and in 1964, Earl "Madman" Muntz sold car stereos there. I mentioned in a previous post that Moby Disc was 900 square feet; Tower was 8,660.

The store's lengthy aisles with rows and rows of music were crowded with an eclectic group of hippies and elites searching for the next great find. And, unlike other stores, Tower Records stayed open until midnight—and 1 a.m. on the weekends—so you could shop late. The video shows a collage of the store and includes a glimpse of Elton John. I was off that day.

The following is a true story and a passage from my first novel, Jay and the Americans, available on Amazon or at the link in the sidebar. You can read Jay for free on Kindle Unlimited.

The next day my mother said with urgency, “Gather your things, let’s go.”  I didn’t know what she meant; grown-ups talk so fast.  I took a Beatles trading card, and my Tony the Tiger spoon, the things one values when five. We packed the Rambler, his car, and went to the White Front on Roscoe Blvd. where I single-handedly catapulted “Glad All Over” to No. 1 on the KHJ Boss-30.
         The White Front had a 45 vending machine.  I wanted “In My Room,” the B side to The Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School.”  I always liked the B sides.  I pushed D12, my 45¢ clattered back into the change slot and out came “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five.  I tried again.  A quarter, two dimes, “Glad All Over.”  Soon a crowd of teens and would-be hippies gathered round, my mother and I passing out “Glad All Over” like samples at See’s Candies.  It was the first time I’d seen my mother smile in a long while.
          I looked at toys as my mother tried on stirrup pants.  We bought incidentals on a White Front credit card with my father’s name, we ate hamburgers at Beeps and drove forever into the night; the forever when you’re five.  Kneeling on the back seat, gazing out the rear window, I watched as the mindless golden glow of the Valley faded to black.

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