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The Brill Building Covered Vol. 1

November 25th, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

A number of people lately commented that they had discovered this corner of the Internet only recently. Some might trawl back a few years to catch up — I think most mixes are still up — but not everybody will. So I shall periodically repost good mixes which time has swallowed. “Recycling Wednesday”, we might call it. Here’s one from seven years ago, which in October 2013 I optimistically dubbed “Vol. 1”; I never got around to do a second volume. Maybe this post will be so popular as to get my sorry ass moving in that regard.


Brill Building Covered


It might be the greatest hit machine in pop history, in the good company of Tin Pan Alley and Motown; its influence on pop music was pivotal. The Brill Building was in New York, but the songs were recorded on both sides of the US coast, and anywhere in between.

The Brill Building, at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in Manhattan, serves as the collective term for the song factory that created an incredible string of classic pop hits in the 1960s. It was really an office block of music publishers, housing 165 of them in 1962. The songs were mostly written up the road, such as in the buildings at 1650 Broadway, HQ of Aldon Music, and at 1697 Broadway, the latter also housing the CBS TV auditorium, now known as the Ed Sullivan Theater.

The scene was a veritable hit conveyor belt, with songwriters working their 9-to-5s in cubicles, expected to turn in their masterpieces at regular intervals, often at command. Many of these songwriters, usually teams of two, have become legends in the trade: Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield, Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann… Some of these were supervised by another legendary pair of writers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, or by impresarios such as Don Kirshner, the co-owner of Aldon Music who’d later launch The Monkees. Neil Diamond launched his superstar career from the base of the Brill Buildings, were he started out as a songwriter, as did a youngster named Jerry Landis, whom you’d now address as Paul Simon, and the great, underrated Laura Nyro.

The Brill Building became a byname for a sound in the early 1960s, when producers like Phil Spector recorded them with acts like The Ronettes and The Chiffons (also receiving co-writing credits on some), and bands like the Beach Boys borrowed their songs. Many of the songs were recorded in LA with the backing of The Wrecking Crew, a group of session musicians on whom I intend to spend some time in future posts. In New York, acts like The Drifters relied on the Brill Building to supply their long string of timeless hits. British acts also recorded the Brill Sound. The Searchers did several, The Animals scored a huge hit with one, as did Manfred Mann, and The Beatles played one track, featured here, at their ill-fated Decca audition (they later recorded The Cookies’ “Chains”, written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King).


Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

Pomus & Shuman, Goffin & King, Barry & Greenwich, Mann & Weil

It is sometimes argued that the Brill Building scene tamed rock & roll. Here music was run by business people as a business. The spontaneity and rebellion of the individualistic rock & roll was now displaced by managed calculation with both eyes on the bottomline, the argument goes.

I don’t quite buy it. When RCA signed Elvis, it calculated on his image. Most labels did the same. In fact, rock & roll had been tamed by the time Phil Spector collaborated with Greenwich and Barry to create hits like “Be My Baby”. Almost concurrent with the Brill Sound, Barry Gordy in Detroit constructed another hit factory that was rooted entirely in commercial calculation. In both instances, the entrepreneurs made their money, and we received a rich legacy of astonishing music.

Rock & roll would soon reassert its rebellion anyway, with the advent of the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, The Who and so on. At the same time, the Brill Building left us with an arsenal of incredible, timeless songs. Featured here are 26 of them, mostly covers. If the mix goes down well, there’ll be a second volume to include all the songs you just cannot believe I have omitted.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-decomposed covers. PW is the same as always.

