The Tower Theater, built in the year 1927, was opened a year later by John H. McClatchy as one of Upper Darby Township's first movie houses. Located just outstide the city limits of Philadelphia, the theater thrived in the busy area that was once the most highly traveled route to the city from the south. In its early years, Tower Theater showed both vaudeville acts and movies.
By the 1970s, when it became a rock concert hall, the Tower had fallen on hard times. It was now owned by the A.M. Ellis chain and showed third-run movies for a $1.00 admission. In June, 1972, Midnight Sun Concerts from Northern New Jersey, promoted its first concert at the Tower, Dave Mason and Buzzy Linhart, a sold out show on June 14, 1972. Reviewer Jonathan Takiff in the Daily News announced in the next day's paper "Philly Finally has its Fillmore." Midnight Sun's president, Rick Green, gives all the credit to "discovering" the Tower to his stage manager, Billy Stevenson (now deceased), who was raised in Upper Darby. For the next 3-plus years, Midnight Sun's Tower concerts became the stuff of local legend. The Tower introduced America to David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars in 1972 as well as the totally unknown Genesis with Peter Gabriel that same year. Genesis played a midnight concert with a $4 admission price. KISS played their first Philly concert there in 1975, performing at a Dressed to Kill show, also at midnight for $4. In September, 1974, Bruce Springsteen introduced the world to his new E-Street Band, with Max Weinstein and Roy Bittan, at the Tower Theater. It was the first time in his career that Springsteen earned $5000 for a night's work. He returned in early November for two sold-out shows. It would still be a year before he would be discovered by the rest of the world and appear on the covers of Time and Newsweek after his Bottom Line shows in NYC. In Philly, he was already a superstar. Other regular Midnight Sun headliners at the Tower included Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, Steve Miller, and various editions of the Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders band. David Bowie repaid his Philly fans by recording his David Live album during a long run of shows at the Tower. The Average White Band's live album, Person to Person, was recorded at the Tower with Atlantic's Arif Mardin in the production truck behind the theater. Several tracks on Steve Miller's Joker album were recorded live at the Tower. It was not unusual at a Tower show to observe the following rock journalists huddling together during the intermission and comparing notes: David Fricke, Matt Damsker, Bill Mandel, Jon Takiff, John David Kalodner, together with Ed Sciaky and Michael Tearson from Philly's WMMR. To this day, superstars like Phil Collins and David Bowie always mention their Tower shows as being instrumental in introducing them to an American audience.
In late 1975, the owners informed Midnight Sun that they were selling the theater to the promoter's much larger competitor, Electric Factory Concerts. It was a devastating blow to Midnight Sun's future. The final Midnight Sun produced show at the Tower was 10 CC, the British pop duo, in December, 1975. About a year later, Midnight Sun commenced an anti-trust action against Electric Factory and it's secret concert partner, Spectrum Corp., in US Federal District Court. The suit dragged on for several years and was eventually settled for approximately $One Million, as reported in Rolling Stone and the Philadelphia newspapers. A later anti-trust suit by rock promoter Stephen Starr against EFC was also settled for the same amount, which then financed Starr's rise as a star in the restaurant industry. Electric Factory was purchased by Clear Channel Corp and today operates the Tower as Live Nation/EFC. They remain the dominant Philadelphia concert promoter.