The race to turn every building in the US into condominiums might have claimed its latest victim: Earlier this year, rumors began circulating that the iconic Capitol Records tower, located at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood, could be converted into condos.
Capitol Records was founded in 1942 by songwriter Johnny Mercer, film producer Buddy DeSylva and record store owner/businessman Glenn Wallichs. The label rose to prominence (and the top of the pop charts) with hit records from Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and Martin Denny. In the mid-1950s, London-based EMI acquired Capitol and the label began to sign or distribute many defining acts of 1960s rock ‘n’ roll, including the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
Wanting a US headquarters to rival its Abbey Road Studios in London, EMI built the Welton Beckett-designed Capitol Records tower in 1956. With its innovative look—designed, allegedly at Nat King Cole's suggestion, to look like a stack of 45 rpm records on a turntable—the building quickly became a landmark in a Los Angeles that was still flirting with modernist architecture. Equipped with stateof-the-art recording studios, the 13-story building was buttressed by a separate, rectangle building at its base.
Looking at the Hollywood skyline in the evening, the building's antenna is easy to spot, topped by a blinking red light that continually beams out the word “Hollywood” in Morse code. This has only been altered once: in 1992, the code was switched to spell out “Capital 50,” celebrating the label's half-century existence. Closer to the street level, the building has a mural by Robert Wyatt called “Hollywood Greats,” which overlooks a parking lot on its southern side.
Preservationists and city officials are reportedly hoping to stop the deal, but one only needs to look at the financials of the record business and the financials of the housing market to understand why EMI is looking to cash out of the landmark building. Perhaps they think real estate is the new rock ‘n’ roll?