Capitol Records In 1999 And Beyond
Imagine it’s Dec. 31, 1999 and everyone is getting ready for the new millennium.
Capitol Records is saying goodbye to the 20th century by disturbing a slew of great albums …
Clarity by Jimmy Eat World
No Limit Top Dogg by Snoop Dogg
Electric Honey by Luscious Jackson
Deconstruction by Meredith Brooks
Shapeshifter by Marcy Playground
Mock Tudor by Richard Thompson
The aforementioned releases came at the end of a decade where Capitol Records’ artists once again change the world.
>>Garth Brooks started on the path to become the bestselling artist in the history of the United States.
>>The Beastie Boys explored brand new sonic territories with the albums Check Your Head, Ill Communication, and Hello Nasty.
>>Capitol Records began releasing its successful compilation series, Ultra-Lounge. These discs contained music recorded in 1950s and 1960s in the genres of lounge, exotica, space age pop, and mambo. Ultra-Lounge was part of the decade’s swing revival.
>>Also in the nineties, Capitol launched the careers of alternative rock legends Foo Fighters, Blind Melon, and Everclear.
The year 1999 saw the one of the hardest working executives in the music business, Gary Gersh, leave Capitol Records.
Gersh left his role as president and CEO of Capitol Records to manage some of music’s most popular artists. At his new gig at G.A.S. Entertainment Co., Gersh worked with such prominent acts as Rage Against the Machine, Tenacious D, and Beck.
Sadly, Gersh’s departure meant the departure of Foo Fighters. The David Grohl-led band had a “key man” clause in their contract. That meant if Gersh left Capitol the Foo Fighters could too.
Gersh was replaced by Roy Lott who was later replaced by Andy Slater.
The 20th century saw the founding of Capitol Records and its ascent to one of the most powerful and successful entities in the music industry.
It’s hard to believe that it all began in the early1940s.
Capitol Records was founded in 1942 by songwriter Johnny Mercer (wrote the lyrics for “Moon River”), songwriter Buddy DeSylva (who helped write 20 musicals), and businessman Glenn Wallichs.
In March of 1942 the trio incorporated their company under the name “Liberty Records.” In May, they changed it to “Capitol Records.”
Capitol Records was the first major record label on the West Coast and it soon began competing with the likes of Columbia, Decca, and RCA-Victor. Although it had a recording studio in New York, its main recording studio was in Los Angeles.
The company’s first recording session occurred on April 6, 1942. Martha Tilton sang “Moon Dreams.” Capitol’s first release, however, is “I Found a New Baby” by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.
Artists Capitol Records signed in the 1940s include Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, Les Paul, Sammy Davis Jr., and Tex Ritter.
In 1955, Electric and Musical Industries, or EMI, purchased all but four percent of Capitol Records. Cost of said purchase was $8.5 million.
Three years later, EMI merged Angels Records (a classical label) with Capitol. This resulted in releases by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
After divesting on several occasions, EMI finally purchased all of Capitol Records shares in 1976.
The Capitol Records Building
Not long after EMI purchased 96 percent of Capitol Records, construction began on the world famous Capitol Records Building. The structure was finished in 1956.
The 13-story, circular tower is located in Hollywood, Los Angeles on Vine Street, just north of the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.
The office building, which reminds one of a stack of records on a turntable, is a historical landmark and one of the most iconic structures in Southern California.
The tower was designed by Welton Becket. It contains three major recording studios and eight echo chambers.
The first album recorded at the Capitol Records Building was Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color.
Capitol Records’ headquarters are still located at the Capitol Record Building.
In February of 1962, Decca refused to offer a recording contract to a little band from Liverpool, England. You may know them as The Beatles.
One of history’s biggest mistakes was based on the belief that “guitar groups [were] on the way out.”
Decca’s big blunder was Parlophone’s big break. Parlophone was a subsidiary of EMI and thus a sister label to Capitol Records.
In May of 1962, thanks to producer George Martin, The Beatles inked a deal with Parlopohone. This gave Capitol the right of first refusal to distribute the Fab Four’s albums in the United States.
Capitol was reluctant at first but they finally picked up the option on The Beatles in late 1963. The decision came at the right time because Beatlemania started on Feb. 9, 1964 when the band played The Ed Sullivan Show.
Other acts signed or distributed by Capitol Records in 1960s include The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, The Band, Steve Miller Band, and Linda Ronstadt.
Capitol almost whiffed on The Beatles. They DID pass on the Dave Clark Five, The Hollies, and Manfred Mann.
In the late 1980s, they nearly made another gigantic mistake when they told Garth Brooks “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
When Brooks first moved to Nashville he experienced nothing but rejection. One of those rejections came from Capitol Records Nashville.
He played several of his songs to Jim Foglesong, head of the label, and Lynn Shults, head of A&R, but they both passed on the Oklahoman and his musical stylings.
A few weeks later, Shults went to the renowned Bluebird Café to see a highly touted singer perform. Only one problem, that highly touted singer never showed up.
As luck would have it, his replacement was Garth Brooks. That meant, Shults got to see Brooks in his element—performing in front of an audience.
After the set, Shults went backstage to speak with Brooks. This time the executive was not there to rebuff.
Capitol offered the country singer a contract and a $10,000 advance.
Brooks’ first album dropped in 1989. It peaked at #13 on the Billboard 200 and went on to sell more than 10 million copies in the United States.
Fast forward to 2015 and Garth Brooks is the best-selling artist in the United States in the SoundScan era (from 1991 onwards). Yes, he has sold more albums in America than The Beatles. And he’s on tour in 2015, see Garth Brooks in Sunrise, FL, Baltimore, Wichita and other U.S. cities.
The new century has seen Capitol Records continue to distribute great music.
Most notably is Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. The hugely successful album produced five number one singles and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammys.
Other artists in the Capitol stable that hit it big in the 21st century include Coldplay, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, 5 Seconds of Summer, and Arcade Fire.
In 2007, EMI merged Capitol Records with Virgin Records to form the Capitol Music Group. The Capitol Music Group oversees all labels assigned to its Capitol Records division.
In 2012, EMI sold its recorded music operations (including Capitol Records) to the Universal Music Group. The acquisition was completed in late September.
Becoming part of the Universal Music Group has been beneficial to Capitol Records. From 2012 to the end of 2014, Capitol Records moved from fifth to second in terms of market share.