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EVERYONE’S YOUR FRIEND IN NEW YORK CITY (3)

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A GUEST POSTING FROM ECHORICH &

JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

The Streets of Your Town

Manhattan seems like a huge place but the actual acreage is minuscule — you’re constantly traversing the same routes. Live there long enough and you establish a regular orbit limited to a couple of square miles that you might not stray from for months at a time. That’s okay: turns out there’s a magic spell, lucky charm and pot of gold hidden every ten steps in the city. For this reason, particular streets, blocks and even corners have more happening than your average American suburb. Also for this reason there are as many songs about single streets as anywhere else in the world. Here are some of our favorites.

1. 14th St. Beat – Sylvain Sylvain.

JTFL: When I finally moved to Gotham it was into a studio apartment at 7 W. 14th Street, just off 5th Ave. (\For those unfamiliar with Manhattan, 14th street runs straight across Greenwich Village, river to river; Fifth Avenue bisects most of the island from the top of Central Park at 110th down to 8th Street. From my front door you could see the Lonestar Cafe on the corner of 13th, with its 30-foot iguana on the roof. (That block was later torn down to make way for the magnificent facilities of The New School). Westward to the corner of 14th and 7th Ave. was The Homestead, an infamous mafia steak house. Cadillacs parked three deep and pinkie rings the size of golf balls on display. If you headed east a few blocks past Union Square to 14th and 3Rd. Ave. you’d find the Palladium, one of the best music venues in the city. (That’s the stage of the Palladium on which Paul Simonon is smashing his bass on the cover of London Calling). I moved in August 1, 1981 and turned 18 two weeks later. It was like going to heaven. Or Oz. Sylvain Sylvain had already written the soundtrack two years earlier.

ER: Sylvain was always my favorite Doll. He always looked the most comfortable in rouge and lipstick and seemed to walk with much more ease in stilettos. This was not only a college radio favorite in 80-81, but crossed over to FM Rock radio a bit. The sound of subway trains pulling into 14th street stations brings back so many memories of Saturdays spent traveling in from Queens and rising from the subterranean other world of NYC Transit to the bright sunshine and ever growing blight that was Union Square back in those days…I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything…

2. 17th St. – Gil Scott-Heron.

JTFL: Still down in the Village. “If you’re looking for excitement you may need only look next door/if you thinking’ bout the Spirit an’ you want to get near it/c’mon c’mon and get down down down. Any questions?

ER: 17th Street on the far Westside is the land of the Fulton Houses and on the Eastside it’s the entrance into Stuyvesant Village. These massive complexes housed families in need of lower income housing, artists, musicians and all the hangers on that The Projects attract to its streets and courtyards. Gil Scott-Heron’s tribute captures the wonderful cultural and artistic mix you could find in these places, the latin, jazz and rock sounds coming from open windows Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Sure, you might take your life in your hands if you didn’t belong and stayed too long, but these places, 40 years later, are still a microcosm of NYC.

3. 53rd & 3rd – Ramones.

JTFL: Here’s the corner where Dee Dee supposedly turned tricks to support his heroin habit. Not sure if that really happened, but the spot was verifiably notorious as the city’s site of male prostitution. Which is weird, come to think of it, because it’s in mid-town — not the west Village which was the epicenter of gay NYC. It’s close to the 59th St. Bridge off ramp so maybe it was easy to get away from? Dunno — I only sell my ass as a lawyer!

ER: A Ramones Classic for me. When I first heard 53rd & 3rd I will admit I didn’t realize it was about hustlers turning tricks on what was NYC’s most notorious Rough Trade pick up location. This is probably one of Ramones most self-deprecating song, and some of Dee Dee’s most infamous lyrics.

4. Avenue B – Major Thinkers.

JTFL: I have a super soft spot in my heart for Avenue B because my band, Chronic Citizens, shared an AWESOME rehearsal space at 4th and B with a bunch of downtown scenesters: Ritual Tension, Film at 11, the Honeymoon Killlers–who would morph into the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion–and the Reverb Motherfuckers. The space was like a submarine: long, narrow and airless, the walls lined to the ceiling with amps and, for no good reason, a poster of Ace Frehley swinging a smoking Les Paul. Before every rehearsal we’d go the bodega on the corner and buy two El Presidente beers for $1 and a string of Santeria beads if we were feeling unlucky. Up the block on the corner of 7th and B the Horseshoe Bar still sits; it was used as a location for the movies ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Five Corners’. (Almost got killed in there once, but that’s another story.) Iggy Pop and Gogol Bordello both have songs called Avenue B, but this track by the unheralded Major Thinkers gets the nod because it hit the clubs in 1981 just when I got there myself. The Thinkers later became Black 47.

ER: The sound of Downtown Manhattan was changing rapidly in 1980 and 1981. Rap, Hardcore, Synth music were all making inroads in what was, for the most part, a really straightforward Rock and Punk scene on the surface. The DIY culture was in full bloom and younger artists and bands began to stretch the boundaries of sounds. Taking a simple drum machine pattern, throwing some layers of polyrhythmic live drums and a bone crushing bass with a Ventures guitar riff and a Terrace Shouting lyric and Major Thinkers had a perfect Pogoing classic on their hands.

