Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era

Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era

by Ken Emerson
     
 

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During the late 1950s and early 1960s, after the shock of Elvis Presley and before the Beatles spearheaded the British Invasion, fourteen gifted young songwriters huddled in midtown Manhattan's legendary Brill Building and a warren of offices a bit farther uptown and composed some of the most beguiling and enduring entries in the Great American Songbook. AlwaysSee more details below

Overview

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, after the shock of Elvis Presley and before the Beatles spearheaded the British Invasion, fourteen gifted young songwriters huddled in midtown Manhattan's legendary Brill Building and a warren of offices a bit farther uptown and composed some of the most beguiling and enduring entries in the Great American Songbook. Always Magic in the Air is the first thorough history of these renowned songwriters-tunesmiths who melded black, white, and Latino sounds, integrated audiences before America desegregated its schools, and brought a new social consciousness to pop music.

Editorial Reviews

Jim Windolf
Until this book, the story of these interrelated songwriters had been told in piecemeal fashion, via memoirs, magazine articles and four separate documentaries for the A&E network's "Biography" series. Here we get the whole tale in a single entertaining package. The book has less drug taking, sex and money than the usual pop music history. But there's definitely more bowling, babies and mah-jongg.
—' The New York Times
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. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (Oct. 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The songsmiths of Broadway's great hit factories get their due. Stephen Foster's biographer (Doo-Dah!, 1997) takes a welcome look at Foster's 20th-century successors: the songwriters who toiled in humble cubicles at the Brill Building (1619 Broadway) and nearby 1650 Broadway, the hubs of New York's music-publishing business during the heyday of '50s and '60s R&B, rock 'n' roll and pop. He focuses on seven intertwined writing teams who often collaborated and competed with one another for cuts: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield and Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Emerson deftly shows how these prolific composers became ubiquitous figures in the music business of the day, and reveals the untold stories behind the composition of indelible tunes like "Be My Baby," "Save the Last Dance For Me," "Cryin' in the Rain," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " and "Walk On By." He doesn't shrink from telling the writers' personal stories, like the impact Pomus's crippling polio had on his work or how marital tumult sundered the Goffin/King and Barry/Greenwich partnerships. He also spins interesting tales of such crucial players as publisher Don Kirshner and now-notorious producer-writer Phil Spector. These talents, Emerson notes, detonated rock's first explosion through their versatility, their taste in sounds, ranging from classical music to R&B and Latin music, and sheer hard work. He charts their fortunes, cresting in the early '60s, and their swift fall, as the rise of performer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and the Beatles and the migration of the businessto the West Coast spelled an end to New York's reign as music's capital. The story of these writers is long-overdue in the telling, and Emerson tells it splendidly. Under the boardwalk or up on the roof, this is a marvelous read.
From the Publisher
An insightful, delightful look at 'the sounds pouring out of radios and jukeboxes in the 1950s and 1960s' (The Wall Street Journal )

Emerson takes flight.... Here we get the whole tale in a single entertaining package. (The New York Times Book Review)

Superb... Witty, in love with the music, Emerson is the ideal companion for this narrative.... Beautiful stuff. (The Boston Globe)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101156926
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/26/2006
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
702,195
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
An insightful, delightful look at 'the sounds pouring out of radios and jukeboxes in the 1950s and 1960s' (The Wall Street Journal )

Emerson takes flight.... Here we get the whole tale in a single entertaining package. (The New York Times Book Review)

Superb... Witty, in love with the music, Emerson is the ideal companion for this narrative.... Beautiful stuff. (The Boston Globe)

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