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Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era [Format Kindle]

Ken Emerson

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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

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1134 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 364 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0143037773
  • Editeur : Penguin Books; Édition : Reprint (26 septembre 2006)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B002VXTB2M
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30 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Men and Women Who Put the Bomp in the Bomp de Bomp... 27 novembre 2005
Par Marc Flanagan - Publié sur
Years ago I spent some time with Carole King, she used to come to the set of The Tracey Ullman Show and sit in with the band. I was a writer and producer on the program and as it is televison there is a lot of waiting around so I would chat up Carol, I was anxious to talk with her about her time in New York during that era. Ms King was modest about her contribution to that period in pop music, " For a lot of us it was just an afterschool job." Now close to forty plus years later, the tunes penned by Carole and her husband Gerry Goffin, Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus and of course, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, are now apart of the American Songbook. The author Ken Emerson has done a thorough job detailing the major contributors who were most associated with The Brill Building era . It was an exciting time in the music industry, dominated by AM radio( and payola) careers were won and lost in the blink of an eye. Those who toiled in the pop business were intent on writing not just a song, but a monster hit song and then writing an even bigger one . Most of them were just out of their teens, so they wrote about what they knew kids could relate to. If you are the kind of person who turns up their radio to sing along to, "On Broadway", "Save the Last Dance For Me", "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and all of the great pop songs of the early sixties,then you will be delighted to read these back stories and hum along with The Coasters as they "Yakety Yak, don't talk back." A very cool read.
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Ken Emerson's Brill-iant book about the music and magic On Broadway 16 décembre 2005
Par Laura Pinto - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
'Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era' is an entertaining, comprehensive, and riveting study of seven legendary songwriting teams - Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman; Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller; Burt Bacharach/Hal David; Neil Sedaka/Howard Greenfield; Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil; Gerry Goffin/Carole King; and Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich. The time was the 1950's and 1960's - the Golden Era of rock and roll - and the place was New York City. The players were young, talented, and Jewish. They came from varying social and economic backgrounds. They brought with them their energy, enthusiasm, and artistry, and they left their collective footprints in musical history - and in our minds and hearts. More than just a biography of fourteen people, however, 'Always Magic...' is an all-inclusive study of the sounds born in two relatively unimposing buildings in Manhattan - the Brill Building, located at 1619 Broadway, and its near neighbor at 1650 Broadway. The roots of rock and roll in general are discussed, as are the Latin influences behind some of the songs brought forth by these talented scribes (one example is the *baion* drumbeat intro to "Be My Baby"); and the individual and collective backgrounds and lives of the principals, several of whom were interviewed for this book, are covered in depth. Their personal histories are fascinating to read about. In the case of the composers no longer with us - Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, and Howard Greenfield - author Ken Emerson drew on a wealth of biographical and historical information as well as contributions from friends, relatives, and other reliable sources. Emerson also utilized material from previously published and/or broadcast articles, interviews and documentaries in all cases. The result is a thorough and generously annotated book, well researched with a comprehensive bibliography, a must-have for rock historians who will want to add this delightful and informative book to their collections, and for those who are simply fans of what has become known as the Brill Building sound.

'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.
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 When Oldies Were Newies 1 mars 2006
Par Bill Emblom - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Author Ken Emerson has given us a well-researched book on seven song writing teams during the late 1950's and early 1960's. It is a marvelous companion volume to the DVD set entitled The Songmakers, part of which is devoted to these songwriters in the portion called "The Hitmakers--The Teens Who Stole Pop Music". The fact that musical history was being created during this time period was lost on the talented writers and singers as they provided the teen buying public who had the buck to purchase the 45 RPM record. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller brought their considerable talents from California to New York in 1957 while Brooklyn in particular seemed to be a hotbed for those writers and singers who did their work in the Brill Building or at 1650 Broadway. All was not a bed of roses for these talented individuals, however. Stress in their private lives led to marital breakups as well as other problems. The DVD set has the advantage of letting you listen to these talented song writers talk about their experiences, and listen to snippets of songs they made popular, while this book has the advantage of going into more detail along with anecdotes about these individuals and how some experience would trigger an idea for a song. When the 1960's generation reaches nursing home status instead of listening to "You Are My Sunshine" and "Shine on Harvest Moon" they will be singing to "Leader of the Pack", "He's A Rebel", and other such songs. Jeff and Ellie, Carole and Gerry, Barry and Cynthia, Jerry and Mike, Neil and Howard, Doc and Mort, and Burt and Hal: There is more to history than wars, treaties, and presidents, and the American public is deeply indebted to you for adding so much to our cultural history.
18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 +1/2 -- Detailed but unsatisfying chronicle of '60s pop songwriters 3 décembre 2007
Par hyperbolium - Publié sur
Ken Emerson's detailed history of seven pairs of writers (Leiber & Stoller, Bacharach & David, Sedaka & Greenfield, Mann & Weil, Goffin & King, Pomus & Shuman, and Barry & Greenwich) is a detailed chronicle of the Brill Building's seminal place in the history of pop music writing. Unfortunately, Emerson's pedantic writing style and his inability to find narratives makes this a less than lyrical read. His collection of vignettes fails to lift the writers off the page or deliver a feel for the arcs of their careers. Most ironically, his university professor prose is riddled with ten-dollar words ("perdurable," "routinized," "auguries," "lamasery," "rumbustious," "subalterns," "roisterous," etc.) that are at odds with the vernacular exalted in these songwriters' work.