5. Avenue A – The Dictators.

JTFL: Yer basic rock ‘n roll from another downtown stalwart, the Dictators. I have an even softer spot for Avenue A because it was the location of my only (modest) musical triumph: a record release party. It’s cool to have played CB’s and the Knitting Factory and everything, but everyone played those clubs at some point. Our gig at the Pyramid Club, on Avenue A and 7th at the southwest corner of Tompkins Square Park, was a different story — coveted Thursday night headline slot, full house, great show, people singing along — we even made money. (Followed by a weird episode in an S&M club, but that’s also another story.) Two weeks later I took the NY bar exam and that was the end of my music career. Two weeks after that the Tompkins Square Riots took place. The cops came in swinging batons, name tags removed and badge numbers covered. I dipped out when the bacon arrived on horseback, but they beat up a bunch of my friends who couldn’t get out fast enough.

ER: Metal Gods in their minds – well certainly in Handsome Dick Manitoba’s mind, and in reality Proto-Punks that had the respect of Rockers and Punks alike when I was growing up in NYC. My favorite Handsome Dick story involves one two many Jack + Cokes and a short staircase down from the VIP Room at Limelight. Missing the first step, he managed to staircase surf down two landings without planting his face on the floor. THAT takes experience.

6. Great Jones Street – Luna.

JTFL: A quieter number by a quiet band about a quiet street. Great Jones is actually 3rd street between Broadway and the Bowery. The term “Jonesing” supposedly comes from this short stretch of turf, which used to be a junkie precinct. That may be an urban legend, although it’s true that Jean-Michel Basquiat OD’ed at number 57, a converted stable owned by Andy Warhol. Across the street at number 54 the Great Jones Cafe is still up and running. It’s just a little block with a lot of character; somehow peaceful and isolated despite sitting between two major North-South throughways. Don Deliilo wrote a novel called Great Jones Street and that’s what Luna’s song is about.

ER: Luna have a knack for taking their brand of Dreampop and infusing it with an arty Downtown NYC vibe that really REALLY has its origins in the sounds of The Velvets. Hell, they even supported the reformed Velvets between their first and second albums. They took it to the next level by having original VU member Sterling Morrison guest on guitar on Great Jones Street. The lyrics of Great Jones Street really speak to the “walking in place” that many artists and musicians find themselves doing when they get to NYC chasing their muse, searching for fortune or fame. But it’s also about how the simple things become so important and desirous when we find love. Setting the piece on the rooftops of Greenwich Village is simply romantic and truly bohemian.

7. St. Marks Place – Earl Slick.

JTFL: St. Marks is another stretch of blocks: 8th Street between 3rd Ave. and Ave. A. It had the best pizza place in lower Manhattan, Sounds record store, the Holiday Lounge, Trash & Vaudeville and countless other hipster shops, bars and tattoo joints. (It’s kind of the equivalent of King’s Road in London.) The cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti shows 96 and 98 St. Marks — Mick Jagger and Peter Tosh are sitting on the stoop of these exact buildings in the video for the Stones’ ‘Waiting on a Friend’. The back cover of the NY Dolls’ first album shows the band standing in front of the Gem Spa at the corner of St. Marks and 2nd Ave. I wonder how many folks recognize that Earl Slick is a NY pun: “earl” would be how you pronounced “oil” in Brooklynese. Frank Madeloni is, in fact, a Brooklyn boy, and made good as one of many guitar heroes that recorded with Bowie. You can hear him giving it the full StationtoStation as he just burns down the lead on this track. He’s joined on vocals by the Motels’ Martha Davis.

ER: Of all the places to hang out and grow up in Lower Manhattan, no other street had the magnetism that St. Mark’s Place did. St. Marks from Cooper Square traveling east was a young teen Punk/New Waver’s Mecca. We prayed in the direction of Trash & Vaudeville Boutique – where I bought my first pair of Doc Martens and a silver shark skin suit to graduate high school, sat on the steps of No. 96-98 St. Mark’s Place making fun of the fact that Led Zeppelin captured the building on the cover of Physical Graffiti – any Punk Teen’s least favorite album (except for maybe Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon). I used to hang around Manic Panic as a 15 year old helping owners Tish and Snooky unpack boxes and set up shelves. My favorite record store was on Second Ave. just around the corner from St. Marks – Freebeing Records. The owner seemed to be the most unapproachable, hardcore, punk/ex-con, but in reality he was a really affable, knowledgeable music lover who seemed to have on Tuesday what was released on Monday in the UK. Like every neighborhood with its own micro-culture, by the late 80’s “high street” stores like The Gap and Crunch Fitness started popping up. But my favorite experience on St. Mark’s Place was a summer afternoon with a few friends. I was walking backwards so I could talk to them about something that had me excited. Oblivious to where I was going, I saw my friends begin to slow down and mouths open as I was still at my walking/talking gait when I suddenly crashed into someone knocking them to the ground. I turned around immediately to find I had just knocked Patti Smith flat on her back. I was frozen, SHE was dazed, and my friends rushed to her aid. She got herself up, literally brushed herself off and walked up to me and said sorry TO ME! I immediately went into an apology babble which I have still not quite lived down and by the end of it all, Patti was asking US what we were up to and where we were going. She told us to walk down to Avenue B to have lunch at a little Polish diner – which we did and thus a legend was written.

