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The NYC Top 40

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40. “I Love NYC”— Andrew W.K. It’s not even rock and roll, but we like it, sort of.

39. “40 Shades of Blue”— Black 47. Immigrant drinking on the Bowery, circa CBGB. One hundred years earlier: “The Bowery” (“I struck a place that they called a dive / I was in luck to get out alive”), from the 1892 musical A Trip to Chinatown.

38. “New York Skyline”— Garland Jeffreys. One of the best N.Y. homesick songs.

37. “(Dolls) New York”— the Sex Pistols. Also, everything by the New York Dolls.

36. “Meet the Mets.” “Knocking those home runs over the wall” yeah, sure. Still better than the Yankees’ “New York, New York,” by Sinatra.

35. “Detachable Penis”— King Missile. Hard-core life on St. Marks Place. Also see “Holiday Cocktail Lounge” by the Bouncing Souls, “Piss Factory” by Patti Smith.

34. “Brooklyn Bridge”— Frank Sinatra. From It Happened in Brooklyn, with Jimmy Durante. Other bridge songs: “Brooklyn Bridge Blues” by folkie Eric Andersen, “The Bridge (Williamsburg)” by Sonny Rollins, “59th Street Bridge Song” by Simon and Garfunkel.

33. “Life During Wartime”— Talking Heads. “This ain’t no disco . . . This ain’t no Mudd Club.” Same time, Blondie’s “Rip Her to Shreds.” Good N.Y. bitchiness.

32. “A Summer in New York”— El Gran Combo. Massive salsa by the classic Puerto Rican band.

31. “Be My Baby”— the Ronettes. Wall of Sound, wall of beehive hair. Opener for Mean Streets’s untopped soundtrack. Also straight outta the Brill Building: other “hitter girl” special “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las.

30. “Going to New York”— Jimmy Reed. Blues for long car rides, heading home. Leon Thomas’s “Welcome to New York” (“It’s a city full of fun . . . arts and roaches for everyone”) jazz-blues companion.

29. “First We Take Manhattan”— Leonard Cohen. Cohen’s “Suzanne”: the Ur-sixties-girl-in-black-tights folk tune. Dave Von Ronk’s “Georgie on the IRT,” better for boys. Pinko antecedent: Woody Guthrie’s “Talkin’ Subway.”

28. “YMCA”— Village People. Had to have it.

27. “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)”— Steely Dan. Some like “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More.” Bad sneakers and a piña colada by Radio City.

26. “Way Out West on West End Avenue”— as sung by Bobby Short. Cabaret geography. Short also sings “Upper Madison Avenue Blues.”

25. “NYC Ghosts & Flowers”— Sonic Youth. Don’t go above 14th Street, you’ll get a nosebleed.

24. “Crosstown Traffic”— Jimi Hendrix. “You’re just like crosstown traffic.”

23. “Harlem Nocturne”— Earl Bostic. Tops “Rhapsody in Blue” for sheer cheesy bombast, an aural Chester Himes novel.

22. “Slum Goddess of the Lower East Side”— the Fugs. Haute beatniks. Similarly: “Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” by the Magnetic Fields.

21. “Sounds of Silence”— Simon and Garfunkel. Subway walls, tenement halls. Simon catalogue: “Me and Julio,” “The Boxer,” and “Paranoia Blues” (“I got the paranoia blues from knockin’ around in New York City”).

20. Theme from “Car 54 Where Are You.” “Traffic’s backed up to Jackson Heights . . . Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild . . .” Close behind: theme from The Jeffersons: “Movin’ on up . . . to a deluxe apartment in the sky . . .”

19. “Uptown”— the Crystals. Phil Spector protest tune. “Downtown, where everyone’s his boss, he’s a little man . . . uptown, where folks don’t have to pay much rent . . . then he’s tall, he don’t crawl.”

18. “Summer in the City”— Lovin’ Spoonful. “Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting burnt and gritty.”

17. “Pedro Navaja”— Ruben Blades. Spectacular N.Y. salsa as Son of Sam narrative.

16. “Sidewalks of New York”— Mel Tormé, others. “East Side, West Side . . . me and Mamie O’Rourke . . .” Semi-disguised Irish drinking song.

15. “Boy From New York City”— AdLibs. Ooo-ah, ooo-ah, cool, cool kitty, tell us about the boy from New York City.” Black street-corner doo-wop/R&B.

14. “The Wanderer”— Dion and the Belmonts. Italian street-corner doo-wop/R&B. Belmonts named after Belmont Ave., Bronx.

13. “Puttin’ on the Ritz”— Irving Berlin. Can be read as subversive commentary on white-spats Park Avenue, where their “noses are in the air.”

12. “NY State of Mind” — Nas. “I think of crime when I’m in a New York state of mind.” New-school rap, bustin’ caps all over town. Gang Starr’s “New York Strait Talk” (“NY vibe gets your whole body tense . . .”); “City Is Mine,” Jay-Z (“Don’t worry about Brooklyn . . . got her a Chinese manicure hair done by Dominicans”).

11. “A Letter to the New York Post” (“Worst piece of paper on the East Coast”)—Public Enemy. Old-school rap, N.Y. nationalism. “Christmas in Hollis,” Run-DMC; “No Sleep ’Till Brooklyn,” Beastie Boys; and Grandmaster Flash’s “New York, New York” and all-time champion “The Message.”

10. “Scrapple From the Apple”— Charlie Parker. “Jumpin With Symphony Sid,” down at the Royal Roost.

9. “Manhattan”— Rodgers and Hart. “The great big city’s a wondrous toy, just made for a girl and boy.” True.

8. “Up on the Roof”— Ben E. King/the Drifters. “If this world starts getting you down . . .” The promise of freedom from despair, upstairs.

7. “Give My Regards to Broadway”— George M. Cohan. And all those other songs about that street: “Lullabye of Broadway,” “On Broadway,” “45 Minutes From Broadway,” “Boogaloo Down Broadway,” “Funky Broadway,” “There’s a Broken Heart for Every Light on Broadway.”

6. “Walk on the Wild Side/Waiting for My Man”— Lou Reed/The Velvet Underground. “Up to Lexington one-two-five,” that New York telephone conversation rattling in our heads.

5. “Down in the Depths (on the 90th Floor)”— Cole Porter says, “I happen to like New York.” So do we.

4. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”— Bob Dylan. Only line in the song about the city, but it is the line: “I’m going back to New York City, I do believe I’ve had enough.”

3. “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”— the Ramones. “Well, New York City really has it all, oh, yeah.” Could have said 53rd and Third, could have said them all.

2. “Take the A Train”— Duke Ellington. Fastest way to Harlem, fastest way to Heaven.

1. “New York, New York” (It’s a wonderful town). “The Bronx is up, the Battery’s down.” Leonard Bernstein, Comden and Green: And even swells like them rode “in a hole in the ground.”


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