My 5 Favourite songs about New York City

Cabs near times square

These aren’t “the best”, just ones I like. And I’m pretty-much ignoring hip-hop/soul here, because that is a real void in my musical knowledge. The impetus was listening to the first one, and thinking about other tracks I keep coming back to.

1. Gil Scott-Heron “New York City”

This album was my intro to Gil Scott-Heron. I’m pretty sure I found it amongst my uncle’s album collection as a kid while visiting. It was on a mix-tape I made from his collection, and I played that cassette until a dying Walkman destroyed nearly a decade later.

2. Cub “New York City”

Vancouver’s own Cub. You may know this song from They Might Be Giants’ cover, but this is the original. It is perfect pop-punk.

3. LCD Soundsystem “New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down”

(NB: pretty sure that’s not an official video, but how could you not love it?) This song is also peak LCD Soundsystem.

4. Lou Reed “Walk on the Wild Side”

Could any list about NYC music not contain a Lou Reed song? I probably could have chosen any number by him. But this, while an obvious choice, is the soundtrack of when I think about the New York that was.

5. Leonard Cohen “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”

Like Lou Reed’s track, this is a hymn to what was, only from the singer’s viewpoint, a leisurely look back to days long gone.

Honourable Mention – Ryan Adams “New York, New York”

This song, with the lyric “hell I still love you New York” was ubiquitous in the wake the of September 11th, 2001 (the video was shot apparently just days before). I had to put it down for a while because of that, but I’ve recently been rediscovering Ryan Adams, and this song along with it.

9 years ago today

Having recently been to New York for the first time since the mid-1990’s, and all the furor over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”, this 9th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center has been on my mind. We went to the Tribute WTC: Visitor Centre while there, and it was hard to walk through for me. I really look forward to returning when the memorial has been built.

9/11 was on a Tuesday. We were living in a loft on Seymour st. Leah came in & woke me up really early – she’d been at the local coffee shop when the first plane hit, and came running back to wake me up & turn on the tv. We watched for several hours, until I went in to work. I remember that not everyone at the office knew about what had happened, so we all huddled around  my computer to pull up the news. I had started the current incarnation of this site just a few days prior, and that day, and for a long time afterward I wrote on and around the topic.

Curiously, what sticks out most for me is not the event, but that evening. I went to SHinDiG, UBC’s annual battle of the bands that is held every Tuesday night in the fall (reminder: it starts again this Tuesday!). Like every week, there was a section in the middle called “Jokes for Beer”, where people tell jokes to win beer. That night (actually, it may have been the following week now that I think about it. But in my memory they’ve become confounded together), someone told perhaps the most tasteless joke ever. Rarely is someone booed at Jokes for Beer, but it happened.

Here is the joke (I warn you now – if you are sensitive about 9/11, this might be upsetting. 9 years on, I find it darkly funny. Back then, I don’t think I even knew how to react – & I have no personal connection to the attacks):

Q: Why do more people like to fly American Airlines?
A: Because they fly right to your office.

I can no longer think about 9/11 without hearing that joke in my head. I think, somewhat curiously, that what made walking through the Tribute center extra difficult for me was that I couldn’t help but hear that over and over in my head. & then when I saw piece of debris from one of the planes alongside the ripped & melted gear of a firefighter who died trying to rescue people in the buildings, I had to leave.

There’s been a number of compelling pieces about 9/11 written today. These three are my favourites: