The Music Factory
December 29, 2004 12:10 AM   Subscribe

The Brill Building, located at 1619 Broadway in the heart of New York's music district, is a name synonymous with an approach to songwriting that changed the course of music. Housing legendary songwriters like Carole King, Jerry Leiber, Neil Sedaka, and Burt Bacharach, the Brill Building created some of the greatest hits of the rock'n'roll era. [more inside]
posted by rocket88 (11 comments total)
The Brill Building in the early '60s was a classic model of vertical integration. There you could write a song or make the rounds of publishers until someone bought it. Then you could go to another floor and get a quick arrangement and lead sheet for $10; get some copies made at the duplication office; book an hour at a demo studio; hire some of the musicians and singers that hung around; and finally cut a demo of the song. Then you could take it around the building to the record companies, publishers, artist's managers or even the artists themselves. If you made a deal there were radio promoters available to sell the record.
posted by rocket88 at 12:10 AM on December 29, 2004

In addition, there was something magical about the quality control. They were churning out song after song after song, yet the standards remained (generally) high. They set the tone for a generation.
Berry Gordy followed a similar course with Motown, of course.
posted by apocalypse miaow at 12:56 AM on December 29, 2004

As an exception however, there was the aberration of the Goffin/King composition for the Crystals (discussed here before) -

"He hit me and it felt like a kiss
He hit me but it didn't hurt me
He couldn't stand to hear me say
That I had been with someone new
And when I told him I had been untrue
He hit me and it felt like a kiss
He hit and I knew he loved me
'Cause if he didn't care for me
I could have never made him mad
And he hit me and I was glad
Baby won't you stay
He hit me and it felt like a kiss
He hit and I knew I loved him

'Cause when he took me in his arms
With all the tenderness there is
He hit me and he made me feel
Baby won't you stay"

posted by apocalypse miaow at 1:08 AM on December 29, 2004

. . . the Brill Building created some of the greatest hits of the rock'n'roll era.

I doubt it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:22 AM on December 29, 2004

Ok, well, the Brill Building didn't create anything (it just kind of stood there),
but Don Kirshner did.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:59 AM on December 29, 2004

More info on the Brill Building. (And how can anyone forget to mention the somehow omnipotent mastermind of the "Wall of Sound," Phil Spector?)
posted by miss lynnster at 5:36 AM on December 29, 2004

what, no love for Doc Pomus?
posted by jonmc at 6:29 AM on December 29, 2004

Also, home of the Broadway Screening Room.
posted by muckster at 8:36 AM on December 29, 2004

Al Kooper, who did some time in the Brill Building area (writing songs for the great, great, super-great Gene Pitney), says the REAL "Brill Building" was a block down (I forget the number), over that subway stop at 50th street. It was there, he claims, that most of the work now credited to the Brill Building was actually written and recorded. There is no question, however, that whatever came out of that area at that time represented the high water mark of American pop music of the post 50s era. The Brill Building composers were contemporaneous with the Beatles, and I would suggest that their sophisticated compositions inspired the Beatles to their greatest songwriting heights. In fact, if you look at the set lists from the early 60s Beatles performances in Hamburg and elsewhere, you'll find they played quite a few Brill Building hits -- including Goffin/King's "Take Good Care of My Baby," which sounds like any number of early Beatle songs. There's a movie, "Grace of My Heart," which came out about ten years ago, providing a fictionalized account of a Carole King-like songwriter in a Brill Building-like milieu. It blew. Carole King herself took too many drugs (she may be the addressee of Paul Revere and the Raiders' great Brill Building hit, "Kicks") and in one of the most shocking reversals in cultural history, proceeded to spend the rest of the 1970s destroying pop music with albums like "Tapestry" and songs like "Jazz Man." This from the woman who wrote "Will You still Love Me Tomorrow."
The Brill Building (wherever it was): Cradle of genius. Shrine of songwriting excellence. Incubator of immortal melodies. All pop songwriters from 1970 onwards should buy one of the several Brill Building compilations, listen to it carefully, and then slit their wrists from shame.

That said, the Brill Building was also heavily involved with organized crime -- and one or another mafia entity currently owns the rights to most of those great songs, guaranteeing that you will continue to hear them for a long, long time to come.
posted by Faze at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2004

Faze - three beautifully written paragraphs. I tip my hat to you.
posted by apocalypse miaow at 10:34 AM on December 29, 2004

I worked at Sound One when I first moved to New York. (Film sound and editing company, located in the Brill along with Broadway Video, Lorne Michaels' company.) I love working in a place where you can say, "You know, I bet 40 years ago Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were doing coke in the corner of my office."
posted by fungible at 6:20 PM on December 29, 2004

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