Throwback Thursday: Remember CDs?

For years, the Tower Records at 66th and Broadway was a gathering place for Upper West Siders who didn’t yet have Spotify because it wasn’t invented. It closed in 2006 but Steve Harmon snapped this picture in 2000. You can see the store across the street behind the subway station, which was still running the 9 train then.

“Tower Records was very important to the vibe of the UWS and many, many people hung out there,” wrote Steve. “It was important to their lives. The building was only 6 stories, so it got gobbled up by a developer. The street level of the huge residential tower is now Raymour and Flanagan.”

HISTORY | 42 comments | permalink
    1. moe says:

      one of the great music/video stores in NYC along with J&R (which is also gone)down on Park Row…notice the elevator for the subway, that’s gone too.

      • EricaC says:

        I don’t think the elevator is gone – or if it is, it was replaced. I just rode an elevator at the 66th Street stop. Though maybe it was at the other end …

    2. Beth Skobel says:

      Many’s the concert I’ve left at Merkin or Alice Tully thinking “I’ve got to go to Tower and buy the recording!” I guess you can do the same thing on Spotify, but it’s not the same.

    3. Westside_Mimi says:

      You mean the CD/DVD player I just bought is obsolete? I miss the good ‘ol days.

      • UpperwestsideWally says:

        I recently stopped in a major, not-to-be-named, nearby bricks-and-mortar electronics store, looking for a CD-player. The first two sales associates had no idea what a CD-player was… .

        • Westside_Mimi says:

          Try B & H website. They cater to “sentimentalists” like us 🙂 Now I need to find a record player for my albums.

          • Terry says:

            New turntables are easy to come by since vinyl records are popular again, even among young hipsters. Discovered that when I tried to replace my “antique” CD player recently and found few options.

        • Independent says:

          Pretty good bet they don’t know what a rotary phone is either…

    4. Burtnor says:

      Thanks for this. Glad I bought a ton of CDs on sale before it closed. I still like the convenience and ownership of the actual items much better than electronic services or streaming.

    5. Jan says:

      What a loss!
      Who would ever think that music good
      Music would sink so far
      Even our NY Times would rather do articles
      On hip hoppers and ignore all our great living
      Musicians
      Go figure!

      • EricaC says:

        It isn’t either/or – hip hop can be great music AND classical and folk and jazz and … music can also be great! Creativity takes many forms.

    6. Bill says:

      I remember when Rex Reed was arrested for shoplifting there.

    7. MQue says:

      My old job, sigh……

    8. Ellen Massey says:

      I remember buying my first CD is there. They were about $18 each at that time. There in a carton on the upper shelf of my closet now

    9. ursus arctos says:

      Love the lede.

      And echo Ms Skobel’s memories, which also extended to anything at the Met or City Opera (also gone). Post-concert, you were pretty much guaranteed to run into at least one knowledgeable music lover in Tower’s classical section who had just been to the same concert.

    10. Will says:

      I remember that scene from Hannah and her Sisters where Dianne Wiest and Woody Allen talk about something she’d just written. I used to get a lot of my posters/christmas gifts here. Miss it! And Kim’s Video up on 114th and Broadway!

    11. Nelson says:

      A similar tale of woe for the Tower Records store in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard. And yes, I remember CDs. And Cassettes. And 8-tracks. And Vinyl.

      Yup, I’m a baby boomer.

    12. Stuart says:

      Does anyone have photos of the CD store that was on Amsterdam in the low West 80s?

      Or going even farther back, what about photos of any of the UWS record stores before the age of the compact disc? I remember making purchases in a store that had damage from either a fire or flood – this was in the mid 1980s…

    13. Steven says:

      I really miss Tower Records. I loved just spending an hour in there, browsing their CD’s & DVD’s. However, when they were closing, they advertised 30% off ALL DVD’s. Now I’d be in there all the time, so sort of knew what their DVD prices were. Yes, they had a 30% off sale BUT they doubled the initial price, so in actuality, you were paying 20% MORE. I remember calling a manager over & saying “Hey, this DVD box set was $50 last week, now it’s $100 with 30% off so you’re actually charging more, not less” to which he replied “yeah, I know” & walked away. Oh well, I try to look at the more fond memories when thinking of that store.

      • Independent says:

        A similar trick seems to be standard for Amazon and many, if not most, other online merchants. You know, that obviously fictional “original” or “list” price that is displayed, crossed-out above the actual price?

    14. lynn says:

      I loved hanging out in that store and I still have a massive CD collection. I asked my teen nephew if he’d like to go through it and he looked at me like I was from another planet, lol.

      Is it my imagination or do the streets and subway station look incredibly CLEAN in this photo?!

    15. EricaC says:

      I loved that place. I was very sad when it left! But I could have sworn it was at 72nd, across from where Trader Joe’s is now.

