New York City Serenade

Album: The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle (1973)
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Songfacts®:

  • A track from Springsteen's second album, "New York City Serenade" is a disjointed tale of life in New York City; the "serenade" coming from the street musician playing the vibraphone. Many of Springsteen's early songs contain a barrage of characters who travel about New York - in this one you'll find Billy in his Cadillac, the fish lady and the junk man.

    Springsteen would often visit New York City for both work and pleasure, taking in images that later showed up in his lyrics. Since he didn't live there, he could keep a certain detached perspective when he used it as the setting.
  • David Sancious played piano on this track. An original member of the E Street Band, he left after this album to form a jazz group called Tone with drummer Earnest "Boom" Carter. Sancious and Carter played on one last song before they left: "Born To Run."
  • This was the last Springsteen song with a major jazz influence. After David Sancious left the band, his piano was replaced with a second guitar - Steven Van Zandt.
  • Excluding live cuts, this is the longest Springsteen song. It runs 9:53.
  • This evolved out of an early outtake called "Vibes Man," one of the songs Springsteen played at his Columbia Records audition in 1972.
  • Springsteen played this at many of his concerts from 1973-1975. He often changed the arrangement, so live versions often sound very different.
  • In an interview with BBC Radio 4 for their Desert Island Discs series (where artists name the eight records they'd take with them to a deserted island), Springsteen said that there never would have been "New York Serenade" if not for Van Morrison's album Astral Weeks. This came out while discussing the Astral Weeks song "Madame George."

Comments: 9

  • Derek From Nj from Way Out ThereI have read about this song a few places and I feel i must interject...

    One of the biggest misconceptions about this song is in regards to the 'Fish Lady' line. the word fish is not noun, it is a verb. There is no 'Fish Lady'. Billy is telling Jackie to go fishing for tricks. She baits those tenement walls, She won't take corner boys. (they got no money).

    The song is about a pimping, prostitution and doing Heroin.

    Listen to you Junkman
  • Bill from Ridgeland, Mississippimany heroin overtones in this beautiful tune
  • Rick from Worcester MaFor those looking for a live version, he opened in Foxborough with it in 2016. I think his downloads are brucespringsteenlive.net or something like.
  • Thomas from Washington, D.c.Rick from LA - we're up to almost 70 shows now (latest is February 2017) see here: http://www.greasylake.org/songs_record_live_all.php?s_song_title=New+York+City+Serenade&s_keyword=New+York+City+Serenade
  • Kyle from Belleville, CanadaRick from LA, he has done it live a handful of times...most recently was during the Rising tour in 2003.
  • Rick from La, Cahas anyone ever heard him do this live? I think this is the only song off one of his albums that never made it to the stage. And it may also be his most beautiful.
  • Jack from Toronto, CanadaA sad-sack fan am I. Always a Springsteen follower I'd never even heard NYC Serenade until 2007. The guitars are fabulous. It's become my all-time favourite.
  • Chad from Reading, PaThis is one of my favorite Springsteen songs. Sancious was a much better pianist then Bittan. I like Lopez better then Weinberg too. The best version of this song for me is from 7-31-73 in Roslyn, NY. That whole show was brilliant.
  • Bobby from Valley S Tream, NyBRUCE should do this song on the D&D TOUR if i hope he comes to NYC town hall would be good. I dream away
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