8. Ludlow Street – Julian Casablancas.

JTFL: I never understood why The Strokes were seen as rock’s new saviors when they arrived. Their songs are kind of basic and they suck in concert. I do like Casablancas’ voice, however, and he uses it nicely on this track, even if he still hasn’t figured out how to program that sorry drum machine. Ludlow was one of the city’s hippest streets on the lower east side. In the mid-80’s, before the neighborhood became insufferably gentrified, my sister waitressed at The Hat – a Mexican restaurant on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton. She said the yuppies tipped better if you were rude to them. As Soho became more posh, the scene moved further downtown and Ludlow was the new ground zero of an artist’s community (which has since moved to the outer boroughs). I’m not too nostalgic about it, despite the fact that all four of my grandparents were born just blocks away from there. Pretty good panoramic view of the corner of Ludlow and Rivington on the cover of the Beastie Boys’ LP Paul’s Boutique.

ER: Ok, so I have to shake my head here. I am in the “I HATE THE STROKES” camp and I’m probably in an even bigger “No Time For Julian Casablancas” detractor. So let’s talk about Ludlow Street. Of all the streets on the Lower East Side, Ludlow is one that boasts the highest percentage of artists and musicians that I can think of. Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison all lived on Ludlow, recorded on Ludlow as well. A few of Warhol’s Superstars found apartments on Ludlow. It was also the center for New York’s No Wave scene. But what Ludlow is most important for in my mind is the location of Katz’s Deli at the corner of Ludlow and Houston Street. It is the palace of kosher Pastrami and hot dogs. It’s where Sally faked an orgasm for Harry and it’s where I seem to find myself every trip back to NYC.

9. Eighth Avenue – Hospitality.

JTFL: I’m expecting folks won’t be too familiar with newish Brooklyn outfit Hospitality — as this series progresses I hope to introduce music that’s not so well known. I like how Amber Papini’s high, breathy voice floats over the song and I like the pretty acoustic passing chords. In the song she walks 20 blocks to 44th and Eighth Avenue, which would be where Hell’s Kitchen approaches the theater district. She plays cards on the roof (naturally). It’s kind of a sentimental picture that shows how you can be alone and reflective in the middle of all the action.

ER: This track brings back a certain nostalgia I have for “the old” Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen. It was the time before Rudy Giuliani sold off midtown to Disney and the area lost all sense of itself. The Eighth Avenue of my youth was a seedy mix of prostitutes and young hustlers in tight jeans and Converse sneakers. It was a land of seedy dive bars and hole in the wall restaurants. The street was filled with yellow taxis and delivery trucks. Anyone driving up Eighth Avenue in their car was obviously not from NYC. I would eventually end up working on Broadway and 44th Street after college and Eighth Avenue was a bit of an afterwork playground.

10. Slaughter On Tenth Avenue – Mick Ronson.

ER: Tenth Avenue slices Manhattan’s West Side from the Meat Packing District until it morphs into Amsterdam Ave at 59th Street. It is a thoroughfare that is a main artery through Chelsea and Times Square. It is that special mix of tenements, storefront businesses, manufacturers and warehouses that defines many neighborhoods in lower half of Manhattan Island. It can be gritty, soulful, dangerous and familial. It is a perfect slice of New York City. Ronson named his first solo album after the song/dance sequence from the 1930’s On Your Toes. He is faithful to the Richard Rogers original in capturing the allure of the hustle and bustle, the dangers and darkness of this most urban section of NYC. Ronson, with the help of Mike Garson and Trevor Bolder, adds some of the Glam dramatics so deftly provided to David Bowie to this epic instrumental.

JTFL: Agree 100% with ER; 10th Ave. remains one of the most essential NYC north-south strips despite the constantly changing nature of the town. The action in the 1930’s musical concerns a murder on the upper west side. But 10th means something different to me. From the windows of my 11th floor apartment in Chelsea I could see a stretch of disused elevated rail tracks, rusting in place since the 1940’s. Over time that little strip, twenty feet above the street, developed its own ecosystem and wildlife. Somebody smart turned it into The Highline, an open air promenade with a view of the Hudson and now a major city park and tourist attraction, on par with the Arch in Washington Square.

Bonus Tracks:

5th Avenue – Gold Panda.

An electronic number for those in the TnVV crowd that appreciate this sort of thing, like my kids.

