We wanted to kick off 2016 by bringing back our top 10 song request countdowns.
This time, we’re re-printing one of our favorite blogs from the past, and one that seems extra timely this week…
Our top ten Dueling Pianos songs about New York Values:
First, a few ground rules. There are literally THOUSANDS of New York songs, so we had to narrow the field a little. Since our shows are primarily a rock n roll milieu, we excluded the classic show tunes that celebrate the city (NEW YORK, NEW YORK from On the Town, MY TIME OF DAY from Guys & Dolls, LULLABY OF BROADWAY from 42nd Street…) and also the hundreds of other songs where New York is only a brief name-drop (POP MUZIK by M, HEART OF ROCK & ROLL by Huey Lewis & The News)
#10 – ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK – Sting
For all those strangers to our city, and those who feel like strangers in our city, the quintessential fish-out-of-water-in-the-city song. And there’s an awesome drum break. Because why not.
#9 – NO SLEEP TILL BROOKLYN – Beastie Boys
Can there be a New York list without some hip-hop? Hellz no. And no one holds it down for NYC more than the city’s own Beasties. They even updated the song as they matured, with new lyrics replacing the references to “hoes”. Hey, farming’s not for everyone.
#8 – ROCKAWAY BEACH – The Ramones
Can there be a New York list without some punk rock? Hellz no. The three-chord wunderkinds hit with another ode to their favorite boro – Queens. This song, inspired by the Beach Boys, was their biggest charting single. Still, it’s hard to picture them geting any tanner than their pasty, denim-clad selves.
#7 – ARTHUR’S THEME (BEST THAT YOU CAN DO) _ Christopher Cross
The movies have written their love letters to the city that never sleeps, but of all the great movie songs, this one has a special place. For all those out there who have had their easy-listening hearts broken at the piano bar, or had their songs shouted down in favor of another AC/DC or Beyonce’ tune, we’re saving a spot for you, between the moon and New York City.
#6 – TENTH AVENUE FREEZE OUT – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Our neighbor to the south, New Jersey, lends us their native son for this song about the formation of his band. And what, exactly, IS a tenth avenue freeze out? Well, no one really seems to know. Not even Bruce himself. It’s just one of those chicken-egg, riddle of the sphinx-type questions. But the horns sound purty, don’t they?
#5 – WALK ON THE WILD SIDE – Lou Reed
Always exploring the darker side of the urban landscape, Lou Reed tells the story of the transvestites and colorful characters he knew from Andy Warhol’s Factory. And still gives us a singalong hook for the ages…and the colored girls go – doo da doo da doo…
#4 – ON BROADWAY – The Drifters / George Benson
You can always spot a Drifters tune…and it’s not just by the prepositions of the title (seriously, does EVERY song have to be named by where they are located??), but by the silky smooth tracks that transport you back in time to a doo-wop era of streelight serenades. This one’s for the dreamers, the risk-takers, the artists taking a chance to reach the bright lights. Scratch a piano player, you’ll find a kindred spirit. And a rash.
#3 – EMPIRE STATE OF MIND – Jay Z / Alicia Keys
Between the flow, perfectly summing up the NYC experience, and those gorgeous hooks brimming with urban optimism, this track picks up the ball where our Long Island troubador left off. And I dare you to play this one and not have the crowd sing the chorus.
#2 – NEW YORK STATE OF MIND – Billy Joel
And speaking of which, what compendium of NYC music is complete without this song? Encompassing the entire state, but focusing much of the attention on the five boroughs, you’d be hard pressed to get through a night at any piano bar, anywhere, and not see this request pop up. Possibly the classiest song about our town, and its most enduring.
And, as if there was any doubt…
#1 – NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Frank Sinatra / Liza Minnelli
So nice, they named it twice. If you’re not kicklining to this one, you better not have any legs. Otherwise, no excuses. Most NYC sports teams use this as an unofficial anthem, and so do most NYC piano bar patrons when confronted with any songs about Boston…
And in parting, let us add a brief, and a-typical comment. To those out there that would seek to denigrate, alienate or castigate “New York Values” (or whatever that’s supposed to mean), from deep in the heart of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, we’d like to say – L’Chaim.