I can never imagine travel without a soundtrack in my head and in my ears. It’s all part of evoking that sense of place and time that makes the journey. I bet I can’t say Paris or New York without a few earworms sneaking out of the corner and teasing you. So making a playlist sets up the sense of anticipation for the trip.
What Goes In a playlist
For me, playlists come together for a variety of reasons. There’s the music that is *of* the place. In New York, that’s the sounds that spilled from Studio 54 and CBGBs and out of the Bowery. Then there are the tracks inspired by the place and referencing its vibe. You’ll hear music while you are there that will always and forever evoke that place for you. Mash all that together, and it might make no sense to anyone other than you, but regardless, it’ll be the soundtrack of that place.
New York Playlist
Here’s my playlist for New York
The Ramones: Rockaway Beach
1-2-3-4 I only wish I had ever been as cool as The Ramones. Off the album Rocket to Russia from 1977, it’s a voyage to gum-smacking escapism with a side of guitar thrash.
Velvet Underground: I’m Waiting For The Man
Oppressive, subversive, blurred and dangerous. Here’s New York unsanitised, full of unsatisfied wants, and ready to consume you.
Lou Reed: Perfect Day
Produced by Bowie and Ronson, this shows the soft underbelly of the city, with a hint of Reed’s origins singing DooWop. But there’s still a hint of menace. “You’re going to reap just what you sow.”
Talking Heads: Psycho Killer
One of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. Byrne said he imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman ballad (the song started out as a ballad), then picked up one of the best bass lines ever.
Television: Marquee Moon
Influenced by the Velvet Underground – hey, who wasn’t? – and surf punk, this is a gloriously melodic thrash. Just wait for that…..”Hesitating”.
New York Dolls: Jet Boy
“Jet Boy stole my baby.” Another fab thrash around the early 70s. If you can, check out the Old Grey Whistle Test live performance.
Graham Parker and The Rumour: New York Shuffle
Later transformed live as a true slow shuffle, this one hurtles at breakneck speed through this city. According to GP himself, the Rumour used to compete to see how fast they could play this one.
Blondie: One Way Or Another
Off their third album Parallel Lines, this one oozes sass: “a slip of the lip or another”. I was 15 when this landed, and I so wanted to be Debbie Harry. Still do.
Lovin Spoonful: Summer In The City
You can almost see the streets shimmer in this one. Halcyon days, with a hint of grit, and some glorious key changes.
Sylvester: (You Make Me Feel) Mighty Real
Channeling the Studio 54 vibe, this used electronic instrumentation ahead of its time and went on to influence Blue Monday in the 80s. More summer happy times, and great memories of the city.