M79 – Vampire Weekend.

M79 isn’t a street; it’s a bus route. This is the bus you’d take going back and forth from the upper east side, through Central Park to the upper west side, then back again. Everyone knows that the subway is the fastest way to get around town (Take the ‘A’ Train!). But, after daily journeys crammed into the electric sewer with a million of your sweaty, agitated neighbors, sometimes it’s a luxury to take a little extra time and ride the bus. You get a unique view of the streets, perched up a good six feet off the pavement. The different perspective and more leisurely pace engenders daydreaming, especially if you’re riding through the park, and that’s what’s going on in this tune.

Readers will notice that all of the songs in this post concern the little/big island of Manhattan. ER and I aren’t ignoring NYC’s four other boroughs, just getting ready to sing their songs a little down the road…

Jonny and Echorich

Enjoy.

 

EVERYONE’S YOUR FRIEND IN NEW YORK CITY (2)

24 Comments

A GUEST POSTING FROM ECHORICH &

JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

nyc-image

I’m A Stranger Here Myself

JTFL writes…………

Echorich kicked off this series with a stellar set aptly titled “Coming of Age in NYC.” It was a great survey of the music banging out of the downtown scene that inspired us, performed by our local heroes from the city. This time out it’s a collection of songs about NYC by artists from much farther afield. Natives are proud of the city and we love how people from other places are so taken with it, so impressed by it, and how they see it in so many different ways. This set presents a few of our favorite alien perspectives.

1. Statue of Liberty – XTC

JTFL: TVV readers may remember my fondness for Swindon’s finest (see ICAs 26 and 79). Here the boys serve up a bouncy post-punk tribute to Lady Liberty, who’s been welcoming foreigners to the Big Apple since 1886 from her star-shaped plinth in the harbor. This was the early incarnation of the band, and maybe their first great single. Energy, pace, melody and something clever to say — everything you need to get around town.

ER: I approached XTC from the middle with Drums And Wires and backwards educated myself quickly. White Music fit right in with the emerging New Pop music coming from the likes of Costello, Squeeze, and dare I say even The Police. I remember hearing Statue Of Liberty occasionally on WNYU College Radio even into the early 80’s. I always thought that the Statue Andy is singing about might just be a hooker, or maybe just some latent teenage sexual angst set to music.

2. New Amsterdam – Elvis Costello

JTFL: “A bewildered lad, alone in New York, except for his rhyming dictionary,” sez Elvis’s liner notes. I like the trademark wordplay but I especially love the imagery of an exiled soul, alone with his thoughts down by the docks surrounding the island. People forget that Manhattan is only two miles wide; you’re almost always in view of the East River or the Hudson on the west side. Couldn’t tell you if the docks look like Liverpool or not. One of the few songs on an EC & the Attractions LP on which Elvis played all the instruments himself.

ER: New Amsterdam is one of my all time favorite Costello track and Get Happy! is far and away my favorite EC+A album. Listened to as a New Yorker, New Amsterdam sounded like another world altogether. Alienation can come in many forms – physical and emotional.

3. You Said Something – PJ Harvey

JTFL: This songs captures EXACTLY the vibe of the city at night. There’s not a lot of open space on the ground so it’s common to find yourself up on a roof — my years there were filled with rooftop parties, conversations, fights, trysts and general reflecting. PJ starts out in Brooklyn at 1 in the morning (not sure where she can “see five bridges” — at most she’d be able to see the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and maybe the Queensborough bridges). She gets wistful about her far off homeland, wonders how she arrived in this remarkable place, and drifts with a lover up to the eighth floor of an apartment across the river. Along the way she discovers something important. Perambulant assignations, going where the city will take her. Beautiful.

ER: I come from what are derided by Manhattanites as one of the outer boroughs – Queens in my case. If you lived, worked and played in Manhattan you took a very possessive stance on being a true New Yorker, but the real beauty of New York is to see Manhattan from across the East River in either Queens or Brooklyn. It’s like having a front row seat at an amazing panoramic film. Just watching the lights come on in Manhattan at night you get a sense of the buzz that’s beginning to come from the streets and out of the bars and clubs and restaurants. But if you take the time to cross the East River to Brooklyn or Queens or the Harlem River to Da Bronx, you will find that same twi-night hum that builds into a sort of roar. This is why Doo Wop comes from the streets of Da Bronx and Brooklyn, why Queens gave birth to a Latin Music scene that has been vibrant and colorful for decades and kids could go from practicing 3 chord guitar songs in garages to global recognition via small, dirty Lower East Side Clubs.

4. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues (with Kirsty MacColl)

JTFL: NYC has a deep Irish heritage. St. Patrick’s Day is always a good time, whether you stick around for the parade or not. There used to be a Blarney Stone on every second corner where they sold little glasses of Rheingold for fifty cents (and sometimes corned beef and cabbage if anyone could be bothered to clean the steam table). I knew a guy that tended bar in one of these Irish dives, gathering material for his hopeful career as a writer. I came in one day and asked if he got anything good. He told me he had just now broken up a fight between Bruce and Robert, two decrepit regulars who’d stepped straight out of a James Joyce story. Turns out the pair came to blows over what day of the week it was. “And they were both wrong,” said my friend the bartender. The Pogues and the late Ms. MacColl make the city their own on this classic.

