I'm tryin' to turn a trick
53rd and 3rd
You're the one they never pick
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The streetcorner of 53rd and 3rd, New York City
The Ramones' 1976 "53rd & 3rd" is a song about a male prostitute turning tricks on the street, who apparently killed a john when challenged.
Punk rock is like that. Did you come here for punk rock? Okay, here's your punch in the stomach. Enjoy!
There's a lot of speculation about bassist Dee Dee Ramone, who wrote this song. We know that he was a heroin addict, and that he in fact died from a heroin overdose in 2002 at age 50 - really, quite a long life compared to the typical rock star who rides the horse. We know that Dee Dee himself denied having turned tricks on street corners, ever, but the other band members sort of hinted that he did.
But then consider that Dee Dee Ramone wasn't the most trustworthy witness. His second book, Legend of a Rock Star
, purports to be his autobiographic account of his hectic European tour in the spring of 2001. But it contains a large section in which he claims to have murdered a bodyguard, despite no outside evidence that such an incident ever happened. He also wrote one fiction novel, Chelsea Horror Hotel
, in which he has himself and his girlfriend staying at a hotel room and being visited by the ghosts of punk legends such as Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Jerry Nolan, and Sid Vicious himself.
So what the heck is going on here? Heroin, being an opiate, does tend to give you hallucinations, particularly when you're coming down from it, so that could explain that he thinks he killed somebody. Or he could mean in a metaphoric sense; he committed the Old-Testament "murder in his heart" and sees his hatred as murder. Or maybe it's just a revenge fantasy. Or, what the hell, maybe he did off a couple of blokes. The Ramones are just that bad-ass.
If there was ever a place for such a scene to happen, the corner of 53rd and 3rd Streets in Manhattan is the right place for it. This is one wrong number of a neighborhood. Prostitutes of either sex, along with drug dealers, run rampant in the area. The only comfort there was the St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church, which was originally there, probably offering soup and a cot to weary bums. This is New York at its grittiest, with monolithic skyscraper buildings making windy, dark canyons of the streets and few places for a person to rest.
Life is tough for the street denizens out at night. Even tougher if you're there to perform sexual favors in exchange for a drug fix when you're sweating from withdrawals, and to add to your misery, "you're the one they never pick!"
Oh, one more thing: right after this song was made, Citibank Corporation built their headquarters here, called Citigroup Center. Make of that what you will!
53rd & 3rd Songfacts