Empire Records and High Fidelity :: Tuesday Double-Feature

11Empire Records (1995)
Written by Carol Heikkinen
Directed by Allan Moyle

Damn the man. Save the Empire.” ~ Mark


For this week’s “Tuesday Double-Feature” I decided to reminisce on my years working in record stores, and celebrate my love/addiction of lingering, browsing and shopping in them now. I selected two movies set in record stores, each with a different feeling and flavor, but both overflowing with that love/addiction of music, records, record stores, and the people who work, and frequent (or shoplift to stay a little longer) in them. Some days I’d give just about anything to go back to being a record store clerk, well, except with better pay. I miss the days spent immersed in the music, and alongside those who loved it like I did. Those years working in those stores, they will forever be my favorite jobs ever.

7 (1)

First up is a movie loosely based on one of the two record companies I worked for (Tower Records). Empire Records (get it? Empire/Tower?) came out in the mid-90’s and featured an ensemble cast full of soon-to-be-famous, should-have-become-famous, and a couple of why-weren’t-you-ever-more-famous faces. This was one of Renée Zellweger’s first films, and definitely early films for Ethan Embry, Liv Tyler and Robin Tunney. I always loved Debi Mazar and Maxwell Caulfield, and Joe is my all-time favorite character that Anthony LaPaglia has ever played. I always look back and wonder whatever happened to Johnny Whitworth and Rory Cochrane, though, and was shocked as hell to notice Brendan Sexton IIi in my current first time watching of The Killing (I couldn’t believe that was him). 


Who is your favorite from the staff? I always had a soft spot for Corey, and for Joe. I think I could relate to both of them for different reasons, and at different times in my life. I also have always loved both Debra and Lucas – Debra for her tough exterior, and complicated interior, and Lucas for his big heart (and intentions) despite his false moves, and failings. You have to root for him, right? Though it is Joe, and how torn he is to protect and love his staff (almost as if they are his children), and the store, pulls at my heartstrings, too.


We all want to save the Empire, don’t we?


To me, the music was an ensemble thing, too, and the soundtrack one of my favorite movie compilation albums from the 90’s. You can stream a cool playlist of songs from the movie here on Spotify, something I’ve been doing all afternoon. Turn it up loud and pretend it’s Rex Manning day – and DANCE!



Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters11393163_10153317886871113_7700704922882409040_nMe and some of my co-workers at our “Empire Records” 
Tower Records, 1996


“Let’s all go to the lobby”

high-fidelityHigh Fidelity (2000)
Written by Nick Hornby (book), D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack and Scott Rosenberg (screenplay)
Directed by Stephen Frears

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” ~ Rob

Monday Morning Tape

What do I love more? John Cusack’s Rob? The record store in Chicago setting (I also worked for a record store in that city once upon a different lifetime)? The soundtrack? Or the book itself? Pretty much all of the above, along with the fantastic, and unforgettable, supporting cast, and all the addictive and amazing music culture/pop culture/music obsessiveness dialogue…and all those Top 5 lists (I love lists).

Top 5 Things I Miss About Laura” (oh, yeah, and she has my name)

A movie based around music, conversations about music, obsessing about music, life working in a record store, and the interweaving of music and emotion and misery with love, is a pretty damn perfect combination for me. This is nearly everything I love all wrapped up in a film which happens to star one of my all-time favorite actors, John Cusack. I mean seriously, could this be any better?

Another plus, you may ask, is that it is a damn good cover song of the fantastic book my Nick Hornby, that I also love so very much.


This movie is in my top five of most quoted films, and is full of moments, such as the one about the Monday mix tape, that I could watch over and over again, never growing tired of it. Every single time the song Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves) comes on, and even though that song was popular during a pivotal time in my life, and most likely has a long list of memories that could be attached to it, it was the first scene above that immediately comes to mind.

If I were to somehow fall into money I would want to open a record store and spend my days within it, having discussions about music with my staff, talking top five lists and playing favorites, and yes arguing over the best versions, the best order, and what our bests in any topic is. That would be a kind work bliss to me, for certain (even though, YES, I know it is much more than that, as I have friends who own/run stores themselves – but a girl can dream, can’t she?)


I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a link to the soundtrack – here’s a mighty fine playlist of High Fidelity songs to listen to here. Which song will you listen to first?



4 Comments Add yours

  1. jprobichaud says:

    Two modern classics.


  2. 45spin says:

    As a guy who just opened a record store 10 months ago, not knowing what the fuck I should be doing or what to expect I can totally relate to this post. As a independent store I totally relate to High Fidelity and I would tend to be more like the Jack Black character as I tend to be more of the cheerleader in the store. As I tell everyone who works there ” How can you not be happy when you are surrounded by music and people that love music”.

    I am so totally infatuated with working in a record store. Something special happens when people walk into the store, it’s like their normal life goes away and their musical passions allow them to be who they really are. Where else will people talk about a break-up song like Ryan Adams – Come Pick Me Up

    “I wish you would. Come pick me up. Take me out. Fuck me up. Steal my records. Screw all my friends, they’re all full of shit. With a smile on your face, and then do it again…”

    To share that kind of raw emotion with perfect strangers and confide with them that you have felt that way before in a relationship says something about the power of music to heal and join people together. Sharing music with someone is the ultimate way to expose your soul to them.

    I would hire you in a heartbeat to work in my record store girl. You have some of the best taste in music of anyone that I know. And more important you know what really makes a record store really great which is a group of musical misfits having fun, spinning tunes and sharing your musical vision with the world.

    Fantastic Post !!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I both admire and envy you for following your dream and opening a record store, and I would so jump at the chance to work there if I could, if there was not such thing as miles and state lines. My record store cohorts were my family of choice, a band of musical misfits, the weirdos and the freaks and the geniuses and the artists and the obsessives, all of us had a little of all of that in us. We could talk about the impact of one song for hours, or days sometimes, or weeks. I miss playing albums for each other, and discovering music I’m not sure I would have ever come upon on my own.

    Come Pick Me Up. I could talk for hours about that song, about the way it resonates, the memories it evokes. I would love to hear everyone’s versions, too, everyone’s take on it, everyone’s memory, because music is so connecting and universal, yet at the same time so intimate and individual…but I don’t have to tell you that – YOU GET IT. YOU ARE ONE OF US.

    Keep saving the Empire, my friend.

    xo – Laura


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