ER: There is no Christmas without Fairytale of New York. While I would never consider myself a big Pogues fan, I am a huge Kirsty MacColl fan and this was just a pairing made in heaven. There will never be another like her and Kirsty is the only one who could put Shane McGowan in his place. Part of growing up in NYC was finding your way to your first bar – for points it was all about how young you could claim to have been when you had your first drink in a bar to be precise – 15 here, by the way… More often than not either the hardest or easiest place to get that first, illicit drink was going to be a neighborhood Irish bar (or “pub” if the place REALLY traded on the Celtic connection.) My first Irish bar was Mullaney’s Bar in Queens. I can remember that the jukebox in that place had every Irish drinking song you could imagine, a few stray Folk songs, Sinatra and Elvis. It was more curiosity piece than an active jukebox. There always seemed to be a Mets game on or Hockey on the the TV.

5. New York Morning – Elbow

JTFL: I’d forgotten all about Elbow, truth be told, until a recent guest post by S-WC found its way onto this blog. It led me to catch up on the band which in turn led to the discovery of this gem. And just like PJ nailed the city at night, Elbow captures the feeling of waking up in the big city, full of promise and possibility: “Oh my God New York can talk/Somewhere in all that talk is all the answers/Everybody owns the great ideas/And it feels like there’s a big one round the corner”.

ER: I can’t profess to be much of an Elbow fan. They seem to wear their Peter Gabriel influence on their sleeve most of the time. New York Morning does carry some really important truths in it. New York is a land of dreams achieved and missed, a place where everyone has a great idea and the opportunity to make it real. But what makes NYC function are the men and women toiling to keep it running.

6. Chelsea Hotel – Lloyd Cole

JTFL: REM recorded ‘First We Take Manhattan’ for the Leonard Cohen tribute album “I’m Your Fan”. But this song from the same LP gets the nod because of its references to the Chelsea, an inimitable city landmark. Home to writers (Dylan Thomas, Burroughs, Sartre), artists (Oldenberg, Mapplethorpe, de Kooning), and countless musicians (Dylan, Lynott, Nico etc). Sid killed Nancy in Room 100. Warhol films were shot there. The Chelsea is on 23rd between 7th and 8th Avenues; I lived on 23rd between 9th and 10th for six years, so I passed it on a daily basis. My sister lived there for a couple of months after some itinerant globetrotting. The lobby was filled with masterpieces by long time resident Larry Rivers and many others who often had to pay their rent with art when they had no cash. The friendly owner, Stanley, never booted anyone out so it was great place to meet someone downtown, or just kick back on a comfy couch surrounded by priceless treasures. Nice version of a NYC song written by a Canadian and performed by a Brit.

ER: Mic drop Jonny – with just a bit of VU feedback…

7. New York City – Cub

JTFL: New York can be a heavy place, what with all the history and money and violence and drugs and Socioeconomic Inequities and everything. But it’s also FUN, immensely FUN, and if you can’t have a good time in New York you’re in a very sorry state. This super-light pop song by Vancouver trio Cub dances around town without a care in the world. It’s all about how much fun it is to come to the city to see the sights and just hang out. (It’s also where this series got its name.) There’s an adorable video that accompanies this song, too. I love the tight girly harmonies. When the band sings “everything looks beautiful when you’re young and pretty” I think about my daughter, already a native after just a month. She sends me texts and photos of what she and her friends are getting up to in the city. I always text back, “have fun, sunshine” but I’m always thinking “I wish I were you.”

ER: Having just gotten back from a short trip to NYC to see The Bunnymen slay the crowd, I can tell you that it is absolutely impossible to get the City out of this New Yorker. Getting out of Laguardia Airport on a sunny, humid and hot Sunday afternoon, I just breathed a huge sigh and smiled all the way to the bus that would take me to the subway into Manhattan. Once in the city, it was like a kid being let into a candy store before all the others. I just kept looking up at the tops of buildings and across the avenues filled with people rushing in that certain New Yorker way from point A to point B. I just jumped into step with the crowd and was on my way.

8. Red Angel Dragnet – The Clash

JTFL: Many Clash fans follow this blog and I bet a few are wondering why this tune and not ‘Gates of the West’? I’ll tell you why: New York doesn’t have a south side. Chicago does; not NYC. I always found Mick Jones singing about “Southside Sue” really pretentious. That was 1978. By the time the band were recording Combat Rock at the end of 1981, they were living at the Iroquois Hotel, two blocks off Times Square. They were deep into the NY scene, having triumphed during their two-week residence at Bonds the previous summer. The “red angels” in the song are The Guardian Angels, a citizens watch group formed in 1979 to help keep the city safe. Strummer was now sporting a mohawk, just like vigilante Travis Bickle in ‘Taxi Driver’, whose lines are repeated in the song by the band’s MC, Kosmo Vinyl. But the Clash weren’t singing about keeping the streets safe from criminals; the song recounts the shooting of one of the Guardian Angels by a Newark police officer. Over here in the states there’s been an epidemic of cops shooting unarmed civilians, usually people of color. Seems like it happens every other day and underlies the increasingly prominent Black Lives Matter movement. Goes to show how on point The Clash were 35 years ago.

