Today’s a sad day for music fans, or at least music fans who remember vinyl and cassette tapes. Tower Records closes it’s retail stores for the last time tonight. The chain was born in the 60s in California and has had two giant stores in New York City for the past 23 years. The entire 80+ store chain has fallen, however, due to the fast growing iTunes/music downloading craze.

I had heard of Tower Records growing up in Alabama, I knew there were mammoth stores in NYC. The first time I came here in the late summer of 1990 one of my destinations was the Tower store in the East Village. It was huge! I spent five or six hours in there looking at everything, the CDs, the records, the videos and all the other stuff. I picked up a couple of cast CDs I’d never known existed, such as the Original London Cast recording of Starlight Express.

One of the other things I came away with from Tower was a customized cassette tape. They had a machine, and I can’t remember what it was called anymore, that allowed you to choose from a library of songs (costing around $1 each) and it would create a custom mix tape for you. I thought it was the coolest thing at the time. And I had that cassette for a long time too, although at some point as I moved from cassettes to CDs in my car it went by the wayside.

The music I have bought for the last couple of years now as all come off of iTunes. In fact, the last time I was in Tower, as far as I can recall, was in the spring of 2002 when I was trying to get a hold of the just-released cast CD for The Last Five Years. The Tower at Lincoln Center was just 20 blocks from work and I took a walk down, picked up the CD and walked back. So, I am certainly among those who brought about the store’s demise. But I will always remember what it was like to walk in there for the first time and be in awe of everything that was the best music store I’d ever been in.