tower records–oh how i miss you

Does anyone remember Tower Records? Well, before their demise in 2006, they were the “coolest” record store around, with every artist imaginable from Manheim Steamroller to Van Halen. And to me, it served a special purpose, because it was the one place where my dad and I could be on neutral, solid ground; where we could hold off on fighting over whatever it was we used to fight about; where we could appreciate and understand each other. Well, let me take that back; he NEVER understood how I could listen to such garbage as Madonna and Duran Duran, nor could I understand, at the time, his fascination with all things Rag. Nevertheless, it was “our place” and we loved going there, together.

It always went something like this:

Pull up in his white, convertible ’69 Camaro, wait while he finished his cig, and rolled the top up (actually he never rolled the top up–he said he’d rather have someone just hop in than slash that precious canvas top).

Walk in with heart racing and eager anticipation.

“You can get two records, Mary.”

“Okay Dad.”

Head our separate ways, me to the Pop or Soundtrack sections and him to the Old Farts section.

Pass each other in the aisles and throw glances & waves across the rows of those now defunct, precious vinyl sleeves.

At the minimum, one hour goes by.

Eventually, we meet up at the register; him with a stack of gag me and me with a STACK of goodness.

Sift through my stack at his command and put them into two piles: ones I absolutely HAD TO HAVE, and the ones I didn’t really need but like totally wanted, you know like fer sure fer sure.

Combine both piles and buy them all.

Yes, I was spoiled.

Yes, that explains a lot about me. Moving on.

I would hug him and love on him as we walked out of the store, clutching the yellow plastic bags filled with hours of delicious listening.

On our drive home, top down, AM radio blaring, I would tear open the clear wrap, peruse the photos quickly and then go straight to the lyrics section. I HAD to know EVERY word to EVERY song. I started studying them, right there and then. Good thing I didn’t get to “Darling Nikki” before we got home the day Purple Rain was released (I’m pretty sure I begged him to take me on Release Day for that album).

I have no idea how often we took trips like that, but I would say it was at least a dozen, if not more, times during my childhood and high school years. There were “ups and downs” in my relationship with my dad, but those trips to Tower Records, always the one in Point Loma, were the “time-outs” to our on-going spats.

My dad was not great at showing affection, so he would do it through gifts. And music. In fact, music was his gift to me. I am eternally grateful for that.

Today, as I was driving the kids to the Sports Arena (a local sports/concert venue) to pick-up my tickets to the Disney on Ice show this weekend, I turned down the road only locals know about leading to Sports Arena; the road where Tower Records used to reside. In the midst of singing “There’s a party in my tummy” with my girls at the top of our lungs,” I stopped. I nearly had to pull over.

I looked towards the building, the home to so many of those precious memories of my dad, and it was gone. Well the building is still there but the bright-as-the-sun and blood red “Tower Records” sign was gone. The sign that had been a beacon through many of the tough times I had with my dad. And the place that was the band-aid, the hug, the genuinely magical daughter/dad place is now a Men’s Bad Suit Store. No music, no magic, just badly designed polyester.

Nostalgia was stabbing me as I drove past. I miss that store. I miss my dad.



  1. 1
    T. says:

    Oh Mar,
    I’ve got tears in my eyes.
    I can soooo visualize and feel this trip down memory lane.
    Here’s to the one and only Pt. Loma Tower Records and to your wonderful dad!
    Love to you,

  2. 2
    Steve Grosch says:

    Beautifully told. Thank you.

  3. 3

    I remember that building very very well. Used to buy millions of CDs there, then drove past its shell every day when I lived in OB.

    The Tower Records in Chicago that I lived down the street from used to have concerts in the store all the time.I saw "new artists" Sheryl Crowe and Ben Harper there. Also waited in line 3 hours for my beloved BoDeans!

    Good memories. I loved that your dad took you there! And was a music lover like you!

  4. 4
    MomZombie says:

    Oh, Mary, those moments and your post are like a stab in the heart. My father always took me to the book stores and the record stores, too. We were the books and music people in the family. While he would limit me to one selection and he’d often make me feel like a philistine for that selection, it was always so much fun to have unlimited browse time at the store. I think it was his way — his only way — of letting me know he loved me. I still have all the cheesy records he bought me. I won’t listen to any of them, but I cannot bear to part with them, either.

  5. 5
    Laura Lee says:

    Great post Mama Mary! Your dad was cool to the max, like, fer sure fer sure.
    I can relate to similar memories I have with my dad, and the generosity he showed to me. I have to admit that I felt a bit spoiled, too, by my dad — which is a bit incomprehensible considering I am one of 7 and we did not have a lot of cash. But, being spoiled is not really about the money or the stuff — I think it’s more about "doting" and how that is made manifest from our fathers to us. I have a feeling my other sisters would also say they felt spoiled — how did he DO that?!! Make us EACH FEEL SO SPECIAL to him? Especially considering the whole LOT of us?
    Aren’t we blessed to have been loved by our dads so much, to be doted upoen by them? I venture to say we are also a little cursed because it’s hard for ANY man to ever measure up to that, eh? Plus, it makes their absence that much harder. Ugh. I miss my dad, too.

    Your post, btw, is the perfect lead-in to your game show experience (I think). I hope you will write about that. STAT. :)

  6. 6
    Suzette says:

    What a beautiful memory! Tower Records was the after-concert hangout for us. My fondest memory was after a Queen concert when we all bolted to go buy the LP. Ooops! Did I just date myself?
    Well, that sucks.
    (Nice meeting you tonight. Still buzzin after two lattessssss)

  7. 7
    Crystal says:

    Awwwww….what a sweet story. And I do remember Tower Records – except is it bad for me to say by the time I was interested in shopping there, I think we had tapes? ;) I love the memories that you share of your Dad – thank you for being so open and real about something that must be very hard.

  8. 8
    Jennifer-@jenboydsd says:

    I have memories of Tower Records too. I used to work at Tower about 15 yrs. ago (LJ Village Store) for almost a yr. The place was fun and I had some great times. Also, there used to be a Tower Video (Rentals and Purchase) across the street from the Pt. Loma music store. I still remember checking out movies from there. Too bad digital music had to run the place out of business.

  9. 9
    Gina says:

    Ah, Tower Records…the big one across from the Sports Arena…I grew up in El Cajon, and you really brought back memories. Thanks. ♥

  10. 10
    Marie Cole says:

    Great memories of your Dad!

  11. 11
    MJ Scott says:

    What a very very very sweet story

  12. 12
    David carpenter says:

    wow they were the best have many memories of Tower Records digital music its okay but nothing be going to the record store Tower Records meeting new people some stores like frys have a little vinyl for sell I hear is coming back I still have my turntable and records someday came from Tower Records

  13. 13
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