A track from Springsteen's second album, this song 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. Sancious left the band after this album to form a jazz group with E Street drummer Earnest "Boom" Carter.
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