Beatles Prosper as Capitol Sinks
Many images bring the “Beatles” to mind. Cover art for the album, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the picture showing the group crossing London’s Abbey Road, even pictures of the Capitol Tower in Hollywood.
Yes, the Capitol Tower. Built in 1954 as Capitol’s home office, looking like a stack of records, Capitol’s name on top, it quickly became Capitol’s trademark identifying the label on which the Beatles first American albums appeared. That Capitol would acquire record rights to the Beatles was no sure thing, in spite of their being signed to Capitol’s parent, EMI, for world-wide record rights.
As a lawyer with Capitol, I participated in the critical events by which Capitol added the group to its label after first rejecting them. I also oversaw aspects of relations with the artists during their most productive years, all of which I describe in How Capitol Got the Beatles, and Then What Happened (available through Amazon).
The fame enjoyed by these artists on Capitol continues seemingly without end. Meanwhile, changes in the record industry have taken a toll on both Capitol and EMI. Once an international record giant, EMI went into decline and was finally sold to some English investors, neophytes in the music business. Capitol Records and its home, the Capitol Tower, were part of the assets acquired by these buyers. The Tower was seen as a source of ready cash and was sold, but Capitol was permitted temporarily to remain as a tenant, only until 2008, however. Its occupancy of the Tower then terminated, ending the fifty-four year association between Capitol and its “trademark.”
Capitol’s most recent fate was to be joined with Virgin Records, also acquired by Capitol’s new owners, in a combo called “The Capitol Music Group.” Its offices were located on Fifth Avenue in New York. So ended Capitol’s last ties with Hollywood: It was goodbye Tower, farewell Hollywood!
Oh, and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce tells me the Tower still stands a general office building.