Tower Records: Another Example of How the Mighty Fall

It was one of the greatest tragedies of my life, to be honest with you, when it closed down. It really, really upset me. — Elton John

Ed Newman
4 min readMay 24, 2020


Tower Avenue on Sunset Strip. Photo: Creative Commons.

This month I’ve been reading How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins. The book is a powerful analysis of how successful companies decline and fail.

I’d read two of Jim Collins’ other books and found them both useful and personally rewarding. Built to Last illustrates the difference between founders seeking to create a legacy vs. entrepreneurs simply seeking to make a quick buck. Built to Last is a stark contrast to creative thinkers whose aim is simply to build companies they can flip into a big personal gain.

Good to Great’s subtitle is pointed: “Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t.” How do mediocre companies become superior and dominant in their industries? I couldn’t help but think of the New England Patriots as a team that transcended the ordinary when they hired Bill Belicheck. Exceptional leadership is definitely one of the features of great companies, Collins notes. A second feature, Collins notes, is “a culture of discipline.”

The documentary All Things Must Pass is the story of Tower Records, its ascendancy and eventual decline. At its height this was a billion dollar record company with branches in 30 countries. A few short years later it was defunct. By watching this documentary you will vividly see the five steps process outlined in Jim Collins’ How the Mighty Fall. These steps are as follows.

Public domain.

1. Hubris Born of Success
2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More
3. Denial of Risk and Peril
4. Grasping for Salvation
5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

It’s startling how the history of Tower Records, as outlined in this documentary, so perfectly follows Jim Collins’ outline.



Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon