American City Suite

Album: A Song or Two (1972)
Charted: 27


  • Cashman & West were Terry Cashman and Tommy West. Cashman wrote it about his home town of New York City. In our interview with Terry Cashman, he told us: "It was actually four songs strung together as a suite. Tommy and I signed as an act, Cashman & West, with ABC Dunhill. We had written a number of songs, but I really wanted to do something that would be special for the album. And it was a very sad time for me. A lot of my friends were leaving the city and going off, getting married, and you know, things were changing. I was 30 years old, and New York where I had grown up all my life was really deteriorating. It was a very bad time financially, and it was a time of turmoil and of racial strife. It looked like the city was gonna collapse. This great place where I had grown up and enjoyed so many friendships and so many good times - the city that I love - was actually dying. I was going into our office the next day, and I said to Tommy, 'I had this thought about New York in particular, but it's really happening to all the Eastern cities. They're decaying and white people are moving out of the cities and going to the suburbs. There are only very rich people and very poor people in the cities, and homelessness.' We started talking about the whole phenomenon, and we came up with this idea to do a song about how it was, which was the first movement of the first song of the suite was called, 'Sweet City Song,' and it was very happy, it was about growing up in a city where everyone got along and it was fun to be there - rock and roll was in the air. And then tracing that through, going away to school and coming back and seeing that things had changed, and then the third movement is an up-tempo song about how things were at that particular time as opposed to ten years before. And then it goes into 'A Friend Is Dying,' which is the last movement of 'American City Suite,' which is about the city dying. And that's the way it seemed to us at the time. That it was not only New York City, but all the Eastern industrial cities were having the same problems."
  • The four songs that make up the Suite are:
    "Sweet City Song," "Hello Jack," "All Around The Town," "A Friend Is Dying."
  • Cashman and West were Jim Croce's producers they had recorded his album You Don't Mess Around With Jim, but couldn't get any record companies to sign Croce and release it. This song changed all that. Says Cashman: "When we started recording 'American City Suite,' ABC out in California became so excited about Cashman & West as an act that they listened to us about Jim Croce. They started playing 'You Don't Mess Around With Jim' and 'Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)' for various people out there, and all of a sudden they said, 'Hey, this is really good.' (laughs) And you know, without all that happening, nobody would have ever heard of Jim Croce."
  • This is an unusually long song, and there was some concern about getting radio stations to play it. Says Cashman: "At that time there was 'Nights in White Satin' and 'Papa Was A Rollin' Stone,' there were other records that were being played by AM radio, because they were trying to be like FM. FM had become so popular that AM was loosening the restrictions on only playing 3-minute records. But I think the full version is almost 12 minutes, and when they put out the single it was about 7 minutes."

Comments: 6

  • Dog Mother from TexasI have this album, even though I have never lived anywhere near The Big Apple, but it seems history repeats itself as it is dying now, and this time it might be terminal! RIP
  • AnonymousJust working from home during the COVID-19 listening to A Song Or Two one of my favorite albums (LPs) since the 70's. American City Suite has many points that fit the situation 50 years later.
  • Jbg from New York AreaTo "Ted" in Phoenix, I have the 10:49 second version on my hard drive. If someone is interested email me at with subject line "American City Suite" or "Cashman & West."

    To John in Monticello "the Suite haunted me in 1972 and over the years" as well for multiple reasons. One was the obvious. In 1972 I was a 15 year old New Yorker (well the suburbs). I always loved New York City. While this was before the fiscal crisis, which erupted in mid-1974 and peaked late in 1975 (remember Ford to City, Drop Dead?) NYC was clearly falling apart. Subways and large parts of the city were becoming downright dangerous. Racial tensions, exacerbated by the Forest Hills controversy were escalating. Mayor Lindsay was becoming very unpopular.

    And a personal reason as well; I first listed to the song earlier in 1972. On December 15, 1972 my mother told me that my father's cancer was terminal. He died on January 5, 1973. When I played a copy that I downloaded from reel to reel, my mother said it was "too sad" to listen to. I asked "why" and she referred to my father's then-recent death. I responded "two things, he's not dying, he's dead, and it's about New York City, not Jerry (last name omitted)." Nevertheless my father's death was forever intertwined with that song, though I still play it in my car rather often.

    To Steve - Whittier, CA, isn't Don McLean's American Pie in the "record" record length (pun alert) category?
  • Steve from Whittier, CaI'm listening to it now. "Papa Was.." (almost 7:00 as a single) on the album also clocks in @over 11 minutes (11:48 to be precise!)..but I doubt that "American City Suite" was OFFICIALLY a 7:48 single..isn't Richard Harri's "MacArthur Park" STILL the record(a-HEM! Pun alert) holder (with Frampton's edited down 7:19 "Do ya Feel.." the second longest-that one is the longest so far here..14:18, exactly 7 minutes long. Of course, others only 3 minutes on single ("In a Gadda da BVida","Get Ready","Autobahn", and the daddy of all "Tubular Bells (Both Pts)" of much shorter singles than the ones I started out and that were mentioned above from 1972 are all much longer
  • John from Monticello, FlBeing a former New Yorker, the Suite haunted me in 1972 and over the years. The songs were pertinent and poignant then (and still are). I'm glad I was able find and download the orginal suite (10'49") in MP3 format from for 99c: Original vinyl albums are collectors item and quite expensive.
  • Ted from Phoenix, AzTo edit this song down to its single length of just over 8 minutes, the entirety of the 2nd song of the suite, "Hello, Jack," was removed along with some other edits. The single mix of the song can be found on a couple of CD collections, but I believe the only place you can hear the entire 11-minute suite is on the original vinyl album.
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