S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership today on Studio 360.
S2: To me, I almost think of it as a publishing company when I look back at and that was like a school. It was a great school for songwriters. The Manhattan songwriting factory that produced so much 1960s pop, the atmosphere was just so conducive to writing songs. The Brill Building, the latest in our series on New York icons.
S3: Plus, Crazy World is a weird, forgotten song from the Brill Building era.
S4: Exactly why does somebody try to start a fad of teenagers owning matching coffee mugs?
S5: That’s a head on Studio 360 right after this.
S4: This is Studio 360. I’m Colonel. And I’m sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. First level of this is Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable.
S6: I’d like to have the roasted chicken. Well done. Editing is all about timing. I try to get a little bit away from the actual subject. You can see the place, right? Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.
S7: The pop music industry really got going in the early nineteen hundreds in New York City in a few blocks known as Tin Pan Alley. Irving Berlin and George and IRA Gershwin and dozens of other composers and lyricists turned out tunes that became the Great American Songbook and on and on.
S8: Again, ragtime.
S9: Tin Pan Alley was originally on West Twenty Eighth Street in Manhattan, but as rents increased, it crept uptown and by the late 1950s, the New York pop music epicenter was 16 19 Broadway.
S7: This 11 story Art Deco Tower, the Brill Building. It’s the latest in our series on New York Icons. Studio 360’s Tommy Possessory has the story.
S10: The famous Brill Building, Broadway and forty nine street headquarters for songwriters, pluggers, singers, bandleaders and music publishers, all hopefully buying and selling next season’s hit tunes.
S11: This man was the Brill Building was built in 1931, the same year the Empire State Building in the midst of the Depression. The building’s owners leased cheap offices to whoever they could find, which happened to be music publishers, agents and musicians.
S10: Seventy eight music publishers offices. Yes, some owners of fast music catalog. As many as just a deskins someone else’s way.
S12: By the 50s, the Brill Building was packed with music industry professionals, many of them veterans of Tin Pan Alley.
S13: There were literally in the Brill Building, dozens of publishers.
S12: Mary Rolfing is a professor of communications at Boise State University.
S13: There were musicians hanging around and there were a hour people.
S14: You had people who represented record companies. You had booking agents.
S12: Ken Emmerson is the author of Always Magic in the Air. The Pomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era.
S14: You had small cheesy record studios where you could make a demo, which you could then shop.
S15: Almost every facet of the hit making process was located at the Brill Building, and they all work together like an assembly line, a factory for churning out songs.
S16: These unknown writers oftentimes would come through the doors at the Brill Building, take the elevator top and start hitting the offices of publishers. Would you like to hear my song kind of has held this song to you. People would start on the 10th floor of the Brill Building and go down four by four and they would sell the same song 10 times. That publisher might then take it to managers of artists who should record the song. You could get your publisher. You can get your record company. You can get the cheap recording to sell.
S17: And somebody was there to distribute it. And sometimes that could happen in a matter of days.
S18: The Brill Building was all music people.
S12: That’s the late Ellie Greenwich. She’s speaking with the record executive Joe Smith. In 1986, Greenwich worked with her husband, the lyricist Jeff Berry, in the Brill Building from about 1962 to 1964.
S19: There was such an excitement going on all the time that you walked in. I mean, you were riding in the elevators, you’re riding a Jack Dempsey’s next door. It didn’t matter. The atmosphere was just so conducive to writing songs.
S20: The energy was incredible.
S21: It’s all very.
S22: Man was part of another married songwriting team with his wife, the lyricist Cynthia Lyle. He’s also speaking with Joe Smith in 1986.
S2: We could write the song, cut a demo the next day. Get it over to the auction. The name of the artists. The damn thing could be at three ex-LAPD and shit.
S23: I mean, I must have written about 50 songs that year. The first year of maybe 40 songs.
S12: Just because we loved writing the Brill Building was already packed with industry people. By the late 50s, there was more and more aspiring publishers moved in. A few satellite buildings popped up in the surrounding neighborhood. The most notable of these by far was located a block and a half north. At 16 fifty Broadway historian Ken Emerson.
S14: Sixteen fifty Broadway was a more nondescript, almost anonymous building, and consequently the rents were a lot cheaper and it was sort of the younger, hipper building.
