NEW YORK CITY SERENADE

Album version

Billy, he's down by the railroad tracks
Sitting low in the back seat of his Cadillac
Diamond Jackie, she's so intact
And 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 the 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, they ain't got no money, and they're so easy
I said, "Hey, babe, ah, baby, won't you take my hand, waltz with me down Broadway"
Whoa, mama, take my arm and move with me down Broadway, yeah
I'm a young man, I'm talkin' real loud, yeah, baby, walk it real proud for you
Ah, so shake it away, so shake away your street life, shake away the city life
And hook up to the train, ah, hook up to the night train
Ah, 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
Oh, 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 on

Hey, vibes man, hey, jazz man, ah, play me a serenade
Any deeper blue, 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 from the church note ringin', vibes man sting a trash can
Listen to your junkman
Ah, listen to your junkman
Listen to your junkman
Oh, listen to your junkman
He's singin' (singin')
He's singin' (singin')
He's singin' (singin')
All dressed up in satin, walkin' down the alley (singin')
Singin', singin', sing, yeah, sing, yeah, singin', singin', singin', yeah, sing, yeah
(Singin', singin', singin') Ooh, ooh, ooh, oh, yeah
(Singin', singin', singin') Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, oh, yeah
Ah, shake it, downtown, watch it, oh, watch out for your junkman
Shake it, watch out, bah, ah, ah, watch out for your junkman
Ah, shake that guitar, shake that damn guitar, ah, watch out for your junkman
Ah, shake, talkin' 'bout it, ah, ah, come on, little girl
Watch out
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Oh, ah, yeah
Oh, huh, oh, huh
Shake that damn guitar
Ah, watch out for your junkman
Oh, yeah
Oh, yeah
Watch out for your junkman
Uh, huh, uh, uh
Uh, uh, huh, huh, huh
Watch out for your junkman
Oh, watch out for your junkman


Page last updated: 27 Feb 2014

Intro

Music and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen, NEW YORK CITY SERENADE is the seventh (and closing) track on his 1973 album The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle. It is one of Springsteen's lengthiest studio tracks, clocking at 9:55.

The above lyrics are for Springsteen's studio version of NEW YORK CITY SERENADE as released on The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle.

Composition and Recording

Bruce Springsteen wrote NEW YORK CITY SERENADE in June or early July 1973. He created it by merging his early 1972 composition VIBES MAN and his early 1973 composition NEW YORK SONG. NEW YORK CITY SERENADE was recorded during the early part of the second phase of The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle recording sessions (see below section).

The band line-up on this track is Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, Danni Federici, Garry Tallent, Vini Lopez, and David Sancious, plus Richard Blackwell on conga. The track, as well as the whole album, was recorded at Sound Studios in Blauvelt, NY, and produced by Mike Appel and Jimmy Cretecos.

To reach the desired sound effect, Richard Blackwell licked his finger and rubbed it across the top of the conga. A string section was not used on the studio recording of NEW YORK CITY SERENADE. Instead, David Sancious, who's credited for "string arrangement" on the track, used a Mellotron that the band rented from Carroll Music in Manhattan. Vini Lopez provided backing vocals, clapping (as did whoever was in the studio), played tambourine, triangle, and conga. "When the boys started to record this song, they found that the timing was off," Lopez explained. "So they put me with a conga drum under a foot of padding so the sound wouldn't be picked up by the other instrument mikes. I was the click track. As you can hear, the sound of the conga did bleed into everything else. They couldn't get it out."

According to Albee Tellone, sound manager on Springsteen's road crew from November 1972 to December 1973, Sancious "pieced together [the piano] intro out of stuff he learned on the way up. He was classically trained at some point of his life but he liked to play jazz and blues. You can hear how he combined a well known classical piece with some bluesy piano riffs sprinkled with jazz chords. He starts out strumming the piano strings with a guitar pick while holding down chords with his left hand. I watched him do it in the studio and on stage." He goes on to say that "Bruce admired David's ability so much that he allowed him a ton of creative room in that band. The two of them rehearsed separately from the rest of the band in David's living room on his piano." Vini Lopez recalled that "David came up with the idea for that [piano] intro. Hold the notes down on the keyboard then strum the strings." Sancious would do the same when playing the song live on tour.

The original recording of NEW YORK CITY SERENADE lacked strings, group vocals, and Richard Blackwell's conga. See the original studio version for more details.

