A Young Debbie Harry Dances to Brill Building Pop

A Young Debbie Harry Dances to Brill Building Pop

Debbie Harry grew up in the small idyllic town of Hawthorne, New Jersey, where her parents ran a gift shop and life was dull. “I hated suburbia,” Harry said, “and I always dreamt of having a bohemian life in New York.” At first she found her escape through music, listening to pop songs from an early age, though she didn’t collect records herself. “A friend of mine had a great record collection, and I listened to whatever was on radio,” she said. “I was always changing channels and searching around.” Harry and her friends watched American Bandstand to learn dances like the Hully Gully, the Swim, the Twist, and the Watusi to show off at their school dances. “We also did a lot of slow dancing,” she said, “a lot of grinding, which was always fun, very passionate dancing.” Much of what then dominated American radio was a product of a music busi­ness hub known as the Brill Building. It was an office building in midtown Man­hattan located at 1619 Broadway, on Forty-Ninth Street and Broadway, that held the offices of several song publishers. The “Brill Building” more generally referred to a cluster of record companies and song publishing businesses found in buildings around the same area—such as 1697 Broadway and, a little to the south, 1650 Broadway. In between was the small Roulette Records building with a neon sign that said home of the hits.

From Chapter 4 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Brill Building
1619 Broadway, New York, NY 10019