Rose Goes, More Power to Tower

The history of Rose Records will probably end this week, when Jim Rose is scheduled to sign over the once-proud chain’s last four stores to Tower Records. A year ago it looked like those four outlets–medium-sized storefronts in the west Loop and Hyde Park, the pretty large Ashland store, and the Wabash flagship–might endure in the face of mounting competition. That scenario didn’t play out. “The major chains are so strong, and their ads are so dominant, that the situation for local and independent chains became quite precarious,” Rose says.

The 54-year-old Rose had traditionally run the Wabash store as a stand-alone business. The rest of the chain was overseen by his cousin, Jack Rose. That chain responded to the growth of giants like Musicland and Tower with growth of its own, reaching a peak of some 50 stores two years ago. Unfortunately, the ground was shifting beneath the industry: the new challenge was coming from discount marts like Best Buy, Circuit City, and Target, which–with questionable legality–were selling records below wholesale prices as loss leaders. This made for good business despite a Kmart atmosphere and a staff that knew next to nothing about music. The Rose chain called it quits last summer. A few remnants–the Hyde Park, west Loop, and Ashland outlets–went to Jim Rose. Now he’s calling it quits as well.

Tower owner Russ Solomon oversees 150 very large stores worldwide from a Sacramento redoubt. While he promises Tower “will have a bigger presence in the market,” neither he nor Rose will divulge the plans for the last four Rose Records stores. It seems unlikely, though, that the multilevel Wabash emporium will disappear. A less than forlorn Rose–“This is basically a good thing”–will put out for Tower a version of the Rose Records catalog he’s produced for more than a decade. For information on that you can call 800-955-7673.

Jerry Garcia RIP

Time matter-of-factly reports this week that Jerry Garcia had been back on heroin for years before his death. Every death is a tragedy, of course, but I hope the grieving Dead Heads, both hippies and yuppies, don’t romanticize how pathetic and unnecessary his passing was. An average day for Garcia probably involved rising, shooting up, being wheeled to a concert venue, noodling for three-and-a-half hours, picking up a $1.5 million paycheck, eating a nice meal, having sex with whatever combination of people he wished, and then dropping off into unconsciousness. At 53 and moribund musically, he had neither youth nor art to blame for this lifestyle, just self-indulgence and the reluctance of his friends and band mates to confront him with his problems. (Not that those friends weren’t burdened by Garcia the same way any addict burdens those around him; two Dead tours in the last ten years were aborted because of Garcia’s health problems.) Not unintelligent and loved by millions, he died stupidly and alone in a rehab center. Contrary to the cliche that marked his every obit, this trip was neither long nor strange; it ended too soon, and with a depressing unoriginality.


The “new” Arts & Show section in the daily Sun-Times includes the loss of a full page of copy, much of it comics. The paper that in recent years dropped Berke Breathed and Nicole Hollander unerringly jettisoned a pair of its best remaining strips, the caustic pirate tale Overboard and the absurdist soap Apt. 3G, while steadfastly keeping moronic fare like Marvin, Crock, Momma, and Nancy. (One bright spot: the eighty-sixing of the Republican Party organ Mallard Fillmore.) The paper has repeatedly blamed the cuts on rising newsprint costs. But as a Columbia Journalism Review study recently demonstrated, this is only half the story. The cost of newsprint has only recently risen back to 1991 levels after a steep several-year plunge. The paper did find room this week for two full pages of coverage of Michael Jackson’s yawn-filled cyberchat Tuesday evening. . . . Speaking of Jackson, a story in the new Vanity Fair fact checks Diane Sawyer’s hour-long TV interview with Jackson. I thought Sawyer’s questioning was fairly tough; Jackson watcher Maureen Orth, however, devastatingly details the lies promulgated by the broadcast. . . . And speaking of devastating, Melinda Newman’s well-reported August 19 Billboard story on Woodstock ’94 a year after the fact portrays the event as the flop it always seemed: the concert lost money, the record stiffed, a PolyGram subsidiary formed to exploit the show has been disbanded, and a planned documentary–now ominously described by filmmaker Barbara Kopple as “about Generation X . . . the story of [a] generation”–will thankfully probably never be released . . . Veruca Salt plays a free in-store performance at Tower Records 6 pm Wednesday.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Steven Arazmus.