S12: People talk about the Brill Building as a genre as much as a single place, and the tenants of sixteen fifty Broadway were a huge part of that. The building was home to a publishing company called Aldin Music. It was founded in 1958 by industry veteran Al Nevins and a young publisher named Don Kershner.
S14: Al Nevins was a very experienced musician. Don was just an aspiring entrepreneur who had a real feel for what could sell.
S12: In 1958, Kershner saw an opening in the music industry.
S24: Presley no longer has that rock n roll beat that tempo or private Presley.
S25: Elvis Presley was in the army.
S14: Truly, Lewis was banned from the airwaves for marrying his 13 year old cousin before he was formally divorced from his previous wife. The initial blast of rock n roll had passed, and Dawn understood. I think how to slightly tame rock n roll. How did domesticated to make it safe for this suddenly massive record audience of baby boom teenagers?
S13: Kerschner was aggressive in going out and looking for writers, and he wanted young writers. People could speak to a younger audience.
S12: Alden Music was an inspiration for Berry Gordy when, a few years after this, he created his own wildly successful hit factory, Motown. Instead of waiting for songwriters to knock on their door, these companies did as much as they could in-house with a stable of talented songwriters on staff. The first writers to be signed to all the music were a 19 year old Neil Sedaka and his writing partner, Howard Greenfield.
S26: Stupid Cupid. You’re a real mean guy.
S27: They wrote out music’s first single, stupid cupid for the singer Connie Francis did well, hitting number 14 on the Billboard charts in 1958.
S12: Neil Sedaka introduced Kershner to another songwriter from a rival Brooklyn High School whom he had briefly dated. Carole King She was only 17, but she’d already been knocking on doors at the Brill Building for a few years.
S13: Carole King started out as a 14, 15 year old just going from Brooklyn into the city and harassing song publishers. And right away met people like Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records who saw this talent in her.
S12: Kerschner was blown away by Carole King. He signed her and her songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin, to Alden Music in 1960. It was good timing. Goffin and King had just gotten married and we’re expecting a child. Soon after, Barry Mann and Cynthia Wild joined the team. They’d both been bouncing around the Brill Building scene, but found a home with Don Kershner and Alden Music.
S23: Donny was like the father mother figure all saw, and Danny was only basically three years older than me and only wanted to was please. Not if Danny loved the songs that made my day and made our life.
S12: Kershner was a master at motivating his staff of young writers and artists would come up and Kershner would call us up as a kid.
S23: They Everly Brothers are up. You know, we call Carol. Jerry, tell us. We want to write for the Everly Brothers.
S13: Literally, they kind of run back to their cubicles and try to knock it out quickly and get back to Donny Kershner as fast as they could.
S12: If you talk to anyone about the Brill Building era, you’ll hear about the cubicles at Aldin Music.
S11: The songwriting teams often worked in one giant office space, each in their own cubicle containing a piano, a chair and an ashtray.
S16: They could hear each other, I mean, all the sudden need hear Carole King next door playing the piano or Ellie Greenwich.
S28: Down the hall.
S29: You were continually hearing each other’s pianos and music so everybody knew what everybody else was doing. And everybody who borrow from what the others were doing.
S23: Yeah. You’ll hear him coming up again. You know, you didn’t listen or you would listen better to my competition.
S12: To Aladin, music was intense, especially between the married. songwriting teams were basically like sibling rivalry.
S23: We loved it.
S30: We hadn’t this love-hate relationship with with Carolyn, Jerry and anybody that we would be waiting Eslam for Carolyn Jery embarrassedly to come out of the studio as we were going in. And there was this a of course competition.
S23: We go for the same record with the same group, but outside of the office was no competition. We didn’t think about Lieber and Stoller or artist. Blackwell. You know, we just thought the competition was in the office and if we could get the record over somebody else in the office that satisfied us in the fall of 1960.
S12: Kershner asked his writers for a song for the Shirelles. Goffin and King won the job.
S31: Will you love me tomorrow? Went straight to number one and was the first number one single by a girl group when it sold a million copies. King and Goffin quit their day jobs to write full time.
S12: With that, Aldin, music was off to the races.
S32: Day by day, the.
S15: From 1961 to 1963, they had hit after hit break the top 100.
S33: I know you.
S25: The OUDYN writers were all hitting their strides in 1961.
S12: Howard Greenfield is one of the oldest among them at age 25. Carole King was 19, but youth was not that they had in common.
