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The Brill Building

The Brill Building

 

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, Traditional black gospel 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 categorized 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 in the Brill Building and the nearby 1650 Broadway came to define the influential "Brill Building Sound" and the style of popular 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 

 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 and/or (in the cases of Goffin-King, Mann-Weil and Greenwich-Barry) married couples, as well as creative and business associates—and both individually and as duos, they often worked together and with other writers in a wide variety of combinations. Some (Carole King, Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart) recorded and had hits with their own music.

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