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Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era Hardcover – October 20, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Emerson (Doo-Dah!: Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Popular Culture) enthusiastically chronicles the lives and careers of seven songwriting teams whose pioneering work from the late 1950s through the mid '60s ushered rock and roll into mainstream America. From Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman came enduring hits like "On Broadway" and "Yakety-Yak." Emerson follows their progress as competitors, lovers and collaborators, creating a hagiography of these ambitious, often classically trained (and often Brooklyn-bred) tyros, influenced as much by the great American songbook as New York City's Latin, soul and doo-wop sounds. Emerson also depicts a music industry in flux, shifting idols from Sinatra to Elvis and learning to cater to a lucrative youth market. Seldom short on gossip, this dense mix of biography, music analysis and social history offers an upbeat reading of rock history. It begs for a fuller discussion of the influences of Motown, the British invasion and payola, but Emerson's affectionate tone, delight in the songwriter's craft and extensive research are fortifying—much like the classics he celebrates.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Many of the early sixties' most memorable songs, such as "Up on the Roof," "Stand by Me," and "Walk on By," were penned in small offices in Manhattan's Brill Building, the midcentury version of the fabled Tin Pan Alley. Virtually all the songwriters were Brooklyn Jews who fell in love with black music and worked in duos, many of which were married couples. The first contingent, including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, were heavily influenced by R & B; the second, including Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David, were more pop-oriented. The era ended when the songwriters followed the industry to L.A., which lacked the urban edge that fueled their work in New York. The Brill Building may have been a music factory, but its sweatshop workers brought craftsmanship to teen music and added a distaff element to rock's boys' club. Emerson effectively evokes a milieu whose output remains fondly remembered--and frequently rerecorded--to this day. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
'Always Magic...' is an absolute pleasure to read - fun and interesting, a study of people as well as music (and of music as well as people), it never lets up. From "Hound Dog" to "Save the Last Dance For Me," from "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" to "What the World Needs Now," from "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" to "Chapel of Love" to "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," the sounds of the Brill Building era are as much a part of our lives as the air that we breathe, and Ken Emerson's rockumentary is a breath of fresh air - always magical, from start to finish.
top hit records of the late '50s to mid-'60s were created in cubicles in New York City's Brill Building and the building at 1650 Broadway by six songwriting teams. It's really astounding
that so many hits from that period came from the collaboration between the twelve songwriters profiled in this book. I became a devoted fan of rock 'n' roll when I was given a Silvertone transistor radio on my tenth birthday in 1958. I remember virtually all of the songs referred to in this book, and it was very enlightening to me to find out what went on behind the scenes during the creation of this music. As I read the book, I was logged on to YouTube so that I could listen to a particular record as I read about it. This added a dynamic dimension to the reading experience. When Mr. Emerson mentioned a five-bar phrase or how the underside of the drum was scraped for a specific percussion effect, I could hear what he meant. This book is a 'must' for pop music fans.
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