S34: I went to Madison High Schools in Brooklyn, Flatbush. Carole King with the Madison High School. Rival High School was. Lincoln High School. Mrdak went to Lincoln High School. Packnett dress of the tokens went to Lincoln High School. A Neil Diamond went there. And then I think he switched over to rascist with Barbra Streisand when I went there too. For some reason that that area is so. Some should do a book on that. Just about the music industry and all the talent that came in that area. And I don’t know why. I think maybe it’s I mean, where what are we, third generation Jews or something?
S14: Ken Emmerson thinks maybe Jewish kids were taught to play the piano and took musical lessons at higher rates by nature of their heritage and their upbringing. They were more knowledgeable about mainstream classical music than many other white Americans.
S12: That classical background can be heard all over the Brill Buildings. Take on rock and roll, like in the simple fact that the writers wrote on piano instead of guitar or in the strings that Brill writers began to incorporate into their arrangements. As kids in the 50s, they were also shaped by some major news stories happening close to home.
S14: If you were of that age, you were deeply affected by two important events that touched Brooklyn.
S35: This is truly an historic day here in Jersey City. A 27 year old Negro named Jackie Robinson is playing his first game for the Dodger Farm Club.
S14: First of all, was the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. That was an important landmark in racial consciousness in America. And they were at the epicenter of that. Secondly was the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
S36: Julius Rosenberg and Martin Sobel, convicted of revealing atomic secrets to the Russians and the federal building in New York to hear their doom.
S12: The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953 for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. Their defenders thought that they were victims of anti-Semitism and Cold War hysteria.
S14: Those events expanded their their racial consciousness and awareness and also their political awareness. Gonzo’s.
S12: They were also picking up on musical and cultural cues from the city around them.
S14: This was the height, the absolute peak of Puerto Rican migration.
S12: Emmerson says that these young Jewish New Yorkers would have been hearing Latin music everywhere.
S15: The second album that the great T-to point they made was Tito Puente, a live at Grossinger’s, the famous Jewish resort in the Catskills.
S25: Their parents danced to this. All the clubs and the beach clubs were full of this.
S14: It was ubiquitous.
S18: Latin jazz was everywhere in New York.
S12: Jason King is a professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU.
S18: A lot of the Brill Building writers and producers brought those rhythms into the music that they made. And it has to do with the fact that New York was this fusion epicenter is a place where all of these cultures were coming together.
S12: The rhythms and sounds of Latin music are all over Brill Building songs.
S15: Sometimes overtly like with the man who, while song, blame it on the bossa nova written for UNICOR man.
S12: But other times, more subtly, the Brazilian by on beat is a hallmark of Brill Building arrangements.
S37: And it can be heard on countless recordings.
S12: The most famous Latin dance hall at the Palladium Ballroom, which is a few blocks away from the Brill Building at Fifty Third and Broadway every night. Artists like Tito Puente de and Machito would draw huge audiences of all sorts.
S38: It’s almost as if that music could unite white and black audiences in an appreciation of a music, which itself is a melding of white and black music like the Latin music it was influenced by the Brill Building had a remarkably diverse listenership.
S18: Jason King says that earlier in the 20th century you wouldn’t have seen that people in the United States were segregated legally, but also music was segregated.
S39: Black music was considered to be race music. It was music that was made by black people for black people. That was the way that black music was conceived in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and even in the 1950s and beyond.
S18: The Brill Building represents this moment where whites and blacks are listening to very much the same music for a very short amount of time. Doesn’t last that long. But it’s a it’s a kind of golden moment in the early 1960s of a racial pop culture.
S12: Like the audience. The production process at the Brill Building involves both white and black musicians, but it’s still had issues.
S18: There is this tension there between the kind of ingenious fusion music that the Brill Building produced and then also the kind of asymmetrical power relationships that you see between white and black and men and woman.
S12: There were some black songwriters in the Brill Building scene like Rose Marie McCoy, a songwriter whose career began a little earlier in the 1950s.
S40: He got beaten, didn’t do it.
S41: What? But for the most part, the writers and producers behind these hits were white and the artists were black.
S18: There was a real division of labor at the Brill Building, and artists often didn’t get paid in the same way that those songwriters and producers did, partly because the nature of how the music industry works that songwriters and producers often get paid more than his, but also because there was a racial component to that too.
S12: Central to those complicated Brill Building dynamics was Phil Spector.
