as it’s grammy weekend i thought i’d take some pictures of the iconic and legendary capitol records building.
well, i also thought i’d take some pictures of it because it’s a fantastic and fantastically anachronistic building, representing a time when record companies were huge and powerful and the music business was annually growing from strength to strength (even if the musicians themselves were routinely shafted in the process… oops, sorry had to get in a word for all of the musicians over the years who’ve been treated like dirty step-children while the executives at the record companies made tens of millions of dollars). but this building. it’s a great building, practically and conceptually.
it was designed (or so i’ve been led to believe) to look like a big stack of 7” 45rpm records, with a gigantic stylus (needle)pressing down upon the top record. everything about this has become amazingly anachronistic, as 7” records disappeared ages ago, and at this point the record business could be better understood as the i-tunes/mp3 business. no more records. no more needles (ironically there’s a needle exchange in the shadow of the capitol records building, but for a very different type of needle).
but the anachronism, as represented architecturally, is charming and amazing and endearing and chilling (in that it represents a dead and dying industry). a form that had great relevance when it was conceived and built now just looks like a super-cool round building with a big weird spikey thing on top.
i guess it’s also worth remembering that this building was a shining beacon when pop music was elvis and frank sinatra and the beatles. and now pop music is, well, it is what it is.
i won’t malign the state of pop music, specifically, but i will state the obvious: it’s not the beatles or simon and garfunkel or the clash or nirvana or alice in chains or marvin gaye or stevie wonder or bob marley or bruce springsteen or the rolling stones or rem, even though it once was.
it’s not idiosyncratic individuals who made challenging and beautiful and fascinating music that inspired hundreds of millions of people.
i won’t say what the world of pop music is. but i’m happy to state the obvious and point out what it isn’t, and what it used to be.
perhaps the demise of the record business has less to do with piracy and mp3’s than it does with the gaping maw that separates what the pop music world currently is as opposed to what it used to be.
sorry to be cranky, but music is precious to me and it breaks my heart to see it treated like trash. and, oops, the capitol records building is great architecture.
i guess some people would have an architectural blog and actually focus on architecture. that would make sense.
but for whatever reason, possibly owing to unresolved and proustian childhood issues, i just like to look at oddball buildings and places in l.a, which occasionally sometimes have architectural significance.
today’s building has, unless one is willing to cast a broad net of criteria, no architectural significance.
it’s a bail bond shop.
and i’m including it because:
- i think it looks like a time capsule from 1961.
- it’s a generic building, but put ‘bail bond’ on the front and all of a sudden it’s no longer a generic building. suddenly with that little semiotic signifier it becomes a dark and desperate building, populated by desperate people.
- re: ‘b’, at least that’s what it does for me.
- i’m still sad that i didn’t get to major in semiotics at brown. of all the academic disciplines i kind of believe that semiotics has the most relevance to our daily lives. even moreso than psychology or philosophy or religious studies.
- this list has strayed.
- we judge buildings from one temporal and contextual perspective, but other people, (like, perhaps: in the future), will judge buildings from a different temporal and contextual perspective. sometimes i think it’s ok to like something but not fully understand why you like it or if the object of your liking has any broad or grand significance. but maybe, intuitively, you know it’s interesting, even if most people would dismiss it as random or odd or generic. kind of like this bail bonds place.
- i think it looks cool.
- it still seems odd to me that in the middle of hollywood there are run down bail bonds places. and pawn shops. and strip clubs. and $59 a night motels.
- it’s odd to me that hollywood, the land of dreams and sunshine, is still a repository for so much odd, archetypal noir stuff. and not just stuff that looks like old timey noir, but stuff that is noir in it’s truest sense, the haunts of desperate people cobbling together desperate lives and trying to find meaning and happiness and solidarity on the edges of polite societies garbage.
- this list has probably gone on long enough.
ok, so a beautiful, dark, odd, pawn shop in the middle of hollywood, hidden under some old trees and facing a crumbling street and a crumbling city.
one of many reasons to love los angeles.