Just as ‘The Last Party’ caught Britpop in the 90s, and ‘Easy Riders’ and ‘Raging Bull’ portrayed Hollywood in the 70s, so ‘Always Magic in the Air’ brilliantly captures the sweet, baby-boom music scene of New York in the 60s.
‘Always Magic in the Air’ is a family portrait of fourteen remarkable young songwriters who, huddled in midtown Manhattan’s Brill Building and in 1650 Broadway during the late 1950s and early ’60s, created some of rock ‘n’ roll’s first entries great classics – songs like Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’, Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk On By’ and the Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Neil Sedaka and Howie Greenfield, and many others, melded black, white and Latino sounds before multiculturalism became a concept, integrated audiences before American desegregated its schools, and brought a new social consciousness to pop music.
Impeccably researched, including exclusive interviews with all the main participants, ‘Always Magic in the Air’ is a riveting chapter in American popular culture, evoking a period when fear and frivolity, sputniks and hula-hoops simultaneously girdled the globe. Ken Emerson describes the world that made these songwriters, the world they in turn made in their music, and the impact on their careers, partnerships and marriages when the Beatles, Dylan and drugs ripped those worlds asunder. The stories behind their songs make the ‘golden oldies’ we take for grated sounds brand new and more moving and eloquent than we ever suspected.
Reviews of Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era
- ‘A magisterial study…scholarly and highly entertaining.’ Daily Telegraph
- ‘A loving and exhaustive examination…a stern corrective to anyone who thinks pop music began with the Beatles.’ Observer Music Monthly