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Any Major New York City – Vol. 1

January 23rd, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

I am among the many who are profoundly fascinated by New York. Without ever having been there, I feel an affinity with the place (at this point I might invite the multi-millionaires among my loyal readers to come forward with offers for an all-expenses trip to NYC for me and my family). Obviously I’m not alone.

When I first made up this collection in 2009, I thought I’d even make it two mixes. Then I began shortlisting. The list grew longer and longer. Then I culled, ruthlessly. I ended up with five mixes, including the New York in Black & White mix I re-posted a couple of years ago.

So, how much do I love NYC, without ever having been there? Well, consider this: a large framed print of the photo below, bought almost 25 years ago, hangs above my bed. As I said, wealthy benefactors…..


1. Billie Holiday – Autumn In New York (1954)
NYC hook: When Harry repeatedly met Sally, his creepiness was relieved by the beauty of NYC’s fallen, brown leaves. I’m not sure that match-making via Harry Connick is what Billie had in mind. It’s beautiful nonetheless. No wonder the creep eventually managed to hook the rather attractive Sally, playing lovely music like this for, to and at her.

2. Ray Charles – New York’s My Home (1961)
NYC hook: Well, it’s his favourite city, not just a visiting place. It’s, as the title shrewdly implies, his home.

3. Bobby Darin – Sunday In New York (1964)
NYC hook: Ah, those innocent days when shops would be closed on Sundays, and there’d be nothing better to do than window shopping – and sing infectiously upbeat songs about it.

4. Ad Libs – Boy From NY City (1964)
NYC hook: Well, there’s a boy, and he’s from New York City, and a girl named Kitty, for reason of rhyme, is urged to tell us about him. We learn that he is no clown, which is a relief.

5. Harpers Bizarre – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1967)
NYC hook: Slowly following the S&G city map, Harpers Bizarre are finding cause to feel pretty good – or groovy, in the era’s vernacular. As the title might have told you. What else can make you feel groovy?

6. Gerard Kenny – New York, New York (1978)
NYC hook: It’s safe to say that Gerard Kenny likes New York. In his enthusiasm, he claims inaccurately that on account of how good the city is, it was named twice, like the pederast in Nabokov”s Lolita. Of course we know that his Sesame Street level assertion does not correspond with reality, yet we would feel guilty disabusing him of his error. It would crush him.

7. Russ Ballard – New York Groove (1975)
NYC hook: A little under a decade after people were feeling gently groovy, Russ thumped us with the NY GROOOVE, symbolising the transition from weed to coke. Ex-Argent member Ballard wrote the song, but didn’t release it. Instead, Hello in 1975 and Ace Fehley of Kiss in 1978 had hits with it.

8. Nicole Atkins – Brooklyn’s On Fire (2007)
NYC hook: It’s Independence Day and, Nicole counsels us, Brooklyn is on fire. Not literally, even though the chorus does sound deceptively alarming. It’s the fireworks, and romance is in the air.

9. Ramones – Rockaway Beach (1977)
NYC hook: Joey and his “brothers” hitch a ride to the Beach. The Surfin’ USA for New Yorkers.

10. Bruce Springsteen – Sherry Darling (1980)
NYC hook: New York traffic is a bastard, and more so when you have to ferry around your nagging future mother-in-law. Our Bruce likes his Sherry, but one more word out of her Mom, and she walks.

11. Ryan Adams – New York New York (2001)
NYC hook: Ryan loves New York a lot, and this is his declaration of love. The video for this song was filmed four days before 9/11, and apparently the song played on loop for days after the attack. Apologies to New Yorkers in whom this track evokes horrible memories.

12. Elliot Smith – Amity (1998)
NYC hook: This mix is like a soap opera. Remember Kitty who told us about the boy from New York City? Well, it seems the Boy from New York City has returned to New York City, with Kitty. “Hello, hello Kitty, happy in New York City.”

