This month, I’m working at 1740 Broadway at West 56th Street, which is up the street from the famed Brill Building of pop music fame. However, 1740 Broadway, a 1950 skyscraper originally built for Mutual of New York, an life insurance company that is now a subsidiary of AXA International, a French insurance firm, has some pop history of its own.
When I was a kid, and I would pore through magazines like Sports Illustrated, I’d see print ads for MONY featuring illustrations by the great sports cartoonist Willard Mullin. This got me to thinking, could MONY possibly have anything to do with “Mony Mony,” the top 10 hit in the spring of 1968 by Tommy James and the Shondells?
Indeed it did. Tommy James and songwriting partner Richie Cordell were looking for some inspiration and had run a little dry when Tommy James spotted the blinking neon MONY sign from the top of 1740 Broadway: he could see it across town from his apartment house. The song, also co-written by Bobby “Montego Bay” Bloom, became a stone cold classic, and hit #1 19 years later in a live version by Billy Idol one week after teen pop star Tiffany had hit #1 with James/Cordell’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
As for 1740 Broadway, the MONY blinking neon sign, also famed for its use in Midnight Cowboy, was finally removed in 2007. The building also features the Weather Star, a 150-foot tall neon star that notated the expected weather by color: green for sun, orange for rain, etc. I’m not sure whether the star still lights up.
MONY left the building after its acquisition by AXA. Today the lower floors contain offices of Victoria’s Secret, the women’s “foundations” company. Other floors contained shared offices, where I am for a few weeks.