ER: Ok, nothing to add here except that this is one of two songs I heard the band listening back to at Electric Lady Studios on a winter afternoon when Kosmo invited a few of us in from the cold. I told Paul Simonon one night in 82 walking from NBC studios after their appearance on Saturday Night Live that I love his bass on this song and he said “one take mate!” Don Letts chimed in walking up behind us “Tell another one Paul…” Magic.

9. New York, New York – Ryan Adams

JTFL: I don’t know if folks overseas are familiar with Ryan Adams. Over here people seem to either love him or hate him. I don’t have an opinion one way or the other but I do love this song. And Mr. Adams’ love for NYC seems genuine. The dude gets around, covering ground from the summer in Alphabet City to the winter on the upper west side. Plus he pronounces “Houston” correctly, which deserves some props.

ER: Ryan Adams was a breath of fresh air at the turn of the Millennium. Sure, he has a sort of Gram Parsons Country/Rock background, but he fell headfirst into New York CIty once he arrived. Along with Jesse Malins he has kept alive a certain poet/folk/rock brand that seems to manage to thrive in NYC.

10. What New York Used To Be – The Kills

JTFL: New York changes really rapidly and it’s easy to get nostalgic about how things were. CBGB’s is now a John Varvatos store. The Meat Packing bays off 7th Avenue, where you’d see cleaver-wielding butchers in white smocks pushing bloody racks of steers, was replaced by an Apple Store and Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen boutiques. Chinatown swarmed across Delancey and shrunk Little Italy. You can even walk down Avenue D after dark! There’s a great website called evgrieve.com where people write in to reminisce and lament that the east village was totally usurped by yuppies. The Kills have no patience for that whining — they just want to get on with it. Either that or get run over because, love it or loathe it, NYC’s still FAST.

ER: I have to agree, New York thrives on its ability to create a kind of personal nostalgia for people, but the city is a living breathing organism that seems to shed its skin like a reptile every decade or so. But part of the excitement about NYC is anticipating what comes next.

Bonus Track: New York Skiffle – Half Man Half Biscuit

JTFL: The Sex Pistols took it to the Dolls in their song “New York”, and Johnny Thunders returned the insult with his track “London Boys”. But HMHB spoof both scenes on this tune. Smart New Yorkers, like smart folks everywhere, know not to take themselves too seriously. For those of us that sometimes forget, this song’s a friendly reminder to cut the crap.

ER: Every time I’ve heard this track I think, damn, John Lennon would have covered that, he would have had to.

Postscript from JTFL:-

The quintessential NYC song by any foreigner is “Shattered” by the Rolling Stones. It’s also got the best lyric: “Go ahead — Bite the Big Apple!” It’s not included here because Echorich and I resolved to limit our posts to music that fits within the parameters of this blog. Plenty of other places on the ‘net to listen to classic rock and read about major label bands. I also sometimes get the sense that liking the Stones may be a bit uncool. But I’m 53 and by definition uncool, so I don’t give a crap what’s cool or not. If I had to pick a single song, by anyone, that sounds like NYC, it would be this one.

JC adds……

Postings like these that make me realise just how lucky I am that there are talented people willing to make the time and expend the energy on being part of this little corner of the internet.  So many of the guest postings are infinitely superior to what you’ll pay good money for out in magazine-world.

Delighted too, that I’m able to publish on a day when the Blue Jays take on those damn Yankees in a vital end-of season series over the next four days….made extra special by the fact that I’m going to be in the stadium watching it all unfold.

Oh, and I couldn’t let JTFL’s postscript just hang there:-

mp3 : Rolling Stones – Shattered

Enjoy.

 

EVERYONE’S YOUR FRIEND IN NEW YORK CITY (1)

28 Comments

A GUEST POSTING FROM ECHORICH &

JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

original

JTFL writes…..

A few weeks back JC ran a post about Television‘s wonderful Marquee Moon, which I described in the comments as a great source of pride to all New Yorkers. JC responded with a challenge: “an ICA that is so NYC rather than coming from any one band or singer….”

Of course that’s a challenge that any native would jump at and, in short order, Echorich chimed in that he was more than prepared to throw down. ER and I began selecting songs and it soon became clear that we were looking at lists of themes, rather than tunes. In other words, multiple NY-related ICA’s. We let JC know that the project was beginning to mushroom into perhaps more than he bargained for. To our delight, our host was more than happy to accommodate. So, we are pleased to present the first installment of an occasional series, EVERYONE’S YOUR FRIEND IN NEW YORK CITY.

