By Jack Sharkey, December 14, 2014

In the not too distant past, well, like 20 years ago, musicians got their publicity through pretty much two avenues: radio and the 8x10 glossy photo. Once the Internet was invented the 8x10" glossy went the way of the dial telephone, in much the same way the CD and free-time both became things of the past in the Digital Age.

Beatles Manny's NYC

(L) Beatles 8x10 from Manny's Music that sold for $7200 at auction in 2010.While convenient, this is mostly a shame.

 

The great thing about these pictures is they hold tangible evidence that something human actually happened: An artist physically held the picture as he signed his name to it, an advance man for the record label made sure someone got that picture, and a privileged few flaunted it to tp their friends.

 

Googling an artist and knowing that some unpaid intern just posted the picture you found on the band's Facebook page simply doesn't have the same impact.

 

Music is a living, breathing thing that is made profoundly better by the living experience of it, whether at a concert or just sitting back and listening to something as it was intended to be experienced.

 

In the same way, a photograph–on paper–is tangible proof that a living, breathing, person is behind the art.

 

Why Is This Even Interesting To Me Anymore?

Colony Records

Colony Records was the retail hub of New York's music scene.Growing up in a family of professional musicians in an area of New Jersey that barely had a supermarket until I was in high school, trips to Manhattan for large purchases of musical gear were not uncommon. The destination was always Manny's 48th Street Music, a half block east of Times Square. Back in the heyday of New York's dominance of the American music industry, 48th Street in Manhattan was known as "Music Row."  

 

The Ed Sullivan Theater (where Letterman now tapes his show) was five blocks north, and a half block to the east, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was taped at Rockefeller Center, before the show moved to Los Angeles. At 49th and Broadway, the Brill Building housed publishing companies and studios that produced, for about 15 years starting in the late 50s, a tremendous majority of the important American music of the era. Carole King had this to say about her time writing music in 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

 

The Brill Building sound completely owned American music in the years just prior to the British Invasion, with such notable artists as Ben E. King, Lesley Gore, Neil Sedaka, Bobby Darrin and the Crystals (to name a few) scoring hits churned out in one of the 165 music companies located there.

 

A few blocks away, A&R Studios was originally located on 48th Street before it moved uptown. Founded in 1959, for the next 30 years A&R recorded artists like Billy Joel, Steely Dan, the Rascals, Paul Simon, the Allman Brothers Band, Frank Zappa and Led Zeppelin (to name a few). 

 

All of these musicians needed to buy stuff, and they all pretty much bought their stuff at Manny's 48th Street Music. So important to New York's music scene was Manny's that almost everyone who shopped at Manny's on a regular basis has a story of seeing some larger-than-life musician there. I don't (I did meet the keyboard player for Tears For Fears there in 1985, but he was the same size as me).

 

As a kid who was fast becoming obsessed with music in all its forms, a trip to Manny's for gear was cool, but walking around and looking at the Manny's Music New York Cityhundreds of artist promo shots was second only to going to a live show. As a teenager in the 70s, as cool as the pictures of the old-school artists were, when I found a picture on the wall of one of the bands I was in to, the single degree of separation between me and them was, in a word, outstanding.

 

A&R closed in 1989. The Brill Building is empty, and Manny's closed in 2009. The music industry is still thriving in New York, but the original heart of it beats mostly in memory now.

 

Unfortunately, if you never made it to Manny's to kick around and look at the pictures, you're pretty much out of luck if you want to experience them firsthand. Luckily, the family of the original owners saved every single one of the pictures that adorned every available inch of wallspace, and they have been kind enough to share them with the music-loving public. Tell your boss you're working on something important, click "Do-Not-Disturb" on the phone and prepare yourself for a journey through an amazing history of music from the 1940s until the early 1990s. Since this is always a good time of year to allow yourself to wax nostalgic a little, especially when it comes to music, click here for Manny's Music Wall of Fame Picture Gallery. And since you're likely to become obsessed with these pictures, here's a link to buy the book about Manny's Wall of Fame on Amazon.

 

Lest you think I'm stuck in some vast wasteland of nostalgia, let me say that I try to listen to as much new music as I possibly can, mostly because I get bored easily, but as a fan of music in general, I don't discount the wonderful pallet of music available to me from every genre and musical era (I always found the term "oldie" to be unnecessiarly derisive). 

 

Manny's may be gone physically, but it's legacy lives on, as does the power of the 8x10" black and white glossy.