Another Loss From This Week.
Rhino and Tower Records are long gone. And now, J.D. Salinger and Miramax are gone. And, believe it or not, they're all connected.
If you hang around Los Angeles long enough, you start identifying places not by what's there, but by what used to be there. (This gets confusing for new arrivals, but always elicits knowing nods from people who've lived here a while.)
This week, Miramax closed their doors for good (in both New York and L.A.).
To be fair, Miramax had basically been dead for at least 8 months, so this wasn't unexpected news. But it's still a bit shocking. (And some would argue that Miramax was lucky to have survived the past 4 years without Bob and Harvey Weinstein, or that it was bad form for Disney to have kept the Weinsteins from using the name of the company they founded and famously named for their parents Miriam and Max.)
Let me back up a second and connect this to music.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I thought of Tower Records on Sunset and Rhino Records on Westwood as Temples. I'd visit them and browse through the aisles, feeling like I was a teenager again -- so much great music all in one place.
Rhino Records (the store) had the cool factor -- their selection wasn't great, but the clerks were amazing oracles of musical wisdom and they held parking lot sales the first weekend of every month (where you could choose from thousands of albums for $2 or under) -- and the cachet of being connected Rhino Records (the label), the greatest record company in recent memory.
But Tower had the history (John Lennon did a radio commercial for them in the 70s just because he thought they were cool; Elton John used to have them open up after hours so he could buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of music) and an insanely wide selection. Tower also had comically high prices -- $19 for a single CD was the norm rather than the exception even when places like Best Buy sold the same CD for $12 or less.
A few years ago, I had some meetings with people at Miramax, which was located in a funky office building with a cool fountain outside (and friendly valet parkers who offered to buy my 16-year-old Honda every time I was there). They were almost directly across the street from the House of Blues and just a few blocks from Tower Records. So I'd often pop into Tower either before or after going to Miramax.
At that point, I probably hadn't been to Tower in at least 5 or 10 years. When online music retailers started gaining traction, there suddenly wasn't as much demand for a physical store that would stock more than 30 different Paul McCartney albums. Plus, Tower prices stubbornly stayed high, even as other online and physical stores were slowly bringing down the cost of CDs.
Tower, expanded too fast and opened too many stores even as the market for CD sales was plummeting, announced they were going to close all their stores -- including their Sunset Boulevard store (and the one in New York where I bought the XTC/Three Wise Men Christmas single) and liquidating their stock. Since their selection was never the problem, the chance to pick through the store at a reasonable price was intriguing.
So after a meeting at Miramax, I headed over to Tower, which had a huge banner boasting of savings of 20-30% off (and more). I had a little money burning a hole in my pocket and I wanted to buy something -- maybe just as a way of reminding me how I used to view Tower as a Temple when I first moved here. (Link for Gmail subscribers.)
Even at 30% off, the $19 CDs were still more expensive than at Best Buy. So I left without buying anything. (I can't find the exact quote, but a commenter on the Lefsetz Letter criticized Tower's liquidation at the time, saying "They can't even go out of business well... no wonder they're f*cking going out of business!")
Over the next few weeks, the stock at Tower was gradually picked clean. They increased discounts slowly and I went back again a few weeks later after another trip to Miramax. And I wandered around, looking for something to buy. Because even at 50-60% off, that meant CDs were still around $10 (or more with tax). And by then, most of the popular stuff was long gone.
And after 45 minutes, the only thing I found that I even half-wanted was We Are Scientists With Love or Squalor.
So now, to honor the passing of Miramax, I offer up another song from that We Are Scientists album I bought at Tower Records going-out-of-business sale: "This Scene is Dead." (EMI disabled embedding on YouTube for this, so click here to watch.)
And I vow in the future to always refer to the House of Blues as being "across the street from where Miramax used to be."
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