Everything That Must Go Is Gone

Last weekend, Sunday morning to be exact, I woke early. It was my day off from work, my son was with his mom for the weekend and, being left alone to my own devices, I felt like being lazy. I didn’t really want to write (I know, it’s a cardinal sin) and I was not in the mood to read– the house was just too quiet that morning. I wanted to watch television (I keep racking up the sins over here). Eventually, I found myself browsing Netflix and landed on The Last Blockbuster.

The Last Blockbuster is a documentary which relates the rise and fall of Blockbuster Video and the struggles of the last remaining store (thus the title) which can be found in Bend, Oregon. For nearly the entire runtime of the movie, I was reminded of the much better All Things Must Pass— the documentary about the rise and fall of Tower Records, not the George Harrison album or song.

Front entrance to Tower Records on West End.

Thinking of All Things Must Pass made me, naturally, think of the Tower Records I used to frequent. Thinking of Tower Records made me think of Tower Books.

Aw, man…Tower Books. Tower in general brings back memories from a certain point in my life, roughly the mid-nineties to the early two-thousands. It brings back memories of particularly fun, adventurous weekends spent in Nashville, and a lot of time running, roaming and exploring (as youths only can) from Antioch to Downtown to West End.

I won’t bore you with any of those tales, though. This post is about Tower Books, the best bookstore Nashville, maybe even the world, has ever known. It was the best bookstore I ever walked into.

Side entrance to Tower Records on West End.

Tower Records was located at the corner of West End and 24th avenues. It had most everything, including a book section. For the best selection of published literature, though, you only had to cross the parking lot from the side door and walk straight to Tower Books.

Whatever book I wanted, Tower Books had it. Whatever I didn’t know I wanted, they had that, too. Any William S. Burroughs, Anthony Burgess, or Marquis de Sade title I was searching for, I found it on their shelves. Some obscure French poetry collection or published play? Tower Books stocked them all.

We joke about how we can think of something and Amazon and Google mysteriously manifest advertisements for those products, but Tower Books was really like that. Looking for the latest issue of Carpe Noctem magazine? Boom! It was included among their vast inventory of periodicals. The store was magic.

As is life, my course altered and I visited Nashville less and less. People change their orbits, friends become distant, occupied by other people, other responsibilities. I didn’t venture to West End when I did make the occasional excursion to Nashville. I shopped Tower Books, and Records, less and less.

I guess a lot of people stopped shopping there with the advancement of the internet age. The decision was made in 2006 to close all Tower locations after the company filed for bankruptcy. By then, I had not stepped foot in either store for some time. There’s a part of me that wishes I had made one last pilgrimage before the doors shut for good.

As of this writing, there is only one Tower Records store still open and it’s in Tokyo, Japan. Also, if you’re interested, from a cursory search, I’ve learned there are thirty-four K-Marts still operating, twenty-nine Sears stores, and Montgomery Ward is strictly an online retailer.

A hotel stands at 2400 West End Avenue now. The hotel is more extravagant than the former record and book stores were, more showy than the other shops which once shared the property and parking spaces. I would not say, however, that the new construction is more beautiful than the former buildings of the Tower siblings. Paul Simon sang of “angels in the architecture”. Sometimes, those angels have need to take flight.