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The 'Brill Building Sound' Did Not Happen in the Brill Building

Frank Mastropolo

New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock Book Excerpt

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Photo byPhilles Records

THE thing that bothers me the most about music history is calling the pop music of the early ’60s the 'Brill Building Sound,'” writes singer-songwriter Al Kooper in his memoir Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards. “This drives me nuts because ninety percent of that music was not created in the Brill Building, which peaked in the ’40s, and by the end of the ’50s, they went to 1650 Broadway because it had a more modern look, it had been renovated.

“So people went to 1650 Broadway, and it became THE building. Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Dionne Warwick, B. J. Thomas, Bobby Lewis, all these people . . . and me. We were all in 1650 Broadway, and it was not called any ‘Building,’ it was just 1650 Broadway.”

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1650 BroadwayPhoto by©Frank Mastropolo
  • Bert Berns wrote “Twist and Shout,” “Hang On Sloopy,” “Piece of My Heart” and “I Want Candy” at 1650 Broadway. Don Kirshner and partner Al Nevins launched Aldon Music there in 1958, signing songwriters that included Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield and Carole King and her then-husband Gerry Goffin.

“One Fine Day” by the Chiffons, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers, “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, and Little Eva’s “The Loco-Motion” originated at 1650 Broadway.

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But 1650 Broadway’s sway over the music industry began to wane with the arrival of the Beatles in 1964. British Invasion bands soon dominated the rock charts. Some, like Carole King, were able to become successful as solo artists in the new era of the singer-songwriter.

Mastropolo is the author of New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make New York Rock, one of Best Classic Bands' Best Music Books of 2022, and Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever.

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Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever and New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make New York Rock, selected by Best Classic Bands as two of the Best Music Books of 2021 and 2022. He is also the author of the What's Your Rock IQ? Trivia Quiz Book series; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past, winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past. Mastropolo is a photographer, and former ABC News 20/20 producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition.

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