    16. Big Earl says:

      I saw Naomi Campbell checking out CD’s there one time. Too funny.

    17. Joan says:

      Still miss Tower Records and the Barnes and Nobles on the corner!

    18. Tina Turner Music says:

      Great blast from the past. Thank you!

    19. Frank says:

      Does anyone know how many Tower Records were in NYC at their peak? I believe the store on 4th and Broadway was the first, right?

      • B.B. says:

        There were four or three (depending upon how you count them), Tower Record stores in Manhattan. The Wikipedia entry does not mention Tower location on Fifth Avenue.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_Records

        https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/10/20/450038047/the-life-and-death-of-tower-records-revisited

        Can remember so much of my misspent youth hanging out on Broadway from 8th Street down; you had Canal Jeans, Tower Records, Antique Boutique and tons of great but now long gone stores.

        • Independent says:

          Ah, such nostalgia…

          As a boy between the ages of roughly 11 and 14, Tower Records (mainly the W. 4th location) was like a fantastical wonderland to me. Much like Forbidden Planet a little further up on Broadway was for me and countless other kids, I’m sure. Remember how the employees in each of the different sections at Tower “looked the part” for the respective genre?

          The cassette tape, along with the Sony walkman, ruled back then. (Was the peak of the boombox just before the walkman caught-on?) My very first time seeing a CD may very well have been at the 66th & Broadway Tower Records.

          Canal Jeans (actually, Canal Jean Co., I believe) I associate with Pearl Paint, as I recall being taken along to both by my artist mother.

          I’m surprised no one mentioned Sam Goody, another iconic name in legacy record stores. Remember their commercials, Goody got it!?

          Another thing I recall from the 1980’s, particularly at this time of year, were how many places there were to buy cheap winter hats, scarves and gloves– both stores (mostly Korean, I think*) as well as street vendors (mostly black African immigrants, as I recall it).

          (*I haven’t been to Sunset Park in Brooklyn for as much as five or more years now. When I was last there at that time, there were many variety stores that seemed to me to be very similar to the aforementioned UWS stores of the 80’s.)

    20. 92nd Street says:

      Raymour & Flanigan is sooo much cooler than Tower. It’s where all the cool kids hang, and they have sofas.

    21. C.J. says:

      Even though these stores are gone, you can fine records and CD’S on line @ oldies.com. I also miss the record stores I grow up with in the 50’s like Time Square Records, Rainbow Record Shop, and Paradise Records.

      • Independent says:

        What about eBay? That would be the first name I would think of when it comes to looking to buy old vinyl or CDs.

        As for browsing, sampling and discovering new music and artists, YouTube can be pretty amazing. YT seems to be full of not only entire songs but also entire albums as well as recorded live concerts. (Though it must be said: The uploading of said material and the continued availability to stream it completely free-of-charge of would appear to almost certainly be in blatant violation of copyright…)

        An example that those who appreciate Brazilian music should appreciate: Searching for Antonio Carlos Jobim on YT led me to some true gems– featuring not only Jobim but also– and to discover— other wonderful Brazilian musical artists such as Vinicus de Moraes and Toquinho. My favorite recording so far: Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Toquinho e Miucha (Ao Vivo na Itália)

    22. Harriet F. says:

      My husband used to joke that the easiest thing would be to have his paycheck direct-deposited at Tower Records. It would save numerous trips to the bank!!

    23. Young Sally says:

      Loved this place — but mostly the classical department. I was sad when it closed – except for that brief period when much of the classical department staff relocated to B&N.

      It’s crazy to not have anywhere to just browse. The world is set up for people who want something specific and not necessarily looking to find something new….the previews on iTunes etc are too short and I’m not that interested in spotify….

      And now I really sound old.

      • CosmoAndCharlie says:

        The beauty of services like Pandora is that you do get exposed to new artists that are stylistically similar to the one that you already like. Plus you don’t have to buy anything to find out if you like something!
        But I miss browsing too…

    24. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      I spent many an hour browsing the classical section at Tower Records and bought many CDs there. I miss that store.

    25. MC says:

      love both Tower and HMV. the advantage to streaming (e.g. Spotify) is you can access millions of tracks instantly. but it’s like renting – they can yank it at anytime. use it to discover new music then get the CD from Amazon. there’s nothing quite like holding physical media in your hands that you own forever.

    26. LKN says:

      Let’s not forget Tower Video, which closed its location on 67th and Bway (where Pottery Barn is now), years before Tower Records. My family used to buy our laser discs there. <3

    27. Edwin says:

      I was a student at John Jay College in the late 1980s and spent a lot of time and money in that store. I was purchasing vinyl until 1992. I still miss it. I sometimes met interesting people there.