Always Magic In The Air: The Bomp And Brilliance Of The Brill Building Era
“It’s the singer, not the song,” Mick Jagger sang in 1965. Ken Emerson argues to the contrary in Always Magic In The Air, a vibrant and detailed account of seven songwriting teams who worked out of New York’s Brill Building and nearby music publishers in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The author of Doo-Dah!, a biography of Stephen Foster, Emerson describes his book as “a family portrait, not a series of profiles” on 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, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.
Barry described the time as the “Wright Brothers days of rock and pop” when experimentation with songs and their production was encouraged. It was a time when art and commerce intersected in the quest for a top single, producing hits across the musical spectrum for Connie Francis, Elvis Presley, the Coasters, the Drifters, the Animals and others, creating such standards as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Up On The Roof”.
Emerson credits the mingling of black, white and Latin styles with giving the songs their enduring appeal. The advent of the British Invasion, with self-contained groups playing and writing their own songs, would usher in a new era.