Capitol Records struggled somewhat during the War years. But through it all the label not only survived it prospered.
The label prospered because of the success of their early recording artists, Nat King Cole, Peggy
Lee, Stan Kenton, Margaret Whiting, Andy Russell, Johnny Mercer and others. Their operation
was inovating. They owned their own pressing plant, opened regional sale offices and built the
famed round Capitol Tower. Throughout the late 40’s, 50’s and early 1960’s Capitol proved to be
a force in the recording industry. Their artist roster contained Kay Starr, Sonny James, Hank Thompson, Les Paul & Mary Ford, Jackie Gleason. Then came Frank Sinatra and his over
Sinatra revived his career on Capitol Records. Nat King Cole was still recording #1 hits. There was
Glen Campbell, Kingston Trio, Helen Reddy, Bobbi Gentry and others all making Capitol Records
a vibrant label. Capitol Records was a success so much so that EMI purchased 95% of the equity
of Capitol Records, Inc. And the artist roster increased with Dean Martin, Nancy Wilson, The
Lettermen, Lou Rawls, Cannonball Adderly and Wayne Newton. But success kept Capitol indifferent
to rock music. Their executives thought it a passing fad.
The signing of Brian Wilson soon changed that mode of thought. The Beach Boys became Capitol’s
answer to satisfy the younger music buyer. Through the six years the business, producing songs,
and royalty clashes between the label and Beach Boys manager made the relationship tense. But
the arrival of the Beatles and their hits brought some relief to Capitol. The Beatles brought the label
the constant flow of revenue. The Beatles and The Beach Boys represented 56% of their revenue.
In 1969 The Beach Boys left Capitol Records.
Now in the 70’s Capitol faced the fact that they had fallen behind in searching for new young groups
as other labels had. The Beatles had reflected and quickly made changes that were already
underway. The Beatles were new, so different, the musical apostles that provided an endless barrage
of songs affecting even social change. The label not even the Beatles themselves had a clue as
to what their music unleashed. The Beatles had become role models over night. so it seemed. The
“Mop Tops” recast the American social fabric. The sudden death of their manager brought a slow
change within the group, yes they still managed to Make magnificent music but now squabbles also
During the recording and filming of “Let It Be”, Lennon and McCartney dominated the singing and
songswriting. In effect they led the group. After Epstein’s death they all became embroiled in disagreements, various conflicts and especially personal jealousies. There was no Epstein to unify
them. They were tired of it all, tired of each other. After fulfilling the “Let It Be” project, it was all over. It was 1970. During their seven-year run as kings of rock ‘n’roll they created a string of top singles and albums so broad that other performers felt compelled to record.
That the Beatles quit when they were still on top was their decision. Their music has and will continue to entertain for generations. The Beatles had 13 hit albums. In January, Paul McCartney
filed suit to dissolve the group. Capitol could no longer depend on them for new releases. As the
70’s progressed the label developed such artists as Natalie Cole, Peabody Bryson, The Little River
Band. Still, Capitol endured a rough era following the aftermath of the Beatles’ break up. Many
Capitol insiders felt the label had lost touch with the street, so to speak. The critics mockingly were
saying the Capitol Tower was teetering.
In order to return to a respected position again Capitol began a massive reorganization. There was
a general view that there was a lot happening and who knew what was going to happen next. But
the early 1970’s were seen as a challenge for Capitol Records.
Len “Muddy” Mardeusz
Roving Music Reporter
Capitol Records started in the early ‘40’s. The fledgling label was founded by Glen Wallichs, Johnny Mercer and Buddy DiSilva. The new label on the west coast never last, said industry pundits. It was a struggle to be sure but in the end the pundits were wrong.
The Beatles - Part 2
Len “Muddy” Mardeusz
Capitol issued a press realease in 1963, the claim it made was certainly beyond the norm. It’s tone was established by the headline, which sounded like prophetic words: “New English Madness To
Spread To U.S.” So with that headline, Capitol Records announced “Beatle-mania was headed to
the U.S. “ an unprecedented musical style turned England topsy-turvy. In December of ‘63,these
press releases were in essence a pipe dream. The Beatles had been signed by EMI in 1962. Capitol
retained the right contractually to not pick up artists the English label signed.
