New York City Serenade

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

Songfacts®:

  • 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."

Comments: 8

  • 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
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Album Cover InspirationsSong Writing

Some album art was at least "inspired" by others. A look at some very similar covers.

Dexys (Kevin Rowland and Jim Paterson)Songwriter Interviews

"Come On Eileen" was a colossal '80s hit, but the band - far more appreciated in their native UK than stateside - released just three albums before their split. Now, Dexys is back.

Tony Joe WhiteSongwriter Interviews

The writer of "Rainy Night in Georgia" and "Polk Salad Annie" explains how he cooks up his Louisiana swamp rock.

Tom Johnston from The Doobie BrothersSongwriter Interviews

The Doobies guitarist and lead singer, Tom wrote the classics "Listen To The Music," "Long Train Runnin'" and "China Grove."

Chris Frantz - "Genius of Love"They're Playing My Song

Chris and his wife Tina were the rhythm section for Talking Heads when they formed The Tom Tom Club. "Genius of Love" was their blockbuster, but David Byrne only mentioned it once.

Who's Johnny, And Why Does He Show Up In So Many SongsSong Writing

For songwriters, Johnny represents the American man. He has been angry, cool, magic, a rebel and, of course, marching home.