Brill Building Memories Rekindled

While everyone’s talking about teenagers today downloading music and making custom compilations, sometimes it takes a pro or two to do it correctly, as this fabulous 20 song collection demonstrates. Originally compiled back in 1963 by Goffin and Titelman as a twelve song LP highlighting, depending upon how you look and listen to it, Dimension Records, The Brill Building hit factory, Jews ‘n’ Roll, or the genius of Goffin-King, it has been expanded by Sundazed’s Bob Irwin to include 5 additional Goffin-King classics (or semi-classics) and two other musty but vital curiosities. There's also an attempt at starting a dance craze called "Makin' With the Magilla." It's not about dancing with a gorilla, either. Check a Yiddish dictionary.

For anyone who hit high school in the early ‘60s, this disc will bring back that twilight time between Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and The Everlys, and the arrival of The Beatles. The dismal side of this era was coming from Dick Clark and Philadelphia with Fabian, Frankie Avalon and the rest of that dreck that made you think you’d outgrown rock and roll. Personally speaking, I’ll always be indebted to Clark for acquainting me with John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and other jazz greats. Granted it was by deflection, but I’ll take it!

What was happening in NYC in the early ‘60’s was clearly the same kind of teen exploitation in which Clark was indulging, but being in part an overspill from the rich Tin Pan Alley tradition it had a potent secret weapon: brilliant songwriting. While few remember “Turn Me Loose,” or “Tiger,” who can forget “The Loco-Motion,” “Chains,” (of course, covered by The Beatles) “On Broadway,” or “Up on the Roof?” They’re certifiable classics passed down through the generations, and rightly so!

This set includes those tunes plus other classics like “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby),” “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” and “Uptown,” but for some, instead of the familiar versions, you get the original Carole King demos, or versions recorded by The Cookies, a fabulous group from North Carolina. Listen to their take on “Chains,” and then to what The Beatles did with it later. The Cookies are heard covering an early version of the Mann-Weill classic “On Broadway,” immortalized by The Drifters, and an obscure Four Seasons-like “Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys,” written by Goffin and a “J. Keller.”

The original “Loco-Motion,” is here, sung by Little Eva, but she’s also heard demo-ing “Up on Roof,” also made famous by The Drifters and the Mann-Weill classic “Uptown.” It’s a long way from the New York demo studios where this “Uptown” was recorded to Gold Star where Phil Spector “Crystal”-ized the tune, but time makes that difference all the more fascinating.

There’s nothing here for an audiophile, or for many of you, but if reading this review has awoken pungent memories, this slice of early ‘60’s adolescent life will light a fire. It might even stir a hormone or two, and that can’t be bad!