Echorich put together “Coming of Age in New York City” as a provisional ICA before he and I pitched the series idea to JC. Subtitled ‘Foundations and Formations’, it’s a perfect introduction to how people of our generation connected music and NYC. I didn’t change a word — just added my own thoughts to ER’s memorable memories.

Step in and stand clear of the closing doors!

1. Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs

ER : The Velvets were known to me at as early an age as 10. Thanks to an older cousin who was quite an important influence on what I listened two in those summers between Elementary School terms, I learned about The Velvets, Bowie, The Stooges – even King Crimson. This song always seemed spooky, dangerous and sexual to my young, innocent ears…little did I know how right I was once I was old enough to really understand the song. I’m sure this is the first song I ever listened to in the dark.

JTFL: I was old enough when I bought the first LP to understand the sexual references of ‘Venus’ but what freaked me out was a song dedicated to smack. Lots of innuendo and camp metaphors in rock music about hard drugs. Not the Velvets: ‘Heroin’ is an overt tribute. The couplet ‘When I’m rushing on my run/And I feel just like Jesus’ son’ is what spooked me.

2. Tuff Darts – All For The Love Of Rock + Roll

ER : Although I never got to see them with Robert Gordon, Tuff Darts were a legendary band in the Downtown Rock Scene having been one of the first bands to gain a following at CBGB’s. Proto-Punk, Punk, New Wave, all those labels fit Tuff Darts and their brand of Garage/Glam Pop. Every time I hear this song I can’t help being transported back to the bowels of CBGB’s and the dark corners of Max’s Kansas City. Glory days…

JTFL: ‘Bowels’ of CBGB’s says it perfectly. CB’s, for all its fame, infamy and significance, was absolutely disgusting.

3. Suicide -Rocket USA

ER : Suicide – another band that remained more Downtown Living Legend for years before I could actually own any of their music. The angry minimal sound and howling vocals made me edgy and anxious as a kid…they still do and I love it. In the late 80s I would have the privilege of meeting and befriending Alan Vega and he was gracious enough to let me get the fawning, fanboy in me out and quickly became one of the most interesting people I have ever had the pleasure to know and share a drink with. Nights hanging out in the lounge at the Gramercy Park Hotel, where he lived, until 7am talking about everything and nothing were just magic.

JTFL: Suicide were more of an academic idea than a band for me. That is, they’re more interesting to talk about (and, apparently, to) than to listen to. Still, if only for the sake of the antagonism between the band and the crowd, Suicide are as important as any of the downtown bands that influenced the following generations.

4. New York Dolls – Jet Boy

ER : More of NYC’s post Velvets legend. The Dolls twisted Glam Rock and The Rolling Stones into what I’ve always thought was the first true Alternative Rock music. They found a way of mixing in Blues/R+B/Glam into something new and raw. Is it any wonder that McLaren would look to The Dolls as the future – even if he was their death. Where most would namecheck Personality Crisis, or Looking For A Kiss or Trash, it was always the speedy, Jet Boy that played over and over in my youthful ears.

JTFL: Guilty; would’ve name-checked Personality Crisis. Saw Johansen and Sylvain join Thunders and Nolan on stage at Irving Plaza and they just KILLED on this song.

5. Television – Foxhole

ER : The impetus for this ICA comes from a challenge that JC put to Jonny TFL after a comment on Television’s Marquee Moon. As I mentioned in my comment on that post, as huge a fan of Television as I am, it’s their follow album and particularly Foxhole which always stirred excitement in me. To this day I have never met anyone who feels the way I do about Television’s sophomore album Adventure, but after Marquee Moon, it was obvious that the band wanted to make a record that was more reflective of how they sounded live and also streamlined their sound. Foxhole is the just the right amount of Rock Song, chaos, tension and energy.

JTFL: Yeah, still guilty as I prefer the earlier album. Although Advernture’s lead track ‘Glory’ might be their best song under 10 minutes.

6. The Heartbreakers – Born To Lose

ER : You might say Ramones were the first NYC Punk band – and many would likely agree, but it was Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers that are that band for me. If they were meant to be the first Downtown NYC Supergroup, they failed miserably – as anyone looking to attain that status really should. Richard Hell was way too much of an imposing factor and Johnny, Jerry and Lure got away from Hell as quickly as they could. L.A.M.F. is a classic of the times and was of course a miserable disaster with critics and sales. I remember my Dad asking me what the hell I was listening to in my bedroom and he picked up the album cover and just laughed knowing exactly what L.A.M.F. meant having grown up on the streets of NYC himself. If it wasn’t a moment of musical bonding, it was on a Dad/Son level. Thanks Johnny…

JTFL: Ha! This NYC ICA project has been hilarious as it turns out Echorich and I overlapped in the city, had mutual friends and numerous other coincidences (he booked the Limelight; my band played there, etc.). This story is another example: I was walking down LaGuardia place in Soho with MY dad when a very strung out Johnny Thunders shuffled by wearing nothing but a pair of jeans and one of those shiny foil blankets you cover shock victims with at accident sites. When I told my dad that he was one of my guitar heroes, he sniffed and said in his Brooklyn accent, “your hero looks like shit.”