S42: Spector is, of course, the musical genius credited with creating the wall of sound production style, but also monstrous in his personal life and currently in prison for second degree murder. There was something polarizing about him even back in those pro building days.
S43: I think Phil Spector’s production of so many black girl groups like The Crystals, the Ronettes and others really does represent that kind of uncomfortable moment where you have a white producer defining the sound and style and sentiment of black woman in the 1960s, where those woman don’t have a voice for themselves except through their interpretation of lyrics written by men or white people, whether they’re man or woman.
S12: But those black performers didn’t necessarily think the Brill Building’s dynamics were inequitable in the 1990s. Mary Rolfing had the chance to interview Iva Boyd about her experiences in the Brill Building system.
S13: She said it wasn’t feeling exploited by that environment. I was a singer. I was not a songwriter. The writers gave her material and she gave voice to that material. So without each other, you know, none of this could have happened. She really wanted me to to understand that no one was saying, write it down.
S44: He’s too he’s too to me. So give it a shot.
S45: We’re back with our New York icon story about the Brill Building. Studio 360’s Tommy Kazarian picks up the story from 1961 to 1963.
S12: The charts were dominated by Brill Building writers and artists. It seemed like they had found the perfect recipe for efficient pop success. But then.
S19: When the British invasion came in, for most of us, we all sort of Alwi independence, so to speak, somewhat as panicked. But, you know, here comes the self contained groups. And here comes the error of the singer songwriter. And we sat there as well. What are we going to do?
S18: The entire industry changes and the focus is no longer the kind of urbane, polished R&B music coming out of New York. But suddenly all of the music that’s coming out of Britain.
S12: The Beatles were actually pretty big fans of the Brill Building.
S31: Please, please. Me included a cover of a Goffin King song Chains.
S46: My name is Paul McCartney has said, you know, Lennon. Their model was Gerry Goffin, Carole King. That’s who they wanted to be. They wanted to write songs that good.
S12: Another 1960s phenom wasn’t so enamored with the Brill Building sound.
S47: Unlike most of the songs nowadays being written Uptown and Tin Pan Alley, as most of the folk songs come from nowadays. This song was written up there. There’s a rent somewhere down in the United States.
S48: Gerry Goffin thought everything he had written after he heard Dylan was total crap.
S38: They were devastated in many ways. Carole King and Gerry Goffin felt that Dylan had just shown them up at one point that even gathered together some of their demos that they had made and smash them into space and love.
S49: I love to go with Norma right now.
S16: It wasn’t just that the Beatles and Dylan were good.
S12: It was that the way they made music challenged the entire Brill Building model.
S50: The Beatles showed how much more money a performer could make by writing their own music, and the whole economic model for rock and roll songwriting and production began to change.
S18: Artists like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen and others represented a new kind of pop music auteur whose self-contained. And the Brill Building model wasn’t the hot model anymore.
S13: It has to have been terrifying in a way. The market shifted to where it’s almost all written and performed by the same people as the economics of rock music changed, so did the types of people making and listening to it. When the Beatles came, it really resegregated rock and roll. It became weird to talk about African-Americans as even performing rock n roll. It became this real white form.
S18: The priorities of the music industry changed completely and it becomes kind of refocus away from this bi-racial pop moment to a much more segregated wave listening to music.
S51: It’s a great moment, but it doesn’t last long.
S52: Don Kershner sold Alvin music to Columbia Pictures in 1963. In many ways, at the peak of its success, some real writers were able to transition well into the new era.
S22: Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry enjoyed the greatest success in the mid 60s with no one hits like Leader of the Pack and Chapel of Love.
S12: Some, like Carole King, were able to catch the singer songwriter Wave.
S53: King’s 1971 album, Tapestry won four Grammys. Is one of the best selling albums of all time.
S12: But others had a harder time finding their feet without the structure, community and camaraderie of the Brill Building.
S50: I think in some ways the Brill Building songwriters didn’t always realize how great their music was. And maybe that’s something that Don Kerschner almost made them feel in a way.
S38: After all, it was in Kirchners financial interest to make his writers feel dependent upon him.
S54: We never thought the songs he wrote were gonna be standards or they’re going to be talked about 20 years later. You know.
S52: Day half of the Brill Building is leased by the startup we work. It’s a workspace for gig economy freelancers who don’t have a company office. They can go to. That’s kind of how pop songwriters operate these days to. Instead of a centralized building, their own home studios collaborating online. You don’t have to worry about someone banging on the piano in the cubicle next door, but something else might be lost.
