Top 10 Rock Songs About New York City
The best songs about New York City tell of a place where you can fulfill your dreams or get eaten alive. Some tracks pay tribute to the wonderful things that NYC has to offer, while other tunes depict its darker side. Ultimate Classic Rock invites you to take a musical trip to the city that never sleeps with the following list of the Top 10 Rock Songs About New York City:
‘Angel of Harlem’
Written as a tribute to legendary blues singer Billie Holiday, 'Angel of Harlem' also pays homage to the Big Apple. In this track off U2's 1988 disc, 'Rattle and Hum,' Bono sings of landing at JFK Airport and experiencing New York City in the wintertime. All the while, he's backed by a full horn section and a catchy guitar riff by the Edge.
‘Safe in New York City’
Released in 2000 as single off AC/DC's 'Stiff Upper Lip' album, 'Safe in New York City' took on a new meaning after the 9/11 attacks the following year. However, in the liner notes to a reissue of 'Stiff Upper Lip,' guitarist Angus Young explains that this song about New York offers listeners a sarcastic look at the unpredictable nature of the city.
’53rd & 3rd’
It's easy to make a whole album out of Ramones songs about New York City, but the one that most captures the hustle and flow of the streets in the '70s is '53rd & 3rd' off the band's 1976 self-titled debut. The song, written by bassist Dee Dee Ramone, deals with a male prostitute who stabs a potential client. It doesn't get much grittier than that.
‘New York Minute’
In this track off Don Henley's 1989 solo disc, 'The End of the Innocence,' the Eagles singer tells a poignant story about how life can change in a moment's notice in the big city. Henley was later joined by his Eagles bandmates for a performance of the song that appears on the group's 1994 live reunion album, 'Hell Freezes Over.'
‘The Only Living Boy in New York’
Simon & Garfunkel
Paul Simon wrote this song when Art Garfunkel delayed the duo's recording sessions for the band's last album, 1970's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' by leaving for Mexico to film his role in the movie 'Catch 22.' In the lyrics, Simon refers to Garfunkel as Tom, a nod to the pair's early days as Tom & Jerry. The tune recently surfaced in a TV commercial for Honda.
‘I’m Waiting for the Man’
In this fuzzed-out rocker off 1967's 'The Velvet Underground & Nico,' frontman Lou Reed sings from the perspective of a “white boy” heading uptown to Harlem to score some drugs from his dealer. David Bowie, who has cited the Velvet Underground as a big influence, performed a live version of 'I'm Waiting for the Man' in '72 that would later appear on the 'Almost Famous' soundtrack.
‘New York Groove’
Ace Frehley scored a hit with 'New York Groove' from his edition of the four Kiss solo albums released simultaneously in 1978. Written by Russ Ballard and originally recorded by the British glam band Hello, the upbeat track describes a carefree night cruising around the Big Apple in a Cadillac. The tune was often performed by Kiss in concert when Frehley was in the band.
The Rolling Stones' 'Shattered' off 1978's 'Some Girls' doesn't paint a pretty picture of New York City in the 1970s. In fact, it points out almost everything that was wrong with the Big Apple at the time — greed, filth, rats, bedbugs and more. But the track's punk-inspired musicality and Mick Jagger's rapping make it one of the Stones' most intriguing songs.
‘New York State of Mind’
Born in the Bronx and raised in Long Island, Billy Joel offers his ode to the Big Apple in 'New York State of Mind.' In the tune, the “Piano Man” describes his love for the city upon returning home from an extended time away. The track wasn't a big hit when it was released as a single off 1976's 'Turnstiles,' but it has since become a favorite with fans in and out of New York.
‘Walk on the Wild Side’
After his run as frontman of the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed scored his biggest hit with 'Walk on the Wild Side' off his second solo disc, 1972's 'Transformer.' The song looks at the eccentric New York experiences of real-life “superstars” from pop artist Andy Warhol's famous studio, the Factory. With a chill vibe, the tune captures New York in all its unconventional glory.