New York: Thank You for the Music
My earliest thoughts of America were probably of New York. If I think back, I see Ghostbusters. I see Teenage Mutant Ninja (hero..?) Turtles. I see steaming drain grates and towering skyscrapers. That was America to a little kid from a small town on the northeast English coast. But then, back then, London was pretty exotic.
So anyway, in July 2018, I find myself actually in New York. Yes. I’ve fought off the urge to say it twice. That would be crass. I was actually in New York.
And if I make it there, I’ll “make it anywhere”, right?
Okay, enough. Let’s see how it was…
We actually stayed in New Jersey. In a weirdly named place called Hoboken in an Air B&B. It was actually really cool. We were on a street with a load of bars n restaurants and we had a beautiful view of Manhattan too. We rented a spare room from a cool American couple who brewed coffee for us every morning and were very friendly, but just gave us keys and left us to our own devices.
Air BnB is a great option for New York as we found rooms were far cheaper than on normal booking engines – like it was $100 each for a bunk bed in a dorm room, but we paid $70 for a double room. If you join AirBnB through this link you’ll get £31 of free travel credit for AirBnB stays or tours and we’ll get £15. Win-win!
Our first night involved us looking at the NY skyline through the strangely British drizzle and having a very large starter in a pub.
Then….it was time to ‘be a part of it’ …..
(okay, I’ll stop in a minute)
The next day we headed into the big city. I mean, like, literally the definition of the big city, right? When people say they’re moving to the big city I guess New York is literally the ultimate? Despite living in a much larger city (Shanghai – I hear New York is the Shanghai of the west..?) and perhaps also Bangkok… When I think of big cities, New York figures quite highly. It’s big and it’s tall.
And I’m going to get this out in the open right now. I loved it. I like big cities. I come from, as I said above, a small village by the sea and I spent a lot of my teen years dreaming about big cities and gigs with bands. I love my home, but there was something else to see. I loved New York.
We did 2 whirlwind walking tours on the first day and it made us realise how much stuff had happened there. It’s hard to walk down a street without hearing an anecdote about a Dylan. Be it Bob or Thomas. “Oh, that’s where Jimi Hendrix played….over there Jim Morrison had a wee” etc. Yeah, lots of Dylans and Jims it seems. I guess when Americans visit the UK they’re amazed by the history going back 1000 years. As a Brit visiting New York I was amazed by how much substantial social history had happened on the same streets.
Interested in America’s music history? Check out our post on our trip to Nashville.
Yes, I haven’t said ‘an Englishman in New York’ yet.
We visited Ground Zero. Which was harrowing. It’s one of those places or events where you know where you were, right? Like people talk about the Kennedy assassination. On the 11th of September 2001 I was a Ph.D. student studying insect viruses and on a train on the west coast of Scotland and Kate was on a remote Scottish island studying goats. And that happened. The memorial is moving. I think I’ll just leave it there. See the pics.
Punk Rock Walking Tour
The most epic part of our NY adventure was my birthday. On the 27th of July (add it to your diaries) I turned 39 and Kate marked the event by organizing my first ever punk rock tour of New York. Yes. My first ever. It was perfect.
We were met by a bloke called Bobby Pinn (punk name) from Rock Junket Tours who took us around the best rock areas of the city. Places where the Doors played, where Jimi Hendrix played, where the Sex Pistols played and, ultimately, where The Clash played. It was amazing. Particularly the Clash mural. See it in the pics?
Basically, just out of shot there’s a couple of blokes off their tits and one was wearing a WW1 German army helmet and shouting at our guide about being on the food channel (they mistook him for a TV presenter). The park nearby hung heavy with cannabis smoke.
The tour ended at CBGBs. The cult gig venue – which is now an extremely expensive music shop in a dodgy area. We browsed, bought Bobby’s guide, then left.
…and between you and me and the Staten Island ferry….
We headed from the tour to the Staten Island ferry! Which is free. We’d heard that this was the best way to see that lass holding the ice cream and it was. We picked up a beer at the bar on board (I accidentally got a big can of super-strength lager – well it was my birthday) and watched the freedom lady sail past.
At the end of the journey we were on Staten Island. And we basically just went to the pub. There’s a bar that looks back on Manhatten so we thought it’d be cool to sit there and watch the skyline.
….then all hell broke loose. A storm came in, flood warnings…and Manhatten disappeared behind a wall of grey. It was still cool though. I wondered if we’d have a Cloverfield incident.
So what did we love about New York city? Well, everything is there in the middle. It’s all mixed up. There aren’t special areas. There are cool bars and restaurants right there in the middle of the business district. The sun was shining. The food was from everywhere. The floppy New York pizza was just like in the movies (“Cowabunga!” – Michelangelo). It’s totally understandable that was a melting pot for everything – but mostly music. I think I could happily live in New York. One day, maybe…
“And yeah I’d love to tell you all my problem, I’m not from New York City, I’m from Horden” (adapted from an Arctic Monkeys song by me)
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OMG, I love this article. What a thrill to see NYC through the eyes of all these great songs!! I secretly think that Angel of Harlem, by U2 also belongs on the list 😉
I haven’t been to New York before but would love to visit it only because of well “the big city life” and all the movies, hah. Thanks for this 3-day itinerary I think 3 days are more than enough, for me, to explore the big city. 😉
The songs are now stuck in my head. Love NYC
Love New York too, haven’t been for many years and so need to go back! Great post have pinned!
I enjoyed reading this! It reminded me of my frist time in New York City; the same awe and excitment. I just revisited a few weeks ago, and it all came back, the huge melting pot, the craziness and loveliness of it all. I like how you wrote this from the music perspective you love; I could hear your excitement. Great post! 🙂
Can’t wait to visit New York your blog has got me even more excited
What a great post! We love New York, too, but haven’t taken a music tour yet. Why not? I have no earthly idea, but now this is top of the list for our next visit. We may even look up Bobby Pin (who does look a bit like Food Network’s Guy Fieri). You’ve got us anxious to go back for more!