S55: There was a good camaraderie that I think made you write so prolifically back then because I mean, it felt good even when things were going on. It still felt good. You know, it was a feeling was a general feeling that was terrific to me.
S2: I almost didn’t think of it as a publishing company. When I look back at and it was like a school. It was a great school for songwriters.
S45: Tommy Bezerra and produced that story.
S56: The Brill Building is still home to some big entertainment industry businesses. Paul Simon’s publishing company has offices there. So does Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, production company, Broadway Video. The recordings you heard of Ellie Greenwich and Barry Mann are courtesy of the Joe Smith Collection at the Library of Congress. Additional archival tape was provided by WNYC Archive Collections. New York icons are made possible by a grant from the Booth Paris Foundation.
S57: One of Carole King and Gerry Goffin biggest hits was The Locomotion for Little Eeva. It went to number one in 1960 to.
S58: And it wasn’t just a song. It was a dance involving swinging your hips, jumping off, jumping back, making a chain and then a chug, chug motion like a railroad train. I’m doing it right here in the studio. It’s a shame you can’t see me anyhow.
S57: The early 60s were all about bad dance songs like Chubby Checkers, The Twist and the Olympics. Holly Gulla.
S7: But it’s another would be fad song from that era, one I’m betting you don’t know that fascinates our producer, Evan Chung. It came out at the end of 1961 and promptly fell into oblivion until a copy wound up in Evan’s hands.
S1: I grabbed it out of some neglected rack of dusty 45s in a Chicago record store. It must have been the title that caught my eye. Magnate’s. Because what is a mug? Me. So I brought it over to the listening station and dropped the needle.
S59: I go for coffee. Yay, yay, yay, yay. You go for coffee. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
S60: We both go for coffee.
S61: So let’s be mates.
S20: I mean, how can you not love this song or be completely baffled by it? Because the singer Eddie Hodges goes on to explain exactly what bunkmates.
S3: Are you crazy? Oh, my darling. Meet me.
S1: What everyone does. Really? If you missed it, being mug mates, apparently is the practice of a teenage couple decorating a pair of matching coffee mugs to show they’re going steady like a ceramic promise ring, I guess. And if the song is to be believed, his and hers mugs were the latest craze in the teenage world, which is a claim you hear all the time in songs from this era that some craze has spread passed from teenager to teenager like Mano.
S20: The dance fans are the most famous ones the jerk, the swim, the Popeye Joe. But there are also songs about how all the kids these days are hula hooping or surfing or fraternising and sleepwear.
S62: Havin a party wherein.
S1: I always wonder about the claims made in these songs. Was there really a phenomenon around the world to see in the mashed potato? And they just had to write a song about it? Or was it the other way around? Did they make up a dance which then became a craze because of the song? It’s the age old question. What came first? The funky chicken or the egg?
S63: I actually found an answer for the most famous example.
S64: There never was a dance. The locomotion until after it was a number one hit record and everybody says, how does this dance go? So little Eve, I had to make up a dance.
S48: That’s Carole King in 1981. But I get why a songwriter would invent a fake dance.
S1: You convinced teens that everybody else is already doing it. The teens start requesting the song. The dance actually becomes a craze. You sell a bunch of records and then you live easy for the rest of your life on your turkey trot royalties. But how do you explain mug mates? What’s the angle here? I mean, it just seems like bonkers and specific social practice to invent using a matched pair of painting yourself coffee mugs as an emblem of romantic exclusivity among teenagers. How is that even supposed to work logistically? Where do you keep these mugs?
S63: You’re just supposed to carry them around with you in your knapsack at all times. Did teenagers even drink coffee anyway? I needed to find out. Was magnate’s ever a fan? Even for a moment? And if not, why would someone want to make it a thing?
S65: Hi, is this Eddie? Yeah.
S1: SWI called up someone who might know something about it. Eddie Hodges, the guy who sang Workmates.
S66: Oh, gosh, that’s heaven. That is a long time ago, man.
S67: So how old would you have been in 1962 all at sea?
S66: Probably about fourteen or fifteen.
S67: Now, even by that age, Eddie was already a seasoned veteran.
S66: Well, I started singing when I was very young. People kind of knew me as the singing kid.
