Jump to content

This video deserves it's own topic


Recommended Posts

Brill Building

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Brill Building (built 1931) is an office building located at 1619 Broadway in New York City, just north of Times Square. The Brill Building (named after the Brill Brothers, who owned a clothing store on the street level and who later bought the entire building from its developer, A.E. Lefcourt) was intended as a financial office space for brokers and bankers. In the midst of the Depression, the timing couldn't have been worse, and the owners resorted to renting space to music publishers, as there were few other takers.

The building is 11 stories and approximately 175,000 rentable square feet.

Even before World War II it became a centre of activity for the popular music industry, especially music publishing and songwriting. Scores of music publishers had offices in the Brill Building. Once songs had been published, the publishers sent song pluggers to the popular white bands and radio stations. These song pluggers would sing and/or play the song for the band leaders to encourage bands to play their music.

During the ASCAP strike of 1941, many of the composers, authors and publishers turned to pseudonyms in order to have their songs played on the air.

Brill Building songs were constantly at the top of the Hit Parade and played by the leading bands of the day:

The Benny Goodman Orchestra

The Glenn Miller Orchestra

The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra

The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra

Publishers included:

Leo Feist Inc.

Lewis Music Publishing

Mills Music Publishing

Composers included:

Billy Rose

Buddy Feyne

Johnny Mercer

Irving Mills

Peter Tinturin

The music publishers at this time occasionally followed the racial codes of the day. They either had their own (typically white) contract writers composing songs or they opened their doors to publish songs of others, but sometimes hid the fact that songs were created by non-white or non-Christian artists. Yet black songwriters such as James Bland, Scott Joplin, and Eubie Blake never felt the need to resort to this kind of subterfuge and were internationally reknowned for their compositions.

Some Jewish songwriters did adopt anglicized noms de plume, but most did not. While anti-semitism was widespread in America, it was not characteristic of the music industry in which Jewish composers, such as Kern, Gershwin, Rodgers, and many others flourished without significant discrimination.

In the 1930s some publishers in the Brill Building specialized in publishing the songs of African American Swing composers. For example, Lewis Music published the songs of Erskine Hawkins and Avery Parrish, among others. These tunes were called "Race Music", the euphemism for songs written by black artists. If a composer wrote an instrumental (and even sometimes if there were already lyrics), the publishers provided their own lyricists. Top selling songs on the (white) Hit Parade, such as Tuxedo Junction and Jersey Bounce, were originally composed as instrumentals by black swing artists, but were not played by white bands on the radio until they had been published with lyrics, often by white writers.

The Brill Building's name has been widely adopted as a shorthand term for a broad and influential stream of American mainstream popular song (strongly influenced by Latin music and rhythm and blues) which enjoyed great commercial success in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. Many significant American and international publishing companies, music agencies and recording labels were based in New York, and although these ventures were naturally spread across many locations, the Brill Building was regarded as probably the most prestigious address in New York for music business professionals. The term "The Brill Building Sound" is somewhat inaccurate, however, since much of the music so categorised actually emanated from other locations — music historian Ken Emerson nominates buildings at 1650 Broadway and 1697 Broadway as other significant bases of activity in this field.

By 1962 the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses: a musician could find a publisher and printer, cut a demo, promote the record, and cut a deal with radio promoters, all within this one building. The creative culture of the independent music companies of Brill Building and the nearby 1650 Broadway came to define the influential "Brill Building Sound" and the style of popular music songwriting and recording created by its writers and producers.

Carole King described the atmosphere at the 'Brill Building' publishing houses of the period:

"Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You'd sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific — because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He'd say: 'We need a new smash hit' — and we'd all go back and write a song and the next day we'd each audition for Bobby Vee's producer." — quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith (1978, ISBN 0-09-460220-4).

Many of the best works in this diverse category were written by a loosely affiliated group of songwriter-producer teams — mostly duos — that enjoyed immense success and who collectively wrote some of the biggest hits of the period. Many in this group were close friends, as well as being creative and business associates — and both individually and as a duo, they often worked with each other and with other writers in a wide variety of combinations.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman

Gerry Goffin and Carole King

Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry

Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield

Hugo & Luigi

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

Tony Powers

Other famous musicians who were headquartered in The Brill Building:

Laura Nyro

Claus Ogerman [1]

Neil Diamond

Paul Simon as Jerry Landis [2]

Bobby Darin [3]

Phil Spector

Among the hundreds of hits written by this group are Leiber and Stoller's "Yakety Yak", Shuman and Pomus's "Save The Last Dance For Me", Bacharach and David's "The Look of Love", Sedaka and Greenfield's "Calendar Girl", King and Goffin's "The Loco-Motion", Mann and Weil's "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and Spector, Greenwich and Barry's "River Deep Mountain High".

Many of these writers came to prominence while under contract to Aldon Music, a publishing company founded ca. 1958 by aspiring music entrepreneur Don Kirshner and industry veteran Al Nevins. Aldon was not initially located in the Brill Building, but rather, a block away at 1650 Broadway (at 51st St.). In fact, 1650 was built to be a musician's headquarters, so much so that the laws at the time required that the "front" door be placed on the side of the building due to laws restricting musicians from entering buildings from the front. Most so-called 'Brill Building' writers began their careers at 1650, and the building continued to house many record labels throughout the decades.

Toni Wine explains:

“ There were really two huge buildings that were housing publishing companies, songwriters, record labels, and artists. The Brill Building was one. But truthfully, most of your R&B, really rock & roll labels and publishing companies, including the studio, which was in the basement and was called Allegro Studios, was in 1650 Broadway. They were probably a block and a half away from each other. 1650 and the Brill Building. ”

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...