Brill Building makes music as landmark

NEW YORK’S Brill Building — where several song publishing operations were and are headquartered — has suddenly become a center of the music business’s attention:

  • Neil Diamond’s most recent album, “Up on the Roof,” salutes Brill Building songwriters of the ’60s (when he was among them);

  • K-Tel has released a four-CD set of songs (“The Brill Building Sound”) from roughly the same time period;

  • And Friday night’s “Salute to the American Songwriter” will include a salute to the era, featuring writers Jeff Barry, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and a salute-within-a-salute-within-a-salute to Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

In truth, Barry noted, “All the action wasn’t in one spot. The music business was centered between 57th Street and the mid-40s, somewhere between 8th Avenue and 5th Avenue. But the Brill Building was its hub.”

Barry, who worked in the Brill for three years with wife and songwriting partner Ellie Greenwich, recalled that his first hit was the morbid 1960 Ray Peterson hit “Tell Laura I Love Her,” written with veteran Ben Raleigh and published by E.B. Marks Co.

When Barry “first wrote the song, the hero didn’t die in a stock car race, he was gored to death by a Brahma bull in a rodeo — I didn’t have a car, and was a fan of cowboys. But my publisher, Arnold Shaw, convinced me that more people would relate to cars than bulls. And fortunately, ‘stock car race’ and ‘rodeo’ both have three syllables.”

Expect to hear more such stories at the show at Hollywood’s Wilshire Ebell Theater, sponsored by the National Academy of Songwriters. Jimmy Webb will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, Paul Williams will host, and expected participants include Hoyt Axton, David Pack, David Frishberg, Will Jennings and Johnny Mandel.

PARAMOUNT PICTURES has become the proud parent of twin soundtrack album releases in conjunction with “Addams Family Values.” The double whammy involves otherwise unrelated discs: A standard CD/cassette of Marc Shaiman’s score, to be released by Varese Sarabande Dec. 7; and Atlas Records/Polygram’s conceptual album of ’70s R&B hits rerecorded by urban and rap artists.

Although traditional movie scores have a relatively narrow market, Shaiman’s instrumental release on Capitol for “The Addams Family” reached the top 40.

More unusual — and intentionally more commercial, with a potentially longer shelf life than the film — is the “Music From the Motion Picture” package of 11 songs performed by Charles & Eddie, Portrait, P.M. Dawn, RuPaul and others. While a few soundbites play within the context of the film, half the tracks surface solely during a medley in the end credits, and four aren’t heard at all.

“That any of the songs ended up in the movie was an added bonus because the original concept was simply to make an album of music inspired by ‘Addams Family ,’ ” said album producer Ralph Sall.

By choosing classic song titles that loosely reflect the film’s characters — such as “Supernatural Thing” and “Family Affair”– and using a dozen rap and R&B artists, the album release was designed as sort of “an urban ‘Big Chill’ disc,” Sall said.

Off to a strong start is the film’s featured end title cut, “Addams Family (Whoomp!),” the album’s first single and vid clip by Tag Team. Shipping today to CHR and R&B stations is a second single, the rap version of “Family Affair” performed by Shabba Ranks with Patra and Terri & Monica.

L.A. SEEN: Interscope’s Possum Dixon dropped back into town recently to film a video for the single “Watch That Girl Destroy Me.” Filmed at places like the historic Villa Carlotta and Echo Park Lake, vid is co-directed by the band and David Phillips, who has shot videos for LL Cool J, Cyndi Lauper and Guns N’ Roses. Possum Dixon will hit the road again with X, until Dec. 13, when both groups will play the Palace in Hollywood, along with Concrete Blonde, Henry Rollins and Columbia signees the Obsessed, for the Ringling Sisters’ eighth annual Holiday Fun Raiser. …

Eve’s Plumb and Hollywood Records’ signees Eleven recently played the Whisky. Though Plumb played a short but inspired set, the evening really belonged to Eleven, Hollywood locals who just returned from a tour promoting their latest, self-titled CD. Made up of ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Jack Irons, and Walk the Moon vets Alain Johannes (guitars, vocals) and gorgeous, bottle-blonde Natasha Sneider on keyboards, left-handed bass and heavily Russian accented vocals, Eleven specializes in heavy rock with a touch of other-worldly eclecticism.

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