A Very Twisted Tower Tale

A Very Twisted Tower Tale

Written by Jay Jay French

The response to my tone control/ equalizer article brought out the inner fight in many of you. I would hope that high-end manufacturers are listening, and reading many of your passionate responses.

This next story is really not controversial but, in some ways, very sentimental: It’s about the joy of buying albums, made even more timely by the recent passing of Tower Records owner Russ Solomon.

I didn’t know Russ. Russ came along many years past my golden age of record buying.

My addiction began at a mom and pop record store on 107th St. & Broadway in 1963.

It was at that time that my first exposure to AM radio was via “Hit Radio” WABC in NYC. In February of 1963, as I lay in my sick bed, my mother gave me a transistor radio to while away thehours, and out blared the song “Hey Paula”, by Paul & Paula. As it was number one, it seemed to be played every hour on the hour as did the whole “top 40” which in fact really seemed to be the “Top 10”.

I didn’t really understand what it meant to be number one. Did people vote for it? Was it number one in the whole world?

I thought that WABC was played all over the US so everyone in America at least voted…right?

I asked my mom and she really had no idea what I was talking about.

All I knew was that, for the 4 weeks or so that I was home, sick, “Hey Paula” was number one but other songs changed positions between 2 and 10.

“Hey Paula” eventually got knocked off the charts by the Four Seasons’ “Walk Like A Man”, and I was so crushed I started to cry.

I started to figure out that buying the song at a record shop was a way to get it back to number one.

I asked my mom if there was a record store near our house and she took me to a very small shop (I don’t remember the name) on 107th St. & Broadway, in Manhattan.

I walked into this old dusty and musky emporium and there, on the front desk were copies of official hit radio charts from WABC, WINS, and WMCA.

I really felt like this was my church. This was my religion!

I never even knew there were other radio stations in NYC. That is how loyal I was to WABC with DJ’s like Scott Muni, Cousin Brucie, Dan Ingram, Herb Oscar Anderson, Bob Dayton, Bobaloo (after midnight) etc.

So….I asked this old lady (probably late 30’s— hey I was 10!) and asked if she sold the song “Hey Paula”.

She said yes.

Then I asked the question that led to my addiction of buying records. I said: “If I buy this record, will it go back to number one?”

The woman looked at me (she just couldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t want to tell me that the whole business of chart position was mob controlled) and said “maybe son, maybe”

That was it. I was done

Over the years the record shops became my social scene, fueled my love for rock n roll and my life changed .

I started going to Sam Goody’s on West 48th Street, down the block from the famed Brill Building (home of all the hit songwriters from Tin Pan Alley days as well as Phil Spector, Cynthia and Barry Weill, Shadow Morton, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, just to name a few ).

I also bought records at Liberty Records and Record Mart.

That changed in the late ‘60’s to small boutique import record stores in the East & West Village as I was looking for rare British imports and pressings.


More and more small stores opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan  (See photo taken of me in 1972 walking out of one of these stores, below).

After the band started working in 1973, I had less time to visit record stores until, finally, by 1983, Twisted Sister albums were now on sale in all the record shops around the world.

When I did go record shopping in NYC I found myself going to Tower Records on 66th St. & Broadway in Manhattan mostly to make sure that the Twisted Sister section was always full and highly & visibly represented.

Russ Solomon and Tower Records totally remodeled and revolutionized the entire record buying experience.

When Twisted Sister stopped playing in ’88, I remarried and was entirely out of the music business for several years. I cut my hair and was rarely, if ever, recognized— which was fine by me.

One day, however, during this hiatus from the music business, I was in Tower on Broadway and decided to check on our stock. The aisles were very long, as was the design of the Tower shops, and as I walked down toward the “T” section I noticed a middle aged woman holding what appeared to me was a list (probably given to her by one of her children) and she was pulling many CD’s from one of the bins. I thought to myself that she was probably standing in the ‘U’ section and getting lots of U2 CDs.

As I walked closer to the woman I suddenly realized that she was in the ‘T’ section and was actually selecting just about our entire Twisted Sister catalog.

I got really excited and walked up to her and said. “Hey, this is your lucky day! I’m in Twisted Sister and that’s me in the photos on the various covers and I would be happy to sign them for your kids!”

As I really didn’t look anything like my photos on the covers she looked at me, startled, like I was a crazy person…and dropped all the CDs and ran out of the store.

Ah yes…just another day as a “rock star”.

RIP, Russ & Tower.

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