Walking down from Central Park on Broadway, you’re more than likely to miss the small facade of the Brill Building near the corner of 49th Street. And even if you saw it, what would it mean to you? The building is now undergoing renovation, soon to be filled by salesmen, financial people, a couple of lawfirms. The door is locked.
Or maybe better “Yakety Yak (don’t talk back)”, just one of the hundreds and thousands of hit songs churned out by songwriters, working under cramped conditions. Some of the more famous songwriting pairs were Leiber and Stoller (who wrote this song and so many more hits there for Elvis and others), and Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who wrote “Chains” (covered by the Beatles), the list goes on forever.
Too bad there isn’t any iconic poster of a barefoot Elvis, Sonny Bono, Lesley Gore and Liza Minelli crossing Broadway at 49th. Or a world famous LP called “Brill Building”. Or a Joni Mitchell song, “I went on down to the Brill Building, to join in a rock and roll band.” People would flock in the millions to see the place.
On the other hand, the culture of the Brill Building seems to have disappeared long ago. Starting with Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and the Beatles, more and more famous bands began writing their own songs. In the days of the Brill songwriters, the performers were just a link in the chain, and sometimes not the critical one. With the advent of bands who poured their guts out onto paper and guitar, rock history changed.
So adieu, the Brill Building of former music glory. I salute you!!!