After the “Golden Age” of Rock and Roll
For some, the period after the “first wave” (or “golden age”) of rock and roll, and before the emergence of
the Beatles, was a time of mediocrity in music. The big corporate record companies tried to clean up the
image of rock and roll that was hurt by Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. During this time, the
music was performed by teen idols, and girl groups and was composed by music publishing professionals,
keen on domesticating rock and roll.
Others feel that the music during this period was important and substantial, with major contributions
offered by the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller, and the innovative producer Phil Spector. The
maturing rock and roll audiences favored the rise of “sweet soul” music that these individuals were
After completing this module, you will be able to:
Aurally identify the different genres of popular music during the period 1959-63
Name the major artists and their hit songs from this period
Name important musical events that occurred during the early 1960s
The “teenyboppers” and their older siblings
At the beginning of the new decade, there were now two distinct age groups that music executives geared
their music to. The first was the new generation of teenagers, teenyboppers, whose older brothers and
sisters listened to Elvis, Chuck Berry et al, and their older siblings who had now graduated from high
school and were looking for more “mature” music to listen to. Teen idols and dance music was geared
toward the teenyboppers, while the older market began listening to folk music.
The Brill Building was an actual building located in NYC, which housed music publishers and the many
songwriting teams that were writing music during this time. The practice of composers writing songs for
others was common during the Tin Pan Alley days, but during the first wave of rock and roll, it was the
actual rock and roll performer who commonly wrote their own music.
The most important of the music publishers of the time was Aldon Music, run by
Kirshner (combining their first names for the company name). The offices at Aldon, contained many small
rooms each with a piano, where the song writing teams sat all day, trying to create the next big, hit song.
These teams included Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, and Neil Sedaka and
The teams competed against each other to have their song selected over the others. Since the offices were
close to each other, and each team could hear the other team through the wall, many of the songs sounded
alike. After a song was selected, it was matched with an appropriate group or artist, and a producer became
in charge of the whole recording process. Other music publishers not housed at the actual Brill Building
utilized this process, which became known as the “Brill Building” approach.
This was a very organized process that created an almost “assembly line” approach in the creation of new