The lyric "Billy's got cleats on his boots" is similar to one used in JESSE.

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle is Bruce Springsteen's second studio album. It was recorded between mid-May 1973 and mid-September 1973 at 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, NY. Studio time was slotted in during various itinerary breaks in the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Tour, but recording sessions dragged on much longer than originally anticipated and this eventually caused some gig rescheduling and cancellations during the period from July to September 1973.

The album's recording sessions can be split into distinct phases:

  • The first phase of sessions took place on 15-22 May and 17-20 June, and featured the then-touring line-up of Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, Garry Tallent, and Vini Lopez. Neither David Sancious nor any other musicians were involved in these initial sessions.
  • The second phase of sessions took place on 26 June-02 July, 11-16 July, 04-12 August, and 10-25 September, and included all of the above-mentioned musicians, plus new E Street Band member David Sancious (who joined in on 22 June), as well as niche session contributions by Suki Lahav on vocals, Richard Blackwell on congas and percussion, and Albee Tellone on baritone sax.

Most of the basic ensemble recording of The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle emanates from the first phase of sessions, prior to the arrival of David Sancious to the sessions on 22 Jun 1973. Sancious verified in a late seventies interview with Thunder Road magazine that most of the session songs had already been recorded (as basic tracks) by the time he joined. He then overdubbed his parts onto these recordings. THE E STREET SHUFFLE is an exception, which was written after Sancious became a member of the band. The latter phase of the sessions involved embellishing additional "frills" instrumentation, vocals, and experimenting with different mixes. No audio evidence has yet emerged that any of the basic recordings of were re-recorded from scratch with Sancious. Indeed, one of the most noteworthy aspects to the audio evidence that has emerged from the The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle recording sessions is that there is not one genuine alternate take to be found – all song recording variations are merely alternate mixes of the same basic recording.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge/reduce artwork]

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle was produced by Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos and engineered by Louis Lahav. It features 7 new Springsteen compositions and clocks at 46:47. It was commercially released on 05 Nov 1973.

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
side 1 track list (vinyl LP format):

  1. THE E STREET SHUFFLE
  2. 4TH OF JULY, ASBURY PARK (SANDY)
  3. KITTY'S BACK
  4. WILD BILLY'S CIRCUS STORY

The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle
side 2 track list (vinyl LP format):

  1. INCIDENT ON 57TH STREET
  2. ROSALITA (COME OUT TONIGHT)
  3. NEW YORK CITY SERENADE

Other Official Releases

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE can also be found on two Bruce Springsteen promo-only samplers.


Bruce Springsteen -- Last American Hero From Asbury Park, N.J.

LP – CBS/Sony (YAPC 95) – Japan, 1978

Japan-only promotional LP sampler issued to promote Springsteen's fourth album Darkness On The Edge Of Town, though strangely including tracks from his first three albums only. This is one of the rarest Springsteen records ever.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band -- Ballads Vol. 1 (1973 - 1982)

CD-R – Sony (no catalogue number) – Japan, 2005

Japan-only promotional "Digest" CDR advance sampler tying in with the release of the first six Japanese 2005 "mini-LP"-style Springsteen CD album reissues. This disc comes in a plain slimline jewel case with no artwork.

Live History

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE is known to have been performed at least 5 times during the Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Tour. Very little is known about the 1972 and 1973 shows, and therefore, the song must've been played on some more dates. On this tour, the song was played in a full-band, album-esque version with early/developing lyrics and featured David Sancious playing the string part on a rented Mellotron (see the live 23 Jul 1973 (early show) version and live 31 Jul 1973 (late show) version).

[Click here to display/hide detailed known Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Tour performances list]

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE is known to have been performed at least 52 times during The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle Tour. Some of that period's setlists are incomplete or unknown, and therefore, the song must have been played on some more dates. Between October 1973 and February 1974, the song featured David Sancious on piano (including the introduction, which over the course of the tour became more and more of an improvisational vehicle for Sancious) and Vini Lopez on drums and was played in a full-band, album-esque arrangement (see the live 17 Nov 1973 version and the live 06 Jan 1974 version). Between March and August 1974, the song featured David Sancious on piano (including the introduction) and Ernest "Boom" Carter on drums and was played first in a more acoustic-oriented partial-band arrangement (see the live 03 Mar 1974 version) and then gradually evolved (see the live 09 May 1974 version) into an extended arrangement with the "slip away" coda (see the live 13 Jul 1974 version). In September 1974, the song featured Roy Bittan on piano and Max Weinberg on drums (only one such performance is know, but no audio is in circulation). Between October 1974 and March 1975, the song featured Roy Bittan on piano, Max Weinberg on drums, and Suki Lahav on violin, and was played in a majestic extended full-band arrangement with the "slip away" coda and a full-band, violin-led introduction (see the live 29 Oct 1974 version and the live 05 Feb 1975 version).

