Carole King and The Brill Building: Another Special Place In Time

We are nearing the end of summer, always a sad time of year for me. I’m a great fan of daylight and soon there will be more hours of darkness in any 24 hour period. All those activities best suited to the great outdoors will be on hold for another year, and we’ll be tucked up inside keeping cosy. Oh no, that’s right, this winter we’ll struggle to keep cosy as the thermostats will be firmly turned down, but hey, that’s another post for another day.

I’ve run quite a few ‘series’ since starting this place but I’m all out of workable ideas at the moment, which is a bit annoying, because I don’t have anything to return to and augment. As we are nearing the start of September I thought a series of posts about months of the year could be something to focus on (September seems to pop up often in a song title), but it turns out some of the other months have not been as inspirational for songwriters. Inevitably, one of the first songs I stumbled upon was this one by a very young Carole King, It Might as Well Rain Until September from 1962.

It Might as Well Rain Until September by Carole King:


I’ve always liked the song, although it’s not really about the month of September at all, but about how the world is no longer a beautiful place because the singer’s love interest is not around. As far as they are concerned the fine weather of the summer might as well be replaced with grey, rainy days. Thinking back I was often of the same opinion when I was a teenager (and this song was definitely aimed at teenagers), as the routines of term-time were often replaced with lots of time spent on your own, as your friends were either off on holiday with their families, or scattered around the country, the new academic year not starting again until September. If you’d found romance during term-time, the summer break was often not your friend.

But of course the Carole King that wrote this song with her husband Gerry Goffin, is not the same Carole King that has appeared on these pages before. That would be the Carole who by the early ’70s had moved to Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, and had massive success with her 1971 album Tapestry. No indeed, this Carole was the girl from Brooklyn who was a bit of a musical genius and at age 16 had turned up at the Brill Building in Manhattan with a bunch of songs oven-ready for the teen market.


I have often heard of the Brill Building as back in the early ’60s, after Elvis had enlisted (and they thought rock ‘n’ roll was over) but before the British Invasion had begun, it was the place where songwriting teams flourished, producing hit after hit record. The ground floor of the building was home to the Brill family clothing store, but the upper floors were rented out to people in the music industry. Music publishers like Don Kirshner were based there and offices were kitted out with cubicles, each containing a piano, a bench and a chair where songwriters could partner up, one person writing the lyrics and the other coming up with the music. This was songwriting to order, but the songs were aimed at the lucrative new teen market and they were given to some of the many girl groups that had formed in New York City at that time (the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes and the Chiffons) and also to many of the up-and-coming teen idols (Bobby Darin, Bobby Vee and Gene Pitney).

 The Brill Building is located at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street, in the NYC borough of Manhattan

Before starting this blog, I was often unaware of who had written a particular song as I had always been more interested in the artist who performed it. As time went by however the same names kept popping up, and many of those names were songwriting partnerships who first got together in the Brill Building:

Burt Bacharach and Hal David
Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield
Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry
Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman

A lot of famous faces in that montage above and impossible to name them all individually. To finish off I’ll add another couple of clips of songs that came to life in the Brill Building. I know I was bemoaning the end of summer in the opening paragraph, but today has indeed been a very fine, sunny day here in the North of Scotland. I don’t think that’s the kind of fine day The Chiffons were singing about in 1963 but a perfect example of the kind of songs Goffin and King were writing for the girl groups of the Brill Building.

One Fine Day by The Chiffons:


As this post has predominantly focussed on Carole King, it would seem silly not to end with the song Neil Sedaka wrote about her. They had both gone to the same high school in Brooklyn and had briefly dated (when she was still a Carol without the ‘e’). Oh! Carol was Neil’s first big domestic hit and the song also reached the No. 3 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1959.

Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka:


Yet again I’ve kind of gone way off piste on this one but once I’d listened to Carole’s September song I decided to find out more about that place in NYC which was a veritable music factory in the late ’50s/early ’60s. Most of us of a certain age have grown up listening to songs that we may or may not have known started life in The Brill Building. I like these posts where I actually take the time to find out geographically where these special places were/still are located. Right there in Midtown Manhattan it seems, just along from Tin Pan Alley where the sheet music of an earlier era had started life.

As for my series about songs referring to months of the year, I’ve not abandoned the idea yet, so if you do have any September songs you’d like me to write about, do let me know. For the record, the Earth, Wind and Fire one has popped up around here a couple of times before, but there will be others I’m sure.

