Touring Capitol Records

As a fan of historic architecture there are several Los Angeles landmarks that I adore. The Eastern Columbia Building. The Los Angeles Central Library. Capitol Records. In fact, it had long been my dream to get inside that mid-century masterpiece. Designed to look like a stack of records by famed architect Welton Becket  it signifies everything I love about classic Hollywood. Swinging music, cool character and the biggest stars in showbiz including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. The only problem was – I couldn’t get inside. The building wasn’t open to the public and I had zero ties to the record industry. It seemed that my dream would be remain unfulfilled.

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Then something magical happened. Capitol Records turned 60 years old and to celebrate they offered exclusive tours of the recording studios. At $50 a person the price was a bit steep but for a dream fulfilled it looked like a bargain. So Shannon and I booked a tour ASAP and last Saturday we found ourselves entering the building’s hallowed halls.

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We started in the lobby where we met with Rob Christie, an independent music producer (and former Capitol employee), who was to be our tour guide. While waiting to begin I took a look around to appreciate the mid-century style of the small lobby.

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Soon enough we were headed down a long hallway filled with pictures of all the Capitol greats and made our wait to the recording studio.

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As I passed by classic shots of Frank, Dean, Judy Garland and Bobby Darin I was filled with eager anticipation of what we would see in the studio.

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We started in a recording booth filled with the biggest sound mixer I’d ever seen. Sound engineer, Chandler Harrod, was on hand to introduce us to this monstrous piece of equipment. The board connects to over 70 microphones and several famous artists have recorded on it. He encouraged us to get hands on with the board and I couldn’t resist trying my own mix.

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We then left the recording booth and headed into Studios A and B – home of some of the most famous recordings ever made. Here we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of history surrounded by artifacts from music giants.  In one corner were the microphones the Beatles used for an early press conference.

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In another corner was Nat King Cole’s piano and microphone.

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There was Dean Martin’s microphone and recording booth.

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And there…oh my gosh…there was Frank Sinatra’s microphone.

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Chills. Just chills. And the best part was we could go right up to everything and pose for pictures. Shannon and I couldn’t resist some fun shots.

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It was incredible. We were in seventh heaven as we explored the studio and ogled the equipment used by our very favorite performers. Hallowed ground, folks. Hallowed ground.

Eventually, we did have to move on and we soon headed into another recording booth and met with legendary engineer, Charlie Paakkari. Now, I’m not exaggerating when I say legendary. He’s a Grammy winner who’s recorded with Tony Bennett, Elton John, Sting, The Carpenters, Harry Connick Jr. and my beloved Frank. Heck, he’s even got his own Wikipedia page.

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He showed us around his mixing board and played us an incredible version of Pinball Wizard. Not my favorite Who song but played in that room it sounded incredible. We could even hear the pinball machine sounds at the end. What a high note to end our tour on.

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Back on the street Shannon and I were giddy about our experience at Capitol Records. Best $50 we ever spent!

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