From our archives . . .
As many tourists will tell you. One of the most recognizable landmarks of Hollywood (besides the Hollywood sign and the Chinese Theater) is the round Capitol Records building. It opened on April 6, 1956. That evening a red light on the tip of the spire atop the building at 1750 Vine Street (a couple blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard) began spelling out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code.
Then Capital president Alan Livingston ordered the light be added as a symbol that the Capitol Record label was the first with a presence in Los Angeles. Except for the years 1992 when the light blinked out C-A-P-I-T-A-L 5-0, celebrating Capitol Records fiftieth anniversary and 2016 when it flashed C-A-P-I-T-O-L 7-5 for the company’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the red light atop the spire continues to flash the original message.
World famous singers and musicians made Capitol Records their label, including: Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Judy Garland, Dean Martin and many more.
Even the most casual observer can see that the wide curved awnings over the windows on each story and the tall spike emerging from the top of the building resembles a stack of records on a turntable. But, Lou Naidorf, the building’s designer, didn’t have that in mind at all.
While Hollywood has undergone a lot of changes, this landmark has held its ground. Even in the 21st century, while many well known artists are recording music in a digital format. Turntables and vinyl LPs have regained popularity. Perhaps the meaning of the Capitol Records building’s design will once again be connected with the entertainment capitol of the world.
This iconic building was featured in several movies, including the 1974 movie “Earthquake,” 1997’s “Volcano” and 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow” where it met an undignified demise. Despite these cinematic disasters, the light atop the building blinks out its H-O-L-L-Y-O-O-D message to this day.
Although most people think the trend of having tail fins on cars lasted approximately from 1955 to 1965, the first subtle appearances of tail fins began in the late ’40s. What started as a small chrome trim piece on a tail light, or a subtle fin of a few inches in length.
The Capitol Records building has been sending out hidden messages since 1956.
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