Happy Birthday to Capitol Records
In the peak years of my scouring yard sales and junk shops for second-hand, dollar-bin vinyl record albums, I didn’t really focus on company labels. I paid more attention to genres and artists.
Still, it’s only fitting that I now shine the spotlight on a single company, since I learned that Capitol Records (the first major West Coast record company) celebrates its 75th anniversary on March 27.
Besides the Broadway musical soundtracks, classical recordings, high fidelity jazz sessions and comedy albums (yes, I have a battered copy of Andy Griffith’s 1958 pre-TV “Just For Laughs” album near my bed), Capitol has hosted some real pop/country/rock superstars over the past three-quarters of a century: Nat King Cole, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Frank Sinatra, the Kingston Trio,the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Glen Campbell, Bob Seger, Queen, Garth Brooks, Coldplay, Katy Perry, and hundreds more.
I did not realize until I started researching this column that TV star Bozo the Clown was actually created in 1946 for Capitol’s new children’s record library. Bozo. Capitol. Somehow the two words seem to go together perfectly. (“Oh, the polls shifted suddenly since I started this three-day filibuster? Uh, I think I hear my page calling me.”)
My wife and I watch a lot of the current crop of time-travel TV shows (“Timeless,” “Doctor Who,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”), in which someone is always intentionally or accidentally altering history. I shuddered when I thought about someone traveling back in time (either with an agenda or just a general flair for mischief) and altering some of the great recordings Capitol has contributed to the American songbook.
What if there was no one to encourage Sloopy to hang on? What if all Helen Reddy’s anthem could manage was “I am woman, hear me mansplain”? Or if “Someday, lady, you’ll accomp’ny me” was about public restrooms?
Would it be as romantic if the original Beach Boys had sung “In My (Wiretapped) Room” or “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older/Then we could use Medicare before it goes broke”?
Would our musical legacy be as rich if it included “She Blinded Me With Settled Science,” “Blue State Christmas” and “Be True To Your School Voucher”– and if the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” was expanded to include a verse for every single new airline surcharge?
Do we really need a ditty as divisive as “Good Vibrations: The Kind That Will Hopefully Slide That Bleeding Heart Sanctuary State Right Into The Ocean”?
It might promote healthier lifestyles, but wouldn’t we lose some of the poignancy if the altered reality found oldies stations playing “The Night They Bicycled Old Dixie Down”?
Audiophiles with different locations on the political spectrum would probably come to blows if “Theme From A Summer Place” became “A Summer Place? EVERYWHERE Is A Summer Place! Watch Out For Drifting Polar Bears!”
Could Loggins and Messina be bribed into producing “Your Mama Don’t Dance And Your Daddy Don’t Have A Y Chromosome”?
Could threats make MC Hammer sing, “U Can’t Touch This – Oh, Wait, You’re A Celebrity, So Go Ahead And Grab”?
Let’s all be thankful for the Capitol discography as it exists – and pray that we don’t wake up to hear a rebooted Ol’ Blue Eyes crooning, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin (And I Feel Downright Patriotic Now That The Government Can Track Me This Way).”
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”