1. The Beach Boys – I Can Hear Music (1969, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich & Phil Spector)
2. Dion and The Belmonts – Save The Last Dance For Me (1960, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman)
3. The Four Seasons – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (1964, Neil Sedaka & Howard Greenfield)
4. Helen Shapiro – It Might As Well Rain Until September (1964, Carole King & Gerry Goffin)
5. Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Then He Kissed Me (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
6. The Searchers – Da Doo Ron Ron (1963, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
7. Françoise Hardy – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1968, King & Goffin)
8. Laura Nyro – Up On The Roof (Live) (1971, King & Goffin)
9. Cissy Houston – Be My Baby (1971, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
10. Peggy Lee – (You Made Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman (1969, King & Goffin)
11. Dusty Springfield – That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho) (1969, King & Goffin)
12. Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
13. The 5th Dimension – Soul And Inspiration (1974, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)
14. The Persuasions – Chapel Of Love (1979, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
15. The Beatles – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1962, King & Goffin)
16. The Walflower Complextion – Hanky Panky (1966, Barry & Greenwich)
17. The Mamas and The Papas – Spanish Harlem (1966, Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector)
18. Carpenters – One Fine Day (1973, King & Goffin)
19. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1972, Mann, Weil & Spector)
20. Blue Öyster Cult – We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (1978, Mann & Weil)
21. Grand Funk Railroad – The Loco-Motion (1974, King & Goffin)
22. Ramones – Needles And Pins (1978, Jack Nitzsche & Sonny Bono)
23. Tracey Ullman – Where The Boys Are (1984, Sedaka & Greenfield)
24. Dave Edmunds – Baby I Love You (1972, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)
25. Bette Midler – Leader Of The Pack (1972, Morton, Barry, Greenwich)
26. Ellie Greenwich – Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home (1973, Barry, Greenwich & Spector)


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  1. Guy
    October 10th, 2013 at 10:28 | #1

    Awsome complilation of classic songs! Thnx again

  2. JohnnyDiego
    October 10th, 2013 at 12:50 | #2

    Great covers! I’m surprised that with my love of familiar (to me) covers I don’t have any of these in my vast collection. As far as the Brill Building taming rock & roll, its true that these tunes don’t have the spontaneity and drive that many Rhythm and Blues artists of the time may have had but with my iPod on shuffle and after listening to “serious” rock & roll, soul, and jazz its a pleasant respite to hear one of these pleasing and familiar tunes come up.

  3. October 22nd, 2013 at 14:05 | #3

    fabulous selection! ta muchly, amdwah!

  4. dogbreath
    October 23rd, 2013 at 17:11 | #4

    Brill by name: brill by nature! Excellent compiling job, for which many thanks.

  5. Phil Brown
    February 4th, 2019 at 18:42 | #5

    Awesome – thank you…

  6. Bruce McKee
    November 25th, 2020 at 22:52 | #6

    Thanks for re-posting—I missed this first time around!
    There is a very good Podcast series on the Brill Building story on the RBZ website called ‘Teen Pan Alley’ narrated by Simon Morris.

  7. Earl Cambron
    November 25th, 2020 at 23:31 | #7

    More as soon as you can, please! Great stuff!

  8. amdwhah
    November 26th, 2020 at 13:13 | #8

    Oh, thanks for the tip!

  9. Jens
    November 26th, 2020 at 22:34 | #9

    Thanks for the Brill-iant write up. I’m glad that you reposted this! Would love to hear more…

  10. rat-a-tat-tat
    November 29th, 2020 at 02:53 | #10

    Great work on this one, and I applaud you re-visiting your archives like this, so I can nab stuff I missed the first go ’round.

  11. Rat-a-tat-tat
    December 1st, 2020 at 18:40 | #11

    As one of the formentioned Johnny-Come-Latelies to this most excellent site, might I ask the readers a newbie-quality question: I can figure out the rapidshare and its time limits, BUT how does one get zippyshare files to download? Between the pop-ups and the porn ads, it’s tough to know what to click to get a download started… when I hit the orange “download” button on the upper right, which claims to direct to a .rar file, which looks right, it does a re-direct and even more pop-ups.
    Advice greatly appreciated.

  12. amdwhah
    December 1st, 2020 at 22:56 | #12

    Strange. I get none of these. Maybe my pop-up blocker does the trick.

  13. Eric Goldberg
    December 13th, 2020 at 17:00 | #13

    I click open in a new tab. That usually works. If it doesn’t, click reload tab and then open in new tab. Many downloads are better opened in a new tab.

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