The Capitol Records Building, also known as the Capitol Records Tower, is a Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District building that is located in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The building is a thirteen-story tower that was designed by Welton Becket and is one of the city’s landmarks. Construction occurred soon after British company EMI acquired Capitol Records in 1955, and was completed in April 1956. Located just north of the Hollywood and Vine intersection, the Capitol Records Tower houses the consolidation of Capitol Records‘ West Coast operations and is also home to the recording studios and echo chambers of Capitol Studios. The building is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
The building design was based upon the graduate school drawings of Lou Naidorf who, as the primary architect, designed the first circular office building at the age of 24 years. The wide curved awnings over windows on each story and the tall spike emerging from the top of the building only coincidentally resembles a stack of records on a turntable. The rectangular ground floor is a separate structure, joined to the tower after completion.
The tower incorporates 13 stories, to conform to the 150-foot (46 m) zoning height limit that was in place at the time of its construction. Height restrictions were later lifted in 1956. The 13th floor of the tower is the „Executive Level“ and is represented by an „E“ in the building’s two elevators.
The blinking light atop the tower spells out the word „Hollywood“ in Morse code, and has done so since the building’s opening in 1956. This was an idea of Capitol’s then-president, Alan Livingston
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, who wanted to subtly advertise Capitol’s status as the first record label with a base on the west coast. The switch was initially activated by Leila Morse, the granddaughter of Samuel Morse. In 1992 the light was changed to read „Capitol 50,“ in honor of the label’s fiftieth anniversary—it has since returned to spelling „Hollywood“. A black-and-white graphic image of the building appeared on the albums of many Capitol recording artists, with the phrase, „From the Sound Capitol of the World“.
In April 2013, Capitol Records and artist Richard Wyatt Jr
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. collaborated to restore his iconic Hollywood Jazz Mural on the south wall of the Capitol Records building. Restored in hand-glazed ceramic tile, the mural spans 26 by 88 feet (7.9 by 26.8 m) Entitled „Hollywood Jazz: 1945-1972“
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, this masterpiece presents “larger than life” images of a number of notable jazz musicians.
The building houses the Capitol Studios, a recording facility which includes 8 echo chambers engineered by guitarist Les Paul, and three main studios, A, B, and C. Frank Sinatra had a close association with the studios, and the Georg Neumann U 47 microphone that he carried around with him is housed there, and is used and maintained regularly for studio sessions. The first album recorded in the tower was Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color. In 2012, Studio A received a brand new AMS Neve 88R mixing console, and was designed and built for Al Schmitt and Paul McCartney.
In September 2006, EMI announced that it had sold the tower and adjacent properties for US$50 million to New York-based developer Argent Ventures. The studio claimed that it was threatened by noise from construction of a condominium and underground parking lot by building firm Second Street Ventures that would have heavy equipment working within 18 feet (5.5 m) of its renowned underground echo chambers, which are themselves over 20 feet (6.1 m) below ground level.
According to the CBS Evening News on July 31, 2008, Second Street Ventures denied this, and the developer’s co-owner David Jordon says that they had arranged construction work outside the hours of Capitol’s recording schedules; he also claimed that they have arranged for soundproof materials to be placed between the underground parking lot and Capitol’s echo chambers. A senior recording engineer and producer in the recording industry, Al Schmitt, says it would be „heartbreaking“ if the company could no longer use the echo chambers, which he says are, „the best in the business.“
In November 2012, Steve Barnett was announced as the new Chairman and CEO of the Capitol Music Group and the company stated that his office would be based out of the building.
An aerial view of the Capitol Records Building
Viewed from Hollywood and Vine, 1997
Parking lot mural titled Hollywood Jazz
Taken on 2006-03-28