Although the Beatles became England’s biggest sensation early in 1963, there seemed little
interest in the group both by Capitol and Americans. At that time the international A&R exec
for Capitol, near the end of 1963, received recorded singles by the Beatles from EMI. The
two were pressed back to back were, “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”. The were rejected by
Capitol. The A&R exec was reflecting the labels laid back attitude to any other than the
heritage of Sinatra, Cole and easy listening music.
The Beatles first U.S. album was released on Vee-Jay records titled, “Introducing...the Beatles”.
The album barely made a ripple in the summer of 1963. At a meeting in London, attended by a
Capitol A&R representative EMI played a catridge of several Beatle cuts. He mentioned a New York piublishing firm was highly interested in handling their music. Capitol was now interested in signing the group. However, now the Beatles had a manager, Brian Epstein. He handed the label a catch , to sign the Beatles, he wanted a guarantee that they would be promoted throughout all 50 States. He also demanded full page ads in entertainment trade papers to announce the signing
Capitol executives huddled to discuss Epstein’s term. The knew Beatle-mania was a smash not
only in England but also growing in Europe. The Beatles were signed to Capitol and the Beatle-mania press release was issued. Further, their first single release here, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” ,
became the fastest-selling Record in America. To take advantage of single sale Capitol was
pushing up the planned album release. CBS-TV announced the Beatles would appear on the
Ed Sullivan show in February. With all the media hype, it indeed resembled an invasion of sorts.
But this was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. At this point no one could have known in the
history of the record business the incomparable talents that were about to form a cultural explosion.
With “I Want To Hold Your Hand” such a smash hit, Capitol boasted that the song was written
by John Lennon and Paul McCarthy. The other two Beatles, George Harrison and Ringo Starr
we’re almost an after thought. But Lennon made sure to make it known the Beatles were
four jolly blokes, John, Paul, George and Ringo. Capitol for its part continued the publicity releases,
pushing out “fantastic quantities” of “The Beatles Are Coming” stickers and posters. All the hoopla whipped up retailers and radio programmers. But what in the end would really matter to the American Public was their music.
Their songs became timeless. So many...”All My Loving”...”All You Need Is Love”...”Sgt. Pepper”...
“Hard Days Night’...”Let It Be”... “Ticket To Ride”... “Penny Lane”... “Hey Jude”...”Yesterday”...
“Lady Madonna” and so many, many others. The Fab Four are long gone but not their music. The
Beatles, preceded by the The Beach Boys, changed the way the record industry did business as they shattered the course of musical history. Because music for teens and young adults was all about one-off hits for singers not building careers. Both groups changed that kind of thinking from all labels. Their massive success gave them power. In particular, the Beatles shaped their image and their manager, Brian Epstein directed marketing.
Brian Epstein managed the Beatles for almost 6 years. He parlayed the group’s success beyond
that of any other had ever achieved. It was his guidance that enabled their career projectors
to reach meteoric heights. Epstein actually discover the group in 1961 playing at the Cavern Club
outside of London. For Capitol Records, the Beatles on the label, was like the California Gold Rush.
However, though the money was great. It never stopped flowing and it allowed Capitol to become
complacent. It fell behind other labels in search of new young talent. On August 27, 1967, came
shattering news, Brian Epstein was found dead in his apartment, supposedly an over dose of drugs.
The loss of Brian Epstein would have monumental effects on the Beatles.
The Beatles lost the one man who kept them together a close unit. He was able to unite them and
capable of resolving any issues. Now at the age of 34 he was dead. Brian Epstein had taken care
of all aspects of their career. He guaranteed their continued royalties to flow to each. Brian
Epstein’s death brought an immediate difference to their lives and Capitol Records.
The Capitol Records and the Beatles continues in another edition
Len “Muddy” Mardeusz
*references material from Capitol 50 yrs.
For Capitol Records and The Beach Boys, their relationship was like a good marriage gone bad. And so The Beach Boys left the label in 1969. Ironically, the music they left behind was continuous gold for Capitol.
By Len "Muddy" Mardeusz