"Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You'd sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific—because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He'd say: "We need a new smash hit"—and we'd all go back and write a song and the next day we'd each audition for Bobby Vee's producer." - Carole King, Quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical opens with a fun challenge for our ensemble cast to get their teeth into, the 1650 Broadway Medley. It's a whirlwind of hits that came out of the infamous Brill Building sound, an phenomena that shaped the music scene of the 60s and beyond. But what was 1650 Broadway?
In the heart of New York City's vibrant theater district lies a building that holds a treasure trove of musical history—1650 Broadway. During the 1960s, this unassuming building became a hotbed of creativity, giving birth to some of the most iconic hits in the history of popular music. Let's take a nostalgic journey back to the bustling atmosphere of 1650 Broadway and explore the timeless melodies that emerged from its hallowed halls.
The Birth of the Brill Building:
The Brill Building, located at 1650 Broadway, became synonymous with the American music industry's golden era. Built in 1931, it initially housed music publishers and recording studios. However, it was in the 1960s that the Brill Building truly came into its own as a songwriting mecca. The second-floor offices became the epicenter of a musical revolution, bringing together an extraordinary concentration of talent.
The Brill Building Sound:
The songwriting teams at 1650 Broadway were responsible for creating what is now known as the "Brill Building Sound." This distinctive style was characterized by catchy melodies, sophisticated harmonies, and lyrics that often explored the universal themes of love, heartbreak, and teenage angst. The Brill Building Sound became the soundtrack of an entire generation and left an indelible mark on the history of popular music.
Notable Hits to come out of 1650 Broadway and the Brill Building included:
"Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (1960) – Written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, this classic was originally performed by The Shirelles. It became the first song by an all-girl group to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Up on the Roof" (1962) – Another gem from the prolific duo of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, this time recorded by The Drifters. The song celebrates the solace found in the simple act of escaping to a rooftop retreat.
"You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (1964) – Co-written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector, this timeless ballad became a mega-hit for The Righteous Brothers. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest love songs ever recorded.
The hits created at 1650 Broadway not only dominated the charts during the 1960s but also laid the foundation for future generations of songwriters. The Brill Building legacy extends beyond the physical structure, as its influence can be heard in the works of subsequent artists who have drawn inspiration from the classic melodies and timeless songwriting crafted within its walls.
As we reflect on the hits that were written in 1650 Broadway, it's clear that this unassuming building played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of popular music. The Brill Building and its talented songwriters created a sound that transcended time, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to captivate audiences today. And many of you who have been to New York may have set foot in 1650 Broadway without knowing it - it's now home to Ellen's Stardust Diner!