13. Bright Eyes – Old Soul Song (For The New World Order) (2005)
NYC hook: The only song in this mix not to mention New York, its geography or landmarks. But it is set in New York, describing the big February 2003 demonstration against George W Bush’s illicit, indefensible declaration of war against a state that posed no threat to his country’s security. As we knew then, if we were ready to refuse to believe the brazen lies peddled by Dick, Don and Dubya, and their gurning poodle in Britain. Remember them? These evil fucks seem so innocent in Trump’s 2018…

14. Rosie Thomas – Much Farther To Go (2007)
NYC hook: A broken heart in New York City, with the Statue of Liberty as a prop. Without wishing to engage in undue hyperbole, this is a most beautiful song.

15. Rufus Wainwright – Chelsea Hotel No 2 (2006)
NYC hook: Casual celebrity oral sex; it’s the New York way. The cover may be even better than Laughing Len’s original.

16. Everything But The Girl – The Only Living Boy In New York (1997)
NYC hook: One person leaves New York, the other stays behind. The second Simon & Garfunkel cover in the mix, and I have two more of their songs lined up”…

17. Mondo Kané feat. Georgie Fame – New York Afternoon (1986)
NYC hook: We”ve had Billie Holiday in autumn and Rosie Thomas in winter; here Mondo Kané and Georgie Fame (produced by the soon-to-be-evil-but-still-excellent Stock Aitken Waterman) enjoy a nice summer afternoon in various New York landmarks.

18. Prefab Sprout – Hey Manhattan! (1988)
NYC hook: And coming in on the flight after Mondo Kané’s are wide-eyed tourists Prefab Sprout, admitting to being entirely star-struck. Brooklyn Bridge, 5th Avenue (where Sinatra walked), JFK hang-out The Carlyle”… But look out for the denouement as our tourist friends become aware of New York’s class division.

19. Neil Diamond – Brooklyn Roads (1968)
NYC hook: Neil grew up in Brooklyn. No dazzled observations about famous landmarks and celebrities here. Reminiscing on his childhood, Neil is smelling cooking in the hallways of his block; I get the scent of Mrs Diamond’s boiled cabbage. Wistfully, he imagines a new generation of children living in his old room, perhaps dreaming, as he did, of busting loose.

20. Gil Scott-Heron – New York City (1976)
NYC hook: You’d think angry Gil would hate New York. But he doesn’t. He loves it. Not quite sure why. Nothing much wrong with it, he says. And that’s just as well, seeing as the city reminds Gil of himself.

21. Steely Dan – Brooklyn (1972)
NYC hook: The charmer under me is… the guy who lived below Fagen and Becker in Brooklyn. All there is to it.

22. Lou Reed – Dirty Blvd. (1989)
NYC hook: Face it, Lou Reed could sing ice cream commercials on a gondola or pack a surf board on a beach surrounded by gaggle of busty blondes, and whatever he was singing would still be about the grime of New York City’s underbelly. The Venetian gondolier would be a pimp, the surfer a pusher and the busty blondes junkie hookers. It’s what Lou did.

23. Bob Dylan – Hard Times In New York Town (1961)
NYC hook: Young Bobby Zimmerman escaped from cold Minnesota to Greenwich Village and joined the folk circuit. Recorded before he released his (not terribly good) debut album, we can sympathise here with the complications he is facing in his adopted home.

24. Bob James – Angela (Theme from ‘Taxi’) (1978)
NYC hook: What would a series of songs about New York be without reference to the yellow cabs. Taxi was, of course, the show about, well, taxis which brought together Danny DeVito, Tony Danza, Jeff Conaway, Carol Kane, Randall Carver, Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd and Andy Kaufman.

(PW in Comments)


More New York songs

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  1. halfhearteddude
    September 16th, 2009 at 01:23 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. September 16th, 2009 at 02:52 | #2

    Nice post, dude. Always nice to see someone give shine the spotlight on Prefab Sprout, too.

  3. question marc
    September 16th, 2009 at 12:24 | #3

    Nice collection indeed.

    But what?! No Hip Hop?

    No “N.Y State Of Mind”?

    Now “New York New York”?

    No “To The Five Boroughs” ?

    “Brooklyn’s Finest”?
    “Harlem World”?


  4. September 16th, 2009 at 14:07 | #4

    Oh, give me a chance to get volume 2 (and, if there’s call for it, 3 & 4) out of the way. I have the Beastie Boys on my shortlist (To The Five Boroughs, which is ace), but I must admit that Hop Hop is a bit of a blindspot for me.

