4.11.2005

I Hate New York

With the Strokes, et al, New York has decided that it is the epicenter of rock music. This of course is not news, New York is perpetually deciding that it is the epicenter of anything important. Personally, I don’t think I could take the stress of millions of eyes gazing at me from around the world as I walk into Bleecker Street Records waiting breathlessly to see which album I buy. I guess that quintessential New York smell is the primordial ooze out of which all creativity emerges.

As a brief aside, I grew up in Washington DC, so you can chalk this rant up to an inferiority complex if you want.

As I was thinking through the history of Rock n’ Roll, I noticed that New Yorkers are surprisingly absent from the cannon. From its birth, through today, New Yorkers have had little impact on the genre as a whole. You can start with Elvis, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, or Chuck Berry, but all of the originators of Rock share one thing: They are not from New York. One of the first great songwriters in Rock, Buddy Holly, also managed to originate from somewhere other than the Five Boroughs.

The sixties bring us The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and countless others great artists who were not from New York. To be fair, great New Yorkers like Melanie, John Sebastian, Sha-Na-Na, and Bert Somner did play at Woodstock, and their influence is still felt today.

We also see the rise of soul music in the Sixties. Atlantic Records, Motown, and James Brown and others created some of the most potent, vibrant music in the last 50 years, and again we find “The City” curiously absent.

New Yorkers finally claim their rightful place atop the rock throne in the late 70s. The Talking Heads, The Ramones, Television, and Patti Smith all rightfully deserve a place atop any list of important musicians. From around 1975 to 1978, or so, New York was the center of rock music. It would be foolish to claim otherwise.

After that, we get Athens, GA (REM) and Minneapolis, MN (The Replacements, Husker Du, Prince) dominate the 80s. Everyone knows about Seattle in the early 90s.

I am sure people will say that you have to go to New York to be make it, spewing Frank Sinatra lines at me the whole time. South by Southwest is not in New York, but that is neither here not there.

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