Capitol Records made history Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 15) when it became the first record label to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On hand for the ceremony -- also marking the launch of the legendary label’s year-long 75th anniversary celebration -- were Capitol Music Group chairman/CEO Steve Barnett, Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Sir Lucian Grainge and Capitol artist Katy Perry.
“Capitol is back and home to a new generation of artists, innovators and entrepreneurs,” Grainge declared. “We’re celebrating something today that only four years ago would have been completely unimaginable. For six decades this building has served as an incubator for the most influential music the world has ever had, from Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and The Beatles to Beck, Sam Smith and Katy Perry. Our priority when we acquired Capitol was to restore this company to its former glory, embodying the spirit of what was and is the spirit of today and the future.”
Perry kicked off the proceedings, addressing Capitol’s storied history from The Beatles (“The White Album is my favorite”) to “larger-than-life pioneering women like Bonnie Raitt and Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson.” Noting to laughter that her previous encounters with other record labels had not gone well (“Let’s just leave it at that … RIP”), the singer-songwriter credited Capitol with giving her the opportunity to pursue her own artistic vision. “From the moment I walked into this pizza pie-shaped tower over 10 years ago, I felt the magic and history. Capitol gave me the reins instead of pressuring me to be a carbon copy of whatever was trending at the time.”
Barnett paid homage to the vision of Capitol’s founders: songwriter Johnny Mercer, music retailer Glen Wallichs and film producer Buddy DeSylva, who conceived the idea to establish the first West Coast-based record company over lunch on Feb. 7, 1942. Thanking Grainge and Capitol’s artists, personnel and executive team, including COO Michelle Jubelirer (“who’s been on this journey with me from the beginning”) and president Ashley Newton, Barnett said, “They’ve all worked tirelessly to help make Capitol the success it is today and set it on a firm foundation for many decades to come.”
Following Grainge’s comments, the trio unveiled the star -- located directly in front of the Capitol Tower entrance -- to the fitting accompaniment of Perry’s hit “Roar.” In addition to Nov. 15 being proclaimed Capitol Records Day, the label was recognized with a plaque from the Cultural Heritage Commission designating the Capitol Tower as “Cultural Monument No. 857.”
Over the coming year, Capitol will roll out an extensive slate of music, film and literary projects spanning the past eight decades. These projects include The Capitol Records 75th Anniversary Collection, a vinyl reissue program featuring 75 pivotal albums culled from the label’s archives and launched in partnership with Crate and Barrel; a deluxe photograph and essay book from TASCHEN, 75 Years of Capitol Records (arriving Dec. 15) and the development of a Capitol Records docuseries produced by Nigel Sinclair/Whitehouse Pictures (The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years).
After the star ceremony, Barnett told Billboard that planning for the year-long celebration began in earnest about 15 months ago, starting with the TASCHEN book. “That’s when I began talking to Lucian about all of our plans,” recalled Barnett. “I remember saying to everybody a year ago from this week that we’ve only got a year; we’ve got to get going.”
Following the label’s anniversary gala at its headquarters on Tuesday night, the Capitol Tower will break with tradition. The spire on top of the building will temporarily cease emitting “Hollywood” in Morse code and instead will flash “Capitol 75” for the next 12 months.