  5. September 16th, 2009 at 19:36 | #5

    Great selection that, was gonna moan about missing a few but will wait patiently for pt. 2 (and 3, 4, 5.. :)
    did a geography-themd round in Monday’s quiz and promised/threatened that I have many more tunes.. and even more now.. some of my regulars will love and some will curse you :)

  6. September 17th, 2009 at 17:00 | #6

    How interesting, I hardly liked any of those tracks!

    Perhaps artists rely on New York having a hypnotoadic Emerald-city effect on their listeners – can you think of any other reason why a great band like Everything but the Girl would have put out a dud track like that one, for example?

    I get the opposite effect. I can’t imagine a place that holds less appeal to me unless maybe it’s LA – gratuitous New York references in pop songs sound so contrived and in-crowdy.

    Whaddaya think? That effect even drained the artistic merit from the Ray Charles track!

    The only stand out exception was ‘Angela’, I’ve always loved that one – I have the extended version with all the solos, it’s terrific.

    I liked your comment about Lou Reed. When I hear him these days, I feel like I’m listening to someone reading out street signs, menus and subway tickets.

    It’s OK Major, the next best thing to a wonderful mix is a mix I can love to hate! ;-)

  7. September 17th, 2009 at 19:00 | #7

    Although it’s never specifically mentioned in the song, Chicago’s Saturday In the Park was written about spending a 4th of July in Central Park in NYC. Chicago also recorded the upbeat calypso-esque Another Rainy Day in NYC on Chicago X (although many die-hard Chicago fans consider that album the biggest lemon of the Terry Kath era).

  8. Tanya1976
    September 18th, 2009 at 07:32 | #8

    Is there anyway I can get Angela as a mp3? I love that tune. But, I can’t get a rar file on my computer!!

  9. September 19th, 2009 at 01:30 | #9

    Awesome post, just love the selection. When you have finished with New York how about San Francisco?

    Looking forward to it.

  10. September 19th, 2009 at 12:24 | #10

    Thanks. Frisco will have to wait a bit, I’m afraid,. I’ll have to work myself from the east coast via mid-west (Hello Cleveland!) to the West Coast.

  11. Stuart Basson
    September 20th, 2009 at 21:28 | #11

    Interesting selections, as always. Will Jim Croce’s disillusioned counterpoint to Ray Charles’ song above (in terms of the title at least) “New York’s Not my Home,” get an airing? He went up to make it big and couldn’t get out quickly enough, it seems. Although I don’t think the city gets a name-check in it, his “Box # 10” is driven by the same disappointment.

  12. September 21st, 2009 at 08:57 | #12

    Great call, Stuart; alas I have neither song.

  13. MickeyMo
    September 29th, 2009 at 12:07 | #13

    Great collection! Some stuff I was unfamiliar with, others were being rediscovered. Unlike Chris I actually like the EBTG version of ‘Only Living Boy …’. Oh well, each to their own.

    I ‘refound’ your blog again recently, having lost touch with it after changing PCs so it was great to get reacquainted with it.

    Looking forward to NY vol 2.

    Keep up the good work – I appreciate the soul mixes too.

  14. Norm N. Conquest
    October 14th, 2009 at 00:06 | #14

    “New York’s a Lonely Town” by the Tradewinds. I think Jack Nitsche wrote it. Surfer boy’s parents drag him from California and his woody is covered with snow. A trifle, but wistful.

  15. Randy
    October 14th, 2009 at 05:47 | #15

    They Might Be Giants New York City (cover of a Cub song) is a favorite of mine that you may want to consider.

  16. halfhearteddude
    January 30th, 2013 at 16:58 | #16

    New link is up

  17. Sjef
    February 13th, 2013 at 01:22 | #17

    Thank you so much!
    Very appreciated!

  18. Otis Applepie
    December 18th, 2017 at 06:11 | #18

    Hope the other 4 volumes can be re-upped! Thanks!

  19. January 24th, 2018 at 01:28 | #19

    Great compilation as usual. Another great job. But, and I hesitate to say this, you can’t really have a New York collection with no Billy Joel. He is New York. So I eagerly await #2.

  20. halfhearteddude
    January 24th, 2018 at 18:53 | #20

    I’ll get into a Billy Joel state of mind.

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