Worse yet are Emerson's writing tics, which his editor should have stamped out in the first draft. He repeats the phrase "the Brill Building and 1650 Broadway" throughout the book, rather than pointing out the importance of the sister building once and then using the colloquial "Brill Building." He rotates the attribution of the songwriting pairs -- "Goffin and King" on one page, "King and Goffin" on the next -- as if using the formal credit by which they're famously known would slight the second named partner. His prose is filled with distractions and the occasional pointless aside, and he supplements the academic treatment with 34-pages of end notes that source the quotes in the 270-page main text. That's 11% end notes that could have been posted on a website, rather than sold in paper to every casual reader of this book.

The presentation is a shame, because much of the research, both original interviews and reuse of existing materials, is excellent. Emerson provides a good look at these writers' roots, their beginnings in the music business and their individual paths to greatness. His discographical research provides interesting detail about who wrote what for who, extending well beyond the signature hits of each songwriting pair. He not only digs up surprise associations of songwriters and musical acts, but chronicles a good deal of the musical chairs played between the well-known pairings. Of particular interest are scenes that show how music publishers (particularly Don Kirshner) and song pluggers served as conduits from songwriters to sympathetic producers and musical acts, and how records found their way onto the radio.

Particularly illuminating are descriptions of what happened after Don Kirshner sold his publishing company (Aldon) and record label (Dimension) and eventually abandoned his songwriters at Colpix. The continued influence of these songwriters during the British Invasion - a time when groups were becoming more self-contained - is quite enlightening. Less so are the textual descriptions of songs, which tend to the clinical and provide a poor substitute for actually hearing the music. Readers would do well to pick up a collection of Brill Building hits (e.g., "The Songmaker's Collection: Music from the Brill Building" and "The Colpix-Dimension Story"), selections from the Daisy and Tiger labels (e.g, "The Daisy/Tiger Records Story: Everybody Come Clap Your Hands!"), and a compilation of Red Bird releases (e.g., "The Red Bird Story").

Putting a sour tag on the book are the end chapters' weak dismissals of all things bubblegum. Emerson trots out the standard canards about The Monkees, misses the brilliance of Jeff Barry's work for The Archies, and undervalues Andy Kim's output on the Steed label. They're unnecessary pot-shots at an era that he either doesn't get, or simply doesn't like. Ironically, he sounds like the old guard who dismissed the brilliance of the Brill Building's work at the start of the book. Emerson clearly loves the music of the Brill Building era, and there's enough original material here to merit a read, but don't expect it to delight you as does the Brill Building's music. 3-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2007 hyperbolium dot com]
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 New York state of mind charted in full 16 avril 2006
Par Pismotality - Publié sur
There has been a gap in the market for a book focusing on the Brill Building writers but Ken Emerson's account is as detailed and loving (yet clearsighted in charting artistic and commercial decline) as one could possibly expect - a joy to read from beginning to end and a fitting tribute to the music that even some of the writers didn't expect to last (Barry Mann rushes off in a panic to compose more songs at the news that his current hits are drifting down the charts).

Early chapters concentrate on individual teams but as the book progresses their fates and business interests become intertwined, the slightly older Leiber and Stoller emerging as major players, producing or "editing", as they modestly call it, the contributions of younger writers as their own interest in appealing to a younger demographic wanes. There's a general promiscuity, too (creatively speaking), with writing partners sneaking in a quick collaboration on a morning when the regular soulmate is busy.

Some unsung heroes emerge: publisher Don Kirshner's role in creating the circumstances which allowed, for a few Eden-like years, his writers to flourish, and the visceral excitement of George Goldner when he hears a palpable hit. Someone ascribes the emotions of a twelve year old girl to him, hearing magic in the likes of Chapel of Love when no one else can.

But what gives this tale of connected personal, creative and business lives an especial poignancy is that the Brill Building story is also that universal tale of time passing: partners falling out; writers approaching thirty who can no longer empathise with a younger audience; the emergence of the self-supporting artists like the Beatles and Dylan causing writers like Gerry Goffin to question their purpose (he says that he now tries simply to be an "adequate" writer; one longs to tell him that the best of what he created with Carole King will never need apology).

A general exodus from New York in the late sixties, linked to the expansion of Don Kirshner's business interests which made him less hands-on with his writers, were factors in the decline of these crafted pop songs - the New York musical mix, particularly the passion for Afro-Cuban rhythms, permeated the best Brill Building recordings - and Emerson (rightly, in my view) cites Bacharach's decreasing involvement with African-American artists like Lou Johnson and Chuck Jackson as contributing to blander work in the 70s.

These writers were, in one sense, hacks, and Emerson doesn't flinch (any more than the writers themselves) from distinguishing between the trash and the gems, but what comes through more than anything in this warm and compelling account is that - not only in Bacharach's case - the best artists always brought out the best in the writers, who took enormous pride in their achievements. And Emerson has a knack for selecting the moments that matter, none more so than when, around 1960, amid fears that this music has had its day, the Drifters' Charlie Thomas finds Doc Pomus chanting: "Rock'n'roll will never die." When Thomas retorts that it's "just a song," Pomus replies: "No, it's not a song, Charlie. It's a place in your heart." This music may or may not live forever, but as Emerson says "it still resounds half a century later," and I can't imagine a better chronicler of those who shared their creative lives with us. This book will send you back, with a fresh delight, to the records.
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