Part Two of my tribute to songs about New York focuses on rock and popular music. As a “yute” (as Joe Pecsi would say) I spent some time at places like CBGB’s and Max’ Kansas City. A lot of great memories from those days and great nights meeting a very diverse group of artists and spectators alike. From hard-edge, buzzsaw guitar-driven rock, to the birth of punk and art rock bands the City offered it all and usually all at once.
So a few selections from the vault for your enjoyment…ya got a problem wit that?
- “Rockaway Beach” – The Ramones. Gabba gabba hey! The Ramones were synonymous with New York. From Forest Hills, they hit the bars and clubs in Manhattan, most notably CBGB’s, and went international with their fame. And you know “the sun is out and I want some”.
- “Angel of Harlem” – U2. Perhaps adopted sons of New York, Bono and the boys had a big hit with this one back in 1988. An homage to Billie Holiday, the song has the distinctive U2 sound (with a horn section added in).
- “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” – The Beastie Boys. The late Adam “MCA” Yauch brought this together with Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz. Pretty much says it all – just pay attention to the lyrics. That’s Kerry King of Slayer doing the guitar riffs and solo.
- “New York City Serenade” – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. One of my all time favorite songs from Bruce from the 2nd album (The Wild, The Innocent..). Beautiful opening by Roy Bittan reminiscent of Gershwin but from there out it’s all Bruce. The lyric “Together they’re gonna boogaloo down Broadway and come back home with the loot, it’s midnight in Manhattan, this is no time to get cute, it’s a mad dog’s promenade, so walk tall, or baby don’t walk at all. ” just kills me every time.
- “Uptown” – The Crystals. An early one from the NYC girl group that set the standard for girl groups. That’s the incomparable Barbara Alston on lead vocals. Listen closely for the latin-influenced maracas and spanish guitar riffs in the background.
- “Miami 2017” – Billy Joel. One of my favorite BJ tracks it tells the tale of a post-apocalypse New York. A long-time concert favorite at The Garden there’s always a roof-shaking cheer for the line “They sent a carrier out from Norfolk – to pick the Yankees up for free”. Bonus: “New York State of Mind” makes it here too on the same video! This is concert footage from the post 9/11 benefit show.