[Click here to display/hide detailed known The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle Tour performances list]

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE is known to have been performed at least 12 times during the Born To Run Tour: 12 times during the 1st leg (73 know dates / 81 known shows, between July and December 1975) and zero times during the 2nd leg (35 know dates, between March and May 1976). Some of that period's setlists are incomplete or unknown, and therefore, the song may have been played on some more dates during the 1st leg of the Born To Run Tour. On this tour, the song was played in a majestic full band arrangement much like the one played at the end of The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle Tour, but without violin, featuring the "slip away" coda and a full band introduction (see the live 22 Jul 1975 version).

[Click here to display/hide detailed known Born To Run Tour performances list]

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE was rumored and reported to have been played a of couple times during the Darkness On The Edge Of Town Tour in 1978, but the weight of the evidence points to these in fact being mistaken versions of INCIDENT ON 57TH STREET.

After disappearing from Springsteen's repertoire for 24 years, NEW YORK CITY SERENADE was performed 5 times during the 132-date-long The Reunion Tour. The song was played in a full-band arrangement featuring a new piano introduction by Roy Bittan (see the live 20 Jun 2000 version).

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Reunion Tour performances list]

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE was performed once during the 120-date-long The Rising Tour. The song was played in a full-band arrangement featuring a piano introduction by Roy Bittan and a major performance by Soozie Tyrell on violin (see the live 03 Oct 2003 version).

[Click here to display/hide detailed The Rising Tour performances list]

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE was performed once during the 83-date-long Working On A Dream Tour, on 07 Nov 2009 in New York City, NY. The song was played in a full-band arrangement including an album-style piano introduction played by Roy Bittan and featuring guests Richard Blackwell on conga and Sam Bardfeld's eight-piece string section playing the album string arrangement. See the live 07 Nov 2009 version.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Working On A Dream Tour performances list]

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE was performed once during the 133-date-long Wrecking Ball Tour, on 11 Jul 2013 in Rome, Italy. The song was played in a full-band arrangement including an album-style piano introduction played by Roy Bittan and featuring a string section of seven violins from Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra. See the live 11 Jul 2013 version.

[Click here to display/hide detailed Wrecking Ball Tour performances list]

(By the time this page was last updated,) NEW YORK CITY SERENADE was performed once during the High Hopes Tour, on 26 Feb 2014 in Brisbane, Australia. The song was played in a full-band arrangement featuring Australian string section Cooper + Koo.

[Click here to display/hide detailed High Hopes Tour performances list]

Covers

Very few artists have recorded and released Bruce Springsteen's NEW YORK CITY SERENADE, including:


Pete Yorn -- Musicforthemorningafter

CD - Columbia (503323 9) - Europe, 2001
CD - Columbia (CK 86244) - USA, 2002

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE is only available as a bonus track on expanded reissues of the album. The song was also released on a various artists Bruce Springsteen tribute album. See Pete Yorn's cover version for more details.

Lore Constantine -- Piano Expressions

CD - CD Baby (318141) - USA, 2008

Andrew Nicholson -- Driving All Night: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen Volume II

CD - no label (no catalogue number) - UK, 2009

This is a Bruce Springsteen tribute album.

Carolyne Mas -- Across The River

CD - Route 61 (unknown catalogue number) - Italy, 2013

According to Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen was supposed to join her for a rendition of NEW YORK CITY SERENADE during her episode of MTV Unplugged which she taped on 04 Jul 2005, but it did not work out. "I was going to cry," she told Billboard. "Bruce and I were going to do 'New York City Serenade' but the schedule just conflicted.

Available Versions

List of available versions of NEW YORK CITY SERENADE on this website:

Credits / References

Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for all the help on this page and Albee Tellone for his firs-hand account on the studio recording of the track.

Some of the above info about the studio recording and the live performances is taken from Brucebase.