A Song I Love – New York City Serenade

I have been a Springsteen fan forever and definitely plan on writing two or three posts about him in the not-too-distant future. I’m not quite there yet as I’m thinking about what I want to say and want songs I want to use. And in the process I’ve been going back and listening to a lot of his stuff. And one of the albums I listened to is a gem from my Top Ten List, “The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle.”

As great as his future output would be, for me this album is the essence of Springsteen. I think it’s his jazziest, most romantic album. And this is exemplified nowhere better than in the beautiful song, “New York City Serenade.” It’s the story of Billy and Diamond Jackie in the soft white underbelly of the Big Apple. (That sound in the beginning is pianist David Sancious running a pick over the piano strings).

As the song says:

It’s midnight in Manhattan, this is no time to get cute, it’s a mad dog’s promenade.
So walk tall. Or baby, don’t walk at all.

He just doesn’t write songs like this any more. So if you don’t know this one, suggest putting it on late at night, turn the lights down, grab a glass of wine. And listen. And watch out for your junk man…

Billy, he’s down by the railroad tracks
Sittin’ low in the back seat of his Cadillac
Diamond Jackie, she’s so intact
As she falls so softly beneath him

Jackie’s heels are stacked, Billy’s got cleats on his boots
Together they’re gonna boogaloo down Broadway and come back home with their loot
It’s midnight in Manhattan, this is no time to get cute
It’s a mad dog’s promenade
So walk tall, or baby, don’t walk at all

Fish lady, oh fish lady, fish lady, she baits them tenement walls
She won’t take corner boys, ain’t got no money and they’re so easy
I said, Hey baby, I’m easy won’t you take my hand, waltz with me down Broadway
Oh mama, take my arm and move with me down Broadway, yeah

I’m a young man talkin’ real loud, yeah baby, walkin’ real proud for ya
Ah so shake it away, so shake away your street life, shake away the city life
And hook up to the train
Oh, hook up to the night train
Hook it up, hook up to the, hook up to the train

But I know that she won’t take the train (no she won’t take the train)
No, she won’t take the train (no she won’t take the train)
No, she won’t take the train (no she won’t take the train)

Oh, she won’t take the train (no she won’t take the train)
She’s afraid them tracks are gonna slow her down
And when she turns, this boy’ll be gone
So long
Sometimes you just gotta walk on
Walk

Hey vibes man, hey jazz man, ah play me your serenade
Any deeper blue and you’ll be playin’ in your grave
Save your notes, don’t spend ’em on the blues boy
Save your notes, don’t spend ’em on the darlin’ yearlin’ sharp boy

Straight for the church note ringin’, vibes man sting a trash can
Listen to your junk man
Ah, listen to your junk man
Listen to your junk man
Oh, listen to your junk man

He’s singin’ (singin’)
He’s singin’, (singin’)
He’s singin’ (singin’)
All dressed up in satin, walkin’ past the alley

Singin’
Singin’
Singin’
Singin’
Singin’
Singin’
Singin’ yeah
Singin’ yeah
Oh, yeah
Oooh, ooh, ah yeah

Oh, yeah
Ah, watch out for your junk man
Watch out for your junk man
Watch out for your junk man
Come on girl, watch out
Ah, watch out for your junk man

© Bruce Springsteen 1973

7 thoughts on “A Song I Love – New York City Serenade

  1. Aww geez. I was listening to that album yesterday, and yeah, it’s the absolute perfect closer. After the energy of Rosalita, this song is just glorious. It’s probably his best album, with Born to Run and Born in the USA just behind in my opinion. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Yeah, it’s a beautiful song for sure. It really conveys that late-night Manhattan feel. I believe he put this song together from a couple of other tunes he was working on. Agreed it’s his best album. I wish he would sometimes do another song or two like these.

    As to those other albums, yes both great but I have mixed feelings about “USA.” I’ll talk about that later in one of my Bruce posts.

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  3. Yeah, I was always sceptical as soon as I heard the big loud 80’s synthesizer and those 80’s drums on the title track, and the short poppy nature of the album songs, but I’ts grown on me and I think it’s one of the best true pop albums ever. Also, I find it more uplifiting than ‘Darkness’ or ‘The River’, which are kind of bleak, and my least favourite.

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    1. I think that’s exactly it. A bunch of great songs maybe weighed down by overproduction. As I’ll note in my post on this, it sounds like somebody told Max Weinberg to slam the drums as hard as is humanly possible on every song. So, for example, “Born in the USA” was meant to be more melancholy. In the album incarnation it sounds celebratory. So I vastly prefer the acoustic version which I’ll post. I would love to hear Bruce re-record this album stripped down. “USA” is Bruce’s great songwriting way too much under the influence of Jon Landau’s commercial sensibility. Agree about ‘Darkness’ BTW,. However I listened to “The River” recently and liked it better than i remembered.

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  4. It all started for CB with ‘Rosalita’ and has continued. Read all your pieces on Bruce. Like the personal journey. Hey,he makes good music. I think we are in agreement. You weren’t any where near the Chicken Man when they blew him and his house up were you?

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