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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 1.8

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.

The first album I ever owned outright was Big Girls Don't Cry by The Four Seasons. My older brother, Gary, and I pooled our allowances together and bought it on a Saturday afternoon in 1963 at Sears & Roebuck in Albany, Georgia.

As a 16-year old in 1969, I purchased Crosby, Stills & Nash, the debut album of—you guessed it—Crosby, Stills, and Nash—thus beginning my collection as a serious musicologist.

Carole King released Tapestry in February 1971, the downhill side of my senior year in high school. That too became part of my album collection that I still have today.

Carole Joan Klein was born February 9, 1942 in Manhattan, changing her name to Carole King, in the Fifties. While in junior high, she formed a band called the Co-Sines and made demo records with her friend, Paul Simon, charging $25 a session. In high school, she dated Neil Sedaka, who had a hit in '59 with “Oh, Carol”.

While attending Queens College, she met her husband and co-songwriter, Gerry Goffin. After the couple were married in 1959, they spent their evenings writing songs together at Don Kirshner's office opposite the Brill Building, a Manhattan landmark.

Their first big success came in 1960, when they wrote The Shirelles' number one smash, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”. Regarded as one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the period, they churned out hit after hit, including “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva, The Drifters' “Up on the Roof”, “Don't Bring Me Down” by The Animals, and Aretha Franklin's “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”.

Seated: Carole King  L-R: Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin
Seated: Carole King L-R: Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, Gerry Goffin

The Brill Building, built in 1931, became world famous for its songwriting, publishing, and recording offices, where some of the most popular American music of the Sixties was written. Some of the great songwriters/producers that worked there include Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Sonny Bono, Neil Diamond, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector.

Carole King described the atmosphere at the Brill Building:

Every day we squeezed into our respective cubby holes with just enough room for a piano, a bench, and maybe a chair for the lyricist if you were lucky. You'd sit there and write and you could hear someone in the next cubby hole composing a song exactly like yours. The pressure in the Brill Building was really terrific—because Donny (Kirshner) would play one songwriter against another. He'd say: "We need a new smash hit"—and we'd all go back and write a song and the next day we'd each audition for Bobby Vee's producer.

— Quoted in The Sociology of Rock by Simon Frith

Brill Building by Simon Fieldhouse
Brill Building by Simon Fieldhouse

By the early Seventies, Goffin and King were divorced, and she took up residence in Los Angeles's Laurel Canyon. Tapestry was a huge success, spending 15 consecutive weeks at the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart.

One of the best-selling albums of all time, Tapestry received four Grammy Awards in '72, including Album of the Year. The lead single from the album—“It's Too Late”/“I Feel the Earth Move”—spent five weeks at No. 1.

Tapestry was still on the charts when the World Trade Center opened on April 4, 1973 in Lower Manhattan. From the Twin Towers, you could look north, past the Empire State Building and over Times Square, to see the Brill Building.

When I dropped the needle onto Tapestry in 1971, “I Feel the Earth Move” came jumping out of my Magnavox stereo speakers—soulful—syncopated—uplifting.

Thirty years later, the opening lyrics of that song sound as if the ghost of Carole King's past might have been staring out the windows of the Brill Building on a bright morning in September.

“I feel the earth move under my feet

I feel the sky tumblin' down, a-tumblin' down”

We all know what happened on September 11, 2001. We'll never forget.

God bless the families of the unfortunate souls who lost their lives 15 years ago today.

19th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival Advance Weekend Passes:


Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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