7. Patti Smith Group – Because The Night

ER : Patti Smith was kind of hard for me to approach as a teenager. She seemed like a literature student slumming as a Punk Rock Poet to me at first. I grew slowly to understand and appreciate the immensity of her gifts as an artist. My favorite Patti Smith Group album is Wave, hands down. But it was Because The Night from Easter that will always be THE song I go to when I need a Patti Smith fix. It speaks to the rebellious teen that still lives somewhere deep inside me… Yeah, Yeah, Springsteen gets credit for writing it, but it’s Patti’s song and she let him know that from the off.

JTFL: For me it’s Patti’s song ‘Piss Factory’, first heard on a punk compilation when I was in high school in the suburbs. NYC is magic and my only ambition as a kid was to live in Manhattan. The lyric: ‘I’m gonna get our of here/I’m gonna get on that train/I’m gonna go on that train and go to New York City’ said it all: for Patti Smith, for me, and for everyone dreaming of escaping to where the action is.

[Shout out to my daughter and all her friends at 318 E. 15 St. who just moved to the city to start college!]

8. Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

ER : Don’t really have to say too much about Ramones that we all don’t already know. On those first 5 studio albums there isn’t a duff track among the lot. I could include one of a dozen songs that followed me for years growing up. But Sheena Is A Punk Rocker really fits the bill here. Short, sharp and in at under 3 minutes. I always felt some pride that Ramones hailed from Queens, where I grew up. Punk may have played in the Bowery, but it was formed in a garage in Queens.

JTFL: Agree 100%. One of the best things about the Ramones were that they were always those same Queens kids. Whenever you saw them in town (which was all the time since Johnny lived on the next block from me and we all used to drink at Paul’s Lounge on 4th Avenue) they were in their regulation ripped jeans, sneakers and motorcycle jackets. The living blueprint for punk rock!

9. Blondie – X Offender

ER : Another hard one to choose. Blondie remains one of my favorite groups of all time. Sure they have a flawed catalogue of releases – espcially after Eat To The Beat, but I don’t think any of my true favorite bands have a perfect track record of releases for my ears. I could have easily have picked Picture This, Sunday Girl, One Way Or Another, Atomic, Dreaming…but X Offender is an example of what really set Blondie apart at the beginning of their career. That mining of 60’s Girl Group sound was so very important to their early releases, but Blondie refreshed that sound and empowered it. Debbie Harry, to this day is the only female Rock + Roll crush I have had… a flawed Rock Goddess.

JTFL: Flawed? Debbie Harry has no flaws and I’ll love her til the day I die. Although I would have picked ‘Rip Her to Shreds’…

10. Talking Heads – The Book I Read

ER : Here I had to fight with myself a bit to choose THE Talking Heads song that fit best into this ICA. While Psycho Killer is among my all time favorites – #9 on my 50 At 50 playlist – The Book I Read was the song I would play over and over from their debut ’77. It has all you would want from a Talking Heads song – a bit of menace, vocals on the edge, a sweet melody yearning to come out and a rhythm section you could bounce tennis balls off of. I once had the opportunity to speak with David Byrne for a few minutes at a party and while I kept my fanboy gushing in check, I did mention that I had a denim jacket painted with the fuscia/red Talking Heads 77 album cover on the back….He commented that that must have gone down well with all the kids in Zeppelin and Queen jackets when I was in High School. I replied – it had the desired effect – people kept a wide berth. This made David Byrne laugh…score.

JTFL: I would have chosen ‘Found a Job’, a song from 1978 about a couple who is dissatisfied with crap tv so they write and produce a successful show of their own, enlisting friends and family in the process. It’s a quintessential Talking Heads concept that also typifies what’s so great about New York: You don’t like something, so you come up with something better and then make it happen. The city isn’t a place where life slides by you — you’re always in the mix and you have to participate to make it there. First wave punk, especially the English variety, is often seen as nihilistic and negative. Not so for the NYC acts. Talking Heads were positive, productive, inclusive and uplifting with their variety of interesting ideas about ordinary things. Byrne is another one of my heroes for this reason. Of course, Echorich gets to hang out with the guy!

JC adds……

When I threw down this challenge, it was in the hope that one or other of Echorich or Jonny would pick up the gauntlet.  I was delighted not only that they both want to get involved but are doing so in collaboration….despite the fact they only know each other through this blog and have never met!

There’s no question that Part 1 is  a fabulous introduction, reminding us of some of the sensational new music which emerged back in the late 60s and early-mid 70s. The links to the songs are above each of ER’s an JTFL’s paragraphs.

There’s a few more posts in the pipeline in what I think will be an entralling, informative and hugely enjoyable occasional series.