Until next time…

It Might As Well Rain Until September Lyrics
(Song by Carole King/Gerry Goffin)

What shall I write?
What can I say?
How can I tell you how much I miss you?

The weather here has been as nice as it can be
Although it doesn’t really matter much to me
For all the fun I’ll have while you’re so far away
It might as well rain until September

I don’t need sunny skies for thing I have to do
‘Cause I stay home the whole day long and think of you
As far as I’m concerned each day’s a rainy day
So It might as well rain until September

My friends look forward to their picnics on the beach
Yes everybody loves the summertime
But you know darling while your arms are out of reach
The summer isn’t any friend of mine

It doesn’t matter whether skies are grey or blue
It’s raining in my heart ’cause I can’t be with you
I’m only living for the day you’re home to stay
So It might as well rain until September
September, September, oh
It might as well rain until September

Butcher’s Shops, Open Mic Nights and “(Bacon) Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”!

First of all, if you are a vegetarian or indeed a vegan you might not want to read this post as it involves a butcher’s shop – The inspiration that led me to write about a butcher’s shop in a music blog is because last Saturday, the day after the wedding in Berkshire, we visited the town of Marlow.

Not much sign of austerity down there I must admit, and not many high street shops closing their doors – No, all very buoyant and wealthy it seems, so the very place for a celebrity chef to open an upmarket hostelry, or two. The Butcher’s Tap is run by the Michelin starred chef Tom Kerridge and is just what it says on the tin (or the signage) – A butcher’s shop, that also serves beer. We popped in for a look but were on our way for lunch elsewhere so didn’t dilly-dally too long – The shop looked great but the prices were most definitely not what we are used to at our local Asda or Lidl. Then again I don’t think the people of Marlow look as if they would ever frequent Asda or Lidl, but maybe I’m making unfair assumptions.

Outside the Butcher’s Tap was a sandwich board where someone had written in beautiful chalk lettering that there was to be an Open Mic Night the following week. We all found this quite funny, it being a butcher’s shop an’ all. Inevitably the puns started to flow as to who would be performing, and if they were indeed singers, what would the song be?

Over lunch we came up with the following artists…..

Chris de Burger
Meat Loaf
New Kidneys On The Block
The Cure
Steak That 
Boney M
Captain Beefheart

…..and as for the songs, these came to mind, although some are pretty offal:

Bacon Up Is Hard To Do by Neil Sedaka 
Turkey Turkey Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road
Heart of Glass by Blondie

The Liver by Bruce Springsteen
Rabbit by Chas and Dave

But I know we only scratched the surface with these picks – I have no doubt there are many of you out there who could come up with much better suggestions (a certain blogger who tends to do things in tens comes to mind). Feel free to litter the comments boxes.

In the meantime I will leave you with this song, Bacon, I mean Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by Neil Sedaka as it was my favourite of our meat-related puns. This song was recorded by him twice, once in 1962 and once in 1975, the second being a slower ballad version. To be honest, the Neil Sedaka I remember best is not the pop teen sensation of the early ’60s who churned out successful hits like this one, but the Sedaka of the mid ’70s who was often to be seen popping up on TOTP with songs such as That’s When The Music Takes Me and Laughter In The Rain. To me at the time he seemed really old, but he would only have been in his mid-30s – It’s all relative. Neil certainly has been prolific having written over 500 songs during his long career and is still performing today.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by Neil Sedaka:

If anyone has any ideas for who could join my roster of artists at the Open Mic Night in the butcher’s shop, do share.

Until next time….

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do Lyrics
(Song by Neil Sedaka/Harold Greenfield)

Do do do
Down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Breaking up is hard to do

Don’t take your love away from me
Don’t you leave my heart in misery
If you go then I’ll be blue
Cause breaking up is hard to do

Remember when you held me tight
And you kissed me all through the night
Think of all that we’ve been through
And breaking up is hard to do

They say that breaking up is hard to do
Now I know
I know that it’s true
Don’t say that this is the end
Instead of breaking up I wish that we were making up again

I beg of you don’t say goodbye
Can’t we give our love another try?
Come on, baby, let’s start anew
Cause breaking up is hard to do

(They say that breaking up is hard to do)
Now I know
I know that it’s true
(Don’t say that this is the end)
Instead of breaking up I wish that we were making up again

I beg of you don’t say goodbye
Can’t we give our love another try?
Come on, baby, let’s start anew
Cause breaking up is hard to do

(Down dooby doo down down)
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down