S22: You know, I love you, Daddy. Hodges lives upstairs. I think it’s great. I’m going to bring him down at Jota Bar. Kind of think for the gang down. This is Eddie on The Honeymooners. In 1952.
S68: Eddie ended up a very successful child star.
S67: His career was built on a chain reaction of fortunate run ins and chance encounters. It started when a stranger stopped him on the street in Times Square.
S66: A lady asked me where I got my red hair. I said it came with my head and she started laughing. And. Gave me her card and she said to call the number on the card. So we called the number on the card and it was the name that tune office name that night in trying for $20000.
S69: Already, Hodges, the 10 year old schoolboy, and his partner, Major John Glenn Junior, the Marine Corps jet pilot, before he was the first American in orbit.
S67: John Glenn was Eddie’s name, that tune partner. Coincidentally, they were on the show the same day as the Sputnik launch.
S69: Eddie, would you like to take a trip to the moon? No, I like it, but I’m not here.
S67: John Glenn, Eddie Hodges team won five weeks in a row and split a $50000 grand prize. The real jackpot for Eddie, though, was that a Broadway composer happened to be watching after the show. He called Eddie up to ask him to audition for a new musical.
S66: And they had me say some lines and they said, now do it with a lisp. And I didn’t know what a lisp was. So they told me how to do that. So I read the lines from the paper with a lisp, and they offered me the part of Winthrop in the music man.
S70: Have you ever been to Gary, Indiana? No, I never have never been to Gary because of any music.
S20: Man was a smash hit, and Eddie spent over a year starring on Broadway, which led to the next lucky break.
S71: Frank Sinatra came to see the show and offered me the movie role in A Hole in the Head.
S72: He had he had.
S71: After a hole in the head was the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
S73: Plus, I’ll have to go down the river to New Orleans first. Wouldn’t get beat up. Beaten is Team New Orleans.
S66: It was it was just a constant run of things after that.
S67: After conquering Broadway television and the movies in 1961, Eddie added teen pop star to his resumé.
S70: I had a really nice hit record called I’m Going to knock on Your Door and.
S20: Now, after all the coal making runs, the talent scout, the astronaut, the Broadway composer, all blue eyes.
S1: Now came the strangest encounter.
S65: Do you remember how they presented this song to you? Oh, yeah. A few months after he hit the pop charts, Eddie and his producer got paid a visit from a group of men.
S1: They were representatives of an organization.
S66: They said that there was this song suggesting that teenagers decorate their own mugs. People could put their names on them and paint them and put pictures on that kind of thing. They said people could be mug mates. And I said, oh, that’s kind of catchy. That’s interesting.
S3: We went in the studio, cut it, said Carmen, 1:3.
S20: Eddie recorded the song for this organization and it was the last he ever heard from them.
S66: Nothing ever happened. I never heard anything about it after that.
S65: So no interviews, no nothing? Nothing.
S1: It seems like a lot of effort to write this song and find someone to record it and then just to do nothing with it.
S66: Oh, absolutely. I don’t know what happened. We never we never did find out.
S74: So who were these people that recruited Eddie to sing that magnate’s was the latest craze and then vanished?
S75: It seems to me that disorganization were anorganization of coffee growers. Maybe I don’t even remember the name of it.
S1: Whoever this group was, I knew they had an interest in reaching teenagers. So I consulted the most authoritative source I could think of on the subject back issues of Seventeen magazine in between articles like What does his handwriting show about him?
S76: In my case, hesitancy and a certain lack of confidence. I found a series of full page ads touting even more outlandish claims in the song that mug mates are busting out all over that. The Northeast Party idea of the season is a BYU 0m party. Bring your own mug mate that the new after from ritual is a mug made breakfast. Allegedly mug mates had become such a craze they had to issue a special warning to girls about the mug mate Lothario, a fellow who can’t resist playing the field, a gay deceiver who collects hearts and who has a mantel full of mates to prove it.
S1: And in small print at the bottom of each page, it said for a free folder of mug made inspirations and simple directions right to the Pan-American Coffee Bureau. So I had my answer. But what exactly was the Pan-American Coffee Bureau? Why were they meddling in the courtship rituals of high school students? And what gave them the idea that they could just invent a cultural practice and people would adopt it? Well, it turns out because they’d actually done it before.
S61: They made. They may well.
