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New York ….please insert here your own cliches about New York…
Music. That’s all it means to me. Its a sound. There have been many great artists from New York whose sound wasn’t particularly defined by the place- Ella Fitzgerald, Carole King, Kiss.… but I’m talking about artists who have that sound that I adore, whose music is particularly defined by New York. At least to me.
So who else didn’t make the cut? It’s a remarkable list, particularly if you include Bruce and his gang just a bus ride away in New Jersey. Then there’s Steely Dan, arguably Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel…. and many who did have the sound: The Velvet Underground- who gave birth to the sound and the attitude; the New York Dolls; Sonic Youth; Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers; Richard Hell (once of Television); The Walkmen and…(sob) Blondie! I know! (The song would’ve been 'Hanging On The Telephone' btw).
All of which means I have chosen 6 songs. So sue me why don’cha? Now most of these will probably seem like obvious choices- but that can’t be helped. They’re the songs that shout ‘New York!’ loudest- with a touching lack of self awareness. That would come later, with the curse of universal success. Lou Reed- Perfect Day 1972
I guess 'Walk On The Wild Side' is more evocative, but when I hear ‘drink Sangria in the park’ I’m in Central Park on a warm day with a warm woman. Could’ve chosen any track from Transformer - produced by David Bowie and the unappreciated genius (Lou Reed’s words and mine) that was Mick Ronson. Patti Smith- Break It Up 1975
The boy looked at Johnny…. Horses , an apocalyptic album. Can’t explain how I feel about this because it’s so central to my life. It’s exposed, raw and wraps you in its uplifting embrace. At it’s damaged heart is 'Land'. But you can’t listen to Land straight off- you have to get there having journeyed through the rest of the album- by which time you’ll have accumulated the tools you need to appreciate it. 'Break It Up' strikes a similar tone and is supposedly based on a dream the author had about Jim Morrison, with whom she shared a devotion to poetry. The Ramones- Blitzkreig Bop 1976
This is how to announce yourself to the world. Lou Reed said that any more than 3 chords and you’re playing jazz. The Ramones meant it. It took me 4 bars to fall in love. A lifetime and I’m still not over it. That iconic album cover that launched a billion T-Shirts. 14 tracks in 29 minutes. Heaven in a half hour- and this: Track 1 Side 1 Television- Venus 1977 'Venus' was the first single release from Marquee Moon - another album that I’d urge you listen to in its entirety. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd took dual guitar playing to a place it had never been before, in the process excavating a niche for themselves that no-one could replicate. Unfortunately, they couldn’t replicate it either and the difficult second album was a disappointment. Talking Heads- Psycho Killer 1977
Being the first TH song I ever heard, it made an immediate impact. These were the darlings of CBGBs- art school rock (c’mon- let’s not call it punk) with David Byrne’s approach individual and intelligent. All this plus former Modern Lovers stalwart Jerry Harrison on keyboards and guitar- and a rhythm section comprised of lovers Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. The Strokes- Last Nite 2001 I never thought I’d have that feeling again- when you hear a song and jump for joy. Rock ’n’ roll is alive and well and living in NYC! That unmistakeable sound was back! The album was released a week later- and on the day of release I drove my family 50 miles from Whitby to York on a pretext just to get my hands on it. I wasn’t disappointed. 11 tracks of no-tricks songs- just guitars, drums and vocals. And the back cover almost rivals the Ramones album- androgynous kids looking like they’ve stumbled out of a club at 5 in the morning unwashed and the worse for wear. Gotta love it. Canute

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