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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

Welcome to New York - it's a new soundtrack - my favourite songs by NYC bands or about the Big Apple

So, I'm back from a marvellous week in NYC, visiting my splendid friends Clare and Paul, seeing bands (Depeche Mode, Ben and Ian from Gomez and M. Ward) plus a play, a visit to MOMA and a fantastic walking tour...and of course, we've had the odd beer or two...

So all this has had me thinking about my favourite music from my second favourite city in the world (London, my home, wins hands down still, no matter how fab it is there). Before I flew over, one of my colleagues, the committed Swiftie, was telling me that Taylor's Welcome To New York is the perfect soundtrack to my trip. Having listened, I would politely disagree (it's ok, but she has better songs, and so does New York).

I also did the fantastic The Birth Of Punk walking tour, organised by Jesse Rifkin from Walk On The Wild Side. That took me on a two hour trip around the scenes and locations that hosted the early formation of NYC's punk scene. Jesse is a punk historian, explaining the happenstance that led to a music community coming together that still influences modern music 50+ years later.

I'd recommend the tour if you are over - Jesse is engaging, knowledgeable and patient with our questions, though he wouldn't tell us what band he was in (I looked it up Jesse, will now try and dig you out on YouTube!). I also, quite spectacularly weirdly, bumped into a guy from Manchester I know through work on the same tour. The odds of that happening must be huge...(thanks for the beer Mike, and lovely to meet Kerry).

That tour has set me off listening to New York Dolls, Velvets, Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, The Feelies, and more. So, here are the songs that I think of when I think of New York...when you read this, I expect howls of "how on earth did he leave that track out" or "why on EARTH would he include that???". Plus there will be the inevitable snobbery, the geek who will ask why I left off some obscure b-side I could never have heard of.

But these are my choices...and whilst I love a bit of Frank Sinatra, I have not included his theme for this great city....too many weddings closed with it in the 70s to bear listening to it again!

1. Rhapsody In Blue - New York Philharmonic Orchestra

Woody Allen is a difficult figure these days, with serious allegations made against him versus his own declarations of innocence and various people own all sides speaking for and against him. But if you can separate that from his art, many of his films were magnificent and Manhattan is one of his best. I love the use of this Gershwin piece as the film opens and Woody sets the scene:

"Chapter one - He adored New York City. He idolised it all out of proportion. Uh, no. Make that he romanticised it all out of proportion. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. Uh… no. Let me start this over....

This is New York to me in one song - cool, stylish, epic, BIG.

2. The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness - The Feelies

Wildly different to track one, but strangely appropriate, given the 1st songs connection to Woody Allen and this song's title....I love this band, the whole album is jittery and amateur in feel, but it's great - less edgy, more on the edge....

3. 12:51 - The Strokes

4. See No Evil - Television

It's taken me years to like Television - they just didn't click for me, but then something changed. I can hear the influence of this track on some Lloyd Cole, The Strokes and many more. Given they were the house band at the CBGBs, I suspect they saw a lot of evil in their time...

5. Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

6. Pow - Beastie Boys

I was never one for Beastie Boys' shouty hip-hop, but occasionally knocked out brilliant tunes that are irresistible. This sounds like the soundtrack to a particularly cool episode of Starsky & Hutch...

7. The Good Thing - Talking Heads

Their second album, More Songs About Food And Buildings remains my favourite - not the coolest album, but it;'s the one when they really find their feet, and there's much to love on it.

8. X-Offender - Blondie

Blondie = punk rock + The Ronettes. Awesome.

9. A-Punk - Vampire Weekend

Perky, relentless, impossible to ignore, a little like the City.

10. Hard To Explain - The Strokes

11. Evil - Interpol

New York does goth.

12. Judy Is A Punk - Ramones

The Status Quo of NYC punk, but that's no bad thing.

13. One Way Or Another - Blondie

14. Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi

Not cool, but this is awesome. Anyone who argues is lying.

15. Personality Crisis - New York Dolls

16. Incinerate - Sonic Youth

17. I Don't Know - Beastie Boys (with Miho Hatori)

18. Naked Eye - Luscious Jackson

19. Rock & Roll - The Velvet Underground

Lou's coolest pop song.

20. Kool Thing - Sonic Youth

A feminist anthem.

21. Empire State Of Mind (Part II) Broken Down - Alicia Keys

Yes, I know everyone like's the Jay Z song, but this sequel is far better...

22. The Odd Couple Main Theme - Neal Hefti

Mrs JO'B tells me that humming this song can get rid of any irritating earworm. She's right too.

23. The Only Living Boy In New York - Simon & Garfunkel

24. Chelsea Hotel #2 - Leonard Cohen

"Givin' me head, on an unmade bed" - he sure could paint a picture, could Len.

25. Math Wiz - Luna

26. What Do You Know About Love? - Lloyd Cole

Ok, he's from Derbyshire, but when going to New York was a daydream for me, his debut solo album seemed infused with NYC living (he'd moved there after the end of The Commotions). This song's reference to Bleecker Street made want to go there, it all sounded so romantic.

27. I'm Waiting For My Man - The Velvet Underground & Nico

28. Gloria: In Excelsis Deo - Patti Smith

29. Breakin' My Heart - Tom Verlaine

The Blue Aeroplanes have ended every gig they have ever played, covering this song by Television's Tom Verlaine.

30. New York - St Vincent

31. Across 110th Street - Bobby Womack

32. Get innocuous! - LCD Soundsystem

33. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - Gil-Scott Heron

34. It's Tricky - Run DMC

35. The Message - Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

36. Found A Job - Talking Heads

37. Native New Yorker - Odyssey

Everyone likes this - again, like Bon Jovi, if they say they don't, they're lying...

38. Good Times - Chic

Studio 54 classic.

39. Anything Goes - Tony Bennett and Count Basie

40. Living For The City - Stevie Wonder

41. Walk On The Wild Side - Lou Reed

Probably the only song I really needed to list here, to be honest.

42. Queen Bitch - David Bowie

David's ode to the Velvets.

43. The Rat - The Walkmen

44. New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down - LCD Sundsystem

The song is wonderful, but the Kermit The Frog video is inspired.

45. Fairytale Of New York - The Pogues, featuring Kirsty MacColl

I don't think there actually is or was an NYPD Choir, which is such a shame!

Obviously, Sting's rather irritating Englishman In New York was never in the running...anyway, that''s my list, feel free to berate me in the comments or suggest songs I have omitted / forgotten.

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x

1 Comment

victoria whitton
victoria whitton
Oct 29, 2023

You missed 14th street by Rufus Wainwright

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