S57: Now back to producer Evan Chung’s quest to uncover the mysterious origins of the mug song.
S1: It turns out this so-called craze was brewed up by something called the Pan-American Coffee Bureau, which I learned was an organization funded by the Ten Coffee Growing Nations of South and Central America. But why? Why would Brazil and Colombia and Costa Rica pool their resources and invest them in this convincing teenage sweethearts in the U.S. that they should have decorated mugs to show that they’re going steady to figure it out? I had to learn a bit more about the organization’s history.
S77: The Pan-American Coffee Bureau grew out of the fact that coffee was really struggling in those days. The coffee growers were being hammered.
S67: Mark Pendergrast is the author of Uncommon Grounds The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World.
S77: Americans weren’t drinking as much coffee as the people in Brazil and the other countries wanted.
S67: Now, there was a good reason why North Americans were buying less coffee than because the coffee was so terrible.
S78: Coffee coffee roasters were peddling blends of cheap, low quality beans. Your coffee just doesn’t taste any good.
S79: And they were also brewing. It was personal eaters.
S80: Listen, do it, bird, which is a terrible way to drink coffee. What’s wrong with the coffee? Bad taste.
S1: Even worse than the percolated stuff was the instant coffee.
S80: This is coffee. So it was kind of a disaster. Pretty harsh. Well, how’s your coffee?
S79: They were cheapening their blend. It’s worth every day. They were losing market share. Oh, no.
S77: They were basically floundering around not knowing what to do in the stepped the Pan-American Coffee Bureau with a solution. In 1952, they came up with the idea of the coffee break.
S81: The janitor managed to grab the coffee.
S68: Here’s the pitch. In the middle of the workday, if everybody at the office stepped away from their desks for 10 minutes, had a cup of Joe, it would boost morale and improve productivity. The Coffee Bureau had a $2 million annual budget to convince people that the coffee break was the new trend. And it worked. A coffee break is almost an American aspiration within four years. Seventy three percent of all American workers were taking coffee breaks.
S1: The bureau had made coffee breaks, a thing basically out of nothing. More coffee breaks meant more coffee was being sold. Consumption was up. Mission accomplished. Except there was a problem.
S77: Their advertising was aimed almost exclusively at adults.
S1: Young people were actually drinking less coffee.
S77: Now, the image of coffee was that it was a boring product for adult business people and housewives, not something that you were going to drink as a teenager.
S67: Now, why was this a problem? Well, because there were a hell of a lot of teenagers.
S78: All of a sudden, the first wave of the baby boom was in high school now. And it marked the birth of true teenage culture.
S36: They had their own music, their own movies, dangerous thrills, youngsters showing off to hotrod their own cars.
S67: And they had their own money, which increasingly they were spending on something more fun seeming than coffee.
S79: What they wanted was to have girlfriends and love and energy, and that’s what was being conveyed by the Coca-Cola and the Pepsi ads.
S82: Who is the Pepsi generation? Just about everyone with the young view of things. Active, lively, or people with a liking for Pepsi Cola.
S77: Many advertisers were telling the coffee people, look, you have to do something because the sodas are eating your lunch.
S67: The president of the National Coffee Association even wrote a deliciously overwrought article in the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal warning his colleagues of the dire situation they had on their hands.
S83: The very thought of it conjures up to me the vision of a modern pied piper of heaven.
S84: Today, the Pied Piper is a man fashioned of metal and glass.
S85: His torso is one giant cola bottle, and his limbs are formed of soft drink and beer cans, strong loosely so that he makes a lot of noise as he walks through the marketplace with our youth flocking after him.
S5: Coffee. Thus far has no such pied piper.
S1: But I wondered, was it just a marketing problem or could it be biological? Is there actually something innate in teenagers that makes them hate coffee and like Coke?
S86: It’s one of the most fundamental mystery is why do we like the foods and beverages we do.
S67: Julie Mandela is a researcher at the Mon-El Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.
S86: I’m a developmental bio psychologist, so I study the biological basis of behavior.
S67: Her research focuses on how taste develops in young people.
S86: Well, when you study taste in children, you realize that as a group they’re living in different sensory worlds than us. Both the child and the young teenager have sensory systems that are really going to draw them to sugar and salt and avoid bitters.
S1: So, yes, in general, children do have a preference for sweet things over bitter things like coffee.
