Six decades after opening, Capitol Studios remains a cultural icon and a SoCal landmark. The iconic tower is a hub for the recording industry’s brightest stars.
Designed by Welton Becket and Associates, Capitol Studios would be the first circular office building in the world. Construction on the opulent 13-story structure began in 1955 and was completed in 1956. From the start, it not only became an instantly recognizable landmark, it was a mecca for the hottest acts in the business.
Peggy Lee, Keely Smith, Bobby Darin, Kay Starr and Dean Martin were some of the performers on the label’s star-studded roster.
It would become synonymous with Frank Sinatra — most notably studio A. That’s where the Chairman of the Board belted out innumerable hits. Many of them were accompanied by the flawless orchestral arrangements of Nelson Riddle.
During the 1960s the Beatles and the Beach Boys recorded at Capitol Studios. Their music would define an entire era and gain unprecedented popularity as the decades went on.
Later, everyone from Tina Turner, Elton John and the Beastie Boys, to 50 Cent and the Foo Fighters would record under the Capitol label.
More recently, it’s the place Ringo Starr celebrated his 75th birthday there. Paul McCartney was the first artist to make music in the newly refurbished space.
The legacy of the West Coast’s first record label goes back a long way. Record store impresario Glenn Wallichs would team up with former Paramount Pictures producer and songwriter, Buddy DeSylva and composer Johnny Mercer. They officially launched the Capitol Records label in 1942.
Situated directly above Wallichs’ record shop, Capitol Records and Wallichs Music City became the go-to spot for all-things music. They hosted record signings and other events. By the time the tower was completed in 1956, Capitol Records had gained major momentum as a label.
Though it would enjoy decades of unprecedented success, it would eventually face a downturn. Former Columbia Records President, Steve Barnett, stepped in to run the label in 2012. He set about reestablishing Capitol Records as a creative brand that stands as much for its music super-talent and state-of-the-art technology as it does for its legacy.
A renovation would give the inside of the tower a facelift (new paint and décor as well as new studio consoles, speakers and other upgrades). The iconic music label signed new talent, including Grammy winner Sam Smith (who recently earned the moniker “The New Face of Soul”) and 5 Seconds of Summer.
The label merged with Universal Music Group, a partnership that’s reinvigorated Capitol Records. Today, the newly restored entertainment landmark is still home to the top names in the business. It is one of the few-remaining labels with its own studio. And although a major renovation took place, the studio maintains a vast collection of legacy recording equipment. Still perfectly intact, with Smith and John Legend often request Sinatra’s original microphone.
Capitol’s Vice President of Studios, Paula Salvatore, says, “Our legacy is defined by our unprecedented history of classic recording artists.” Legends like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and so many more recorded at Capitol Records.
“We’re often referred to as The house that Nat built,” says Salvatore. “We want to balance that legacy with the quality of our vintage gear, but also with technical excellence and state-of-the-art advancements.”
Here’s to many more years of making music that’s “Unforgettable.”
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