I spent eleven years of my life on Sunset Strip.
When I moved from New York City to Los Angeles, I arrived on a Thursday night, enjoyed a three-day weekend in my warm and sunny new town, enjoying what Angelenos called “winter”. Come Monday morning, I headed for the only place I wanted to work, Tower Records. Walked in without an appointment, got myself interviewed, started on the night crew the next day, April Fool’s Day, 1980.
When I left in 1991, to open Tower Topanga in Woodland Hills, CA, I held the rank of General Manager, having managed Tower Sunset through its top grossing year (before or since). My Tower arc would eventually lead me to Israel and, ultimately, to the corporate headquarters in W. Sacramento, CA, but my days at “the most famous record store in the world” were the most unforgettable.
Tower Sunset was always a haven for celebrities, record store to the stars. Here are some of my favorite photos from Sunset.
Here’s John Belushi and Judy Jacklin, just a few blocks from the Chateau Marmont, where John ultimately met his maker in March of ’82.
The late, great George Duke. Not too many guys whose resume boasts both Miles Davis and Frank Zappa.
Membership has its privileges.
Both of my 80’s kids had their births announced on Sunset Strip!
Me and my good friend Rich (one of two photos on this page that I didn’t take)
Richie and I were super tight, actually shared a house together for 7 or 8 months back in 1988, killed a lot of brain cells together.
Okay, that’s total bullshit, but you freakin’ believed it! Sucka! I often say, people will believe anything you tell them, except the truth.
I saw Ringo in Tower Sunset once or twice; very nice gent. One night I chatted with him and Harry Nilsson for a few minutes. So, I’m at this dinner party thrown in his honor before one of his early All-Starr Band shows at the Greek Theater. It was “grip n’ grin” hour (you can see the Sharpie in his hand) and when my turn came up, Ringo says, “Hey, I know you” so I sat down 🙂 I like to call this picture, “When I talk, Ringo listens”.
.Roger Waters announces the Wall in Berlin:
This was one of the greatest stunts ever at Tower Sunset. When Roger Waters announced the Wall concerts in Berlin, they flew the Schoolmaster over the store. It. Was. Huge! At one point I went across the street, to the roof of the Carolco building, where I was soon joined by Roger’s official photographer. His photo, of our store, was in the concert program, which I got a copy of from Russ Solomon himself.
What can I say. I mean, Willie Dixon! Whoa! Having him play live at Tower Sunset was a career highlight (for me. Lol. He seemed pretty cool with it too).
Late night hi-jinx on the strip.
Um, well… Sunset stayed open ’til midnight, Fridays and Saturdays ’til 1AM. Even then, people would not accept that we ever closed. And they’d try darn near anything to get us to open the doors back up. Push, push, indeed.
I remember the night Chevy Chase was banging on the door, insisting that we let him in. Mind you, what happened at closing time was that the manager and the cashier(s) would be in the back room counting out the money, while the rest of us would clean the store. After 20 or 30 minutes, we’d all clock out and start gathering by the door, waiting the last few minutes before we’d get released. So Chevy is pounding on the door, getting hotter and hotter, starting to foam at the mouth; not especially concerned that we keep telling him, “we’re closed, jag off. There’s no money in the registers, we’re about to leave and lock up.” Finally, he does it. He actually says, “Do you know who I am?”.
Uh… yup. You’re the asshole who ain’t getting in!
Always plenty of characters around the strip. Here are a passel o’ punk chicks, circa 1980.
Gary used to come in just about every night of the week and camp out in the Jazz section, talking to anyone who would listen about how Kansas City was the greatest city in the word; best Jazz, best barbecue, best baseball team…
So why are you in LA?
And hey, who doesn’t love a dog driving a VW microbus?
Speaking of animals… Timbuk3 – the Future’s So Bright…(where the heck was PETA?!)
One of my favorite photos of me.
Always a lot of great in-store events and promotions at Tower Sunset. Not exactly sure how I ended up in a Mets t-shirt chilling with a donkey who has a TV strapped to his back, but…
Dale Bozzio (and part of Warren Cuccurullo) of the Missing Persons.
Best known as new wave hit makers, I prefer to think of them as members of Frank Zappa’s band.
Halloween on Sunset Strip was always a bit, um… “different”.
I had this photo up on Facebook and it got removed. WTF? It’s not a real dick, ya dick!
Well… this is my site and they’re not removing it from here 🙂
And, of course, no Tower Records portfolio of mine could be complete without a picture of Russ flipping me off.
Or trying to, anyway. Couldn’t quite get that finger up 🙂
Oh no, you didn’t!
Yeah, I’m afraid I did.
RIP Russ. Thank you so much!
April 1980 – October 2016
Employee # 3047
1980-1991: Tower Sunset, West Hollywood, CA (clerk, buyer, shift supervisor, General Manager)
1991-1993: Tower Topanga, Woodland Hills, CA (General Manager)
1993-1995: Tower Records Israel (employee #1, literally) – Director of Middle East Operations, opened stores in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. General Manager – Tower Tel Aviv.
1995-2002: Tower Stockton, Stockton, CA (General Manager)
2002-2006: Main Office, W. Sacramento, CA (Director of Purchasing)
All photos © Joel Abramson except:
photo of JA and Ringo Starr. Not positive, but it might be a Henry Diltz shot.)
photo of Russ and Joel: Dave Schwartz