S86: And this makes sense. The child is born into this world, preferring that which they need to survive. Sweet is our signal for calories, which are sources of energy. And it’s also the predominant quality of human milk. And for bitterness, it may be that the child has this biology to particularly warn against that which is potential toxins, because that’s what bitter taste really is, a signal for many cases.
S1: But she says it’s not so simple as just sweet, good, bitter, bad end of story. A lot of our taste preferences are learned.
S86: Like all learning, it’s repeated exposure that builds on the familiar. Children will learn eight to 10 exposures to a food will increase their acceptance of the food. What mother eats, what siblings eat, what friends eat. The context of eating all. Play a role in defining whether you grow to like it or not. You learn to like the foods you eat.
S1: So repetition and cultural context. They are big parts of determining what foods and drinks we like. And they can override that predisposition against bitterness. We know this because there are places on earth where kids do like bitter drinks.
S86: Look at Argentina and Motty around two years of age. The child’s been exposed to this tea and grows to like my tea. It’s a beautiful example of a cultural practice.
S67: In 1961, the Pan-American Coffee Bureau’s said it was time to invent their own cultural practice. I mean, they’d done it before, right? They turned the coffee break into an American institution out of practically nothing. Surely they could do it again. An engineer, a teenage craze. And the craze was gonna be decorated.
S3: Coffee mugs by.
S77: But nobody became magnate’s painting your little coffee mugs so that your girlfriend could have hers and you could have yours. I don’t think it was compelling or convincing in the least. So it was, you know, a lame attempt to try to engage that generation of young people, but it failed miserably, except for some reason in Japan, where it became a minor hit that.
S20: But that magnate’s campaign just did not get at what American teenagers wanted.
S1: And look, I sympathize. I don’t know how to interact with teenagers. They remain terrifying ciphers to me. And I think it takes a pretty savvy marketer to understand how to reach them. The corporate men at the Pan-American Coffee Bureau were clearly not bad.
S20: So it’s not that teenagers can’t be turned onto crazes by Madison Avenue or by songwriters. Clearly they can, but they won’t be pandered to. And that all began at this historical mid-century moment when teens realized that they could decide what crazes they would adopt or reject, that the kids held the power. Not them, the adults. This isn’t their world anymore. It’s gonna be ours. So is there an alternate timeline where copy got there first with better ads and created the Folger’s generation?
S1: I don’t know, but they didn’t. And the consequence for the coffee industry was that the image of coffee stayed the same. A boring gross drink for Square Grown-Ups. And then Starbucks happened. Marketing fun sounding sugary drinks like mocha cookie crumble frappuccinos. And that’s coupled with the rise of trendy coffee shops selling pullovers of single origin roasts in the last few decades. There has been a revolution in the image of coffee.
S77: Coffee has become the hip drink for young people, and they’re willing to pay a lot of money for a latte or a cappuccino or cold brew nitro coffee. That sort of thing these days.
S20: Coffee consumption among teens has been trending up. And soda consumption is going down. So mission accomplished.
S86: Except why would anybody want to take away from the sugar sweetened beverage industry of colas to make kids drink more coffee when they should be drinking? Neither of them. They’re gonna get addicted to the psychoactive components, which could have side effects on insomnia and nervousness, on jitteriness and hyperactivity and stomach aches and my missing something.
S1: FairPoint So maybe it was a good thing ultimately that teenagers never actually had a magnate’s craze that as far as I can tell, the only person the campaign ever reached was me more than a half century later. And now I guess you. So let’s be magnate’s.
S61: So let me.
S3: It means we’re.
S7: Studio 360’s Evan Chang produced that story. Gabriel Roth read the excerpt from the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal is top of the park later.
S87: It’s time the park.
S25: And that’s it for this week’s show. Studio 360 is a production of PR in association with Slate. The production team is Jocelyn Gonzalez into Adam Newman sounded at first month’s. Evan Chung. Zoe Saunders. Sam. Kim. Morgan. Flannery. Tommy. Busy areas. And I’m Kurt Andersen. He was just aspiring entrepreneur who had a real feel for what could sell. Thanks for listening.
S7: Ah, Public Radio International. It’s so familiar. Tom Hanks can hum the entire theme from memory.
S25: It’s a movie that changed cinema. There was nothing like it before, and there really has been very little since and conjured the future opened the garage door, please, Alexa. The latest in our series, American Icons. 2001 A Space Odyssey. Next time on STUDIO 360.