In a New York top forty, woo oo-ooo, there’s… quite a bit of range? Yeah. That’ll do. New York top forty. Here we go…

Well, what a day I had yesterday. I thought I could tweak the format without wasting a day trying. I was wrong.

It wasn’t a massive change either. Just an attempt to fit one or two more choices into a top thirty by grouping songs together – New York as a place to be heartbroken, New York as terrifying metropolis, New York as a fabulous non-stop party, that sort of thing. Needless to say, it didn’t work. It was, to put it bluntly, a fucking shit show. Oh well. You live and you cocking well learn. The problem stemmed from there being too many good choices. I solved it by moving from a top thirty to a top forty. Obvious in hindsight.

But even with a more welcoming countdown, some of you were going to be disappointed. Specifically, the following people:

  • Plashing Vole has, daftly in my opinion, decided to turn his weekly involvement with this competition into a war of attrition. When I don’t give his critically acclaimed, academic powerhouse of a song a decent score, he comes back the following week with something even drier, something even less fun. It’s only week eight and we’re already on Steve Reich’s New York: Counterpoint so god alone knows where we will be at the end of this. The full twenty nine hours of Stockhausen’s Licht, I suppose. Anyway, as he knew when he recommended it, I found the piece annoying. To me, it sounds a bit like the battery going flat in an ice cream van’s speaker system. However, as somebody who finds the distinction between high and low culture ‘hilarious’ I realise I’m not qualified to judge the real quality of such an intellectually challenging (whatevs) piece of music. So, I played it to my wife, a woman who has more brains and sophistication in her little finger than I have in my whole brain. Her verdict: “Utter guff.” Soz, Vole.
  • Sam Whyte was top of the leader board this time last week and who knows, may be again this time next week too, but… actually she might still be on top of the leader board. I haven’t updated my spreadsheet yet so I don’t know what has happened. It’s just that I found her choice of Celebrity Lifestyle by Swans ‘a bit too gloomy’ for me this week. Consider my delicate moods, you lot.
  • And Sam’s not the only person at the top of the leader board to fail to score this week. Last week’s second placed recommender, Adam Farrer, managed to find an eligible Tom Waits song for the eighth week in a row but not one that could make the top forty. And David N Atkinson, who was third on the leader board last week, recommended Zoo York by Lil Tjay ft Fivio Foreign and Pop Smoke, which so easily could have been right up my street but, unfortunately, wasn’t.

btw Adam, by my calculations you only have a few weeks before your whole get-a-hundred-bonus-points-if-you-recommend-a-Tom-Waits-song-every-week house of cards falls apart. Unless you know of a batch of Tom Waits songs that I don’t. Which is possible of course. We’ll see, eh?

  • Last year’s winner, William Mallin recommended Downtown by Petula Clark. It’s such a leftfield choice that I am giving him this week’s bonus points (there are only three this week, but it’s better than nothing, yeah?). I don’t dislike the song, exactly, but I wouldn’t go as far as giving it any points. Except for the points I just gave it of course.
  • Two people recommended songs by Jeffrey Lewis. Nick Portnell chose Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror and Red Sky At Night chose The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song. I genuinely feel bad about them not getting any points for their choices as the only reason they aren’t is that after a year of lockdown I can’t cope with that much talking from anybody at the moment. Seriously. I probably won’t even watch Line of Duty. To make things worse, I saw Jeffrey Lewis live once and thought he was great so I know this is bad judging. I can’t even give you the bonus points because I gave them all to Petula Clark. Story of my life right there.
  • Desmond specified the Everything But the Girl version of The Only Living Boy in New York. I’ve rung a couple of science friends to start working out why. They reckon they might have something preliminary by next April but chances are this is one of those ‘we’ll never know’ questions.

OK. I wasted a lot of time on the whole trying-a-new-way-to-do-the-judging nonsense yesterday so I’m just going to do a list of the people who almost scored points and then bang on with the top forty. Is that ok? Cool. There’s a couple of you who will, I’m sure, feel hard done by. And rightly so. There is some great stuff here. But as I have said before, my judging methods have been tested and appraised by leading members of the music recommending judgement industry (i.e. me) and found to be ‘fantastic’.

  • Paul Graham Raven recommended New York City by The Cult
  • Dan Williams recommended NYC by Interpol
  • David Williams recommended Crosstown Traffic by Jimi Hendrix
  • Tom. recommended Ramblin’ Man by Lemon Jelly
  • Stephen Moss recommended New York New York by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
  • Stephen May recommended New York City Cops by The Strokes
  • David Hartley and Geisterhaus both recommended New Dorp New York by SBTRKT

The Top 40(ish)

Is it ok if I make three songs equal 40th? No? Oh, right…

Wait…

I have decided to make three songs equal 40th. They all felt like they ‘should’ be in the top forty but in each case there was something nagging me about them that. Something bad. Sam Bail recommended Back in NYC by Genesis which felt suitably big and disarming for New York. I think that I hated it but there was something going on that made me doubt that. Fat Roland recommended Buffalo Gals by Malcolm McLaren which really captures the free-for-all of early hip hop and sample culture but is, essentially, stupid. And, Sal Page recommended Fairytale of New York by The Pogues. It’s one of the most famous songs set in the city but, in a very real sense, it’s not actual Christmas yet, is it? Two points each. Arguably better songs got less.

Incidentally, if anybody doesn’t like any of my judging decisions, you are completely free to run for London Mayor in an attempt to right these terrible injustices. Knock yourself out pal.

General Zod recommended Brooklyn by Jesse Malin. If anyone knows what film/television programme/YouTube video it has been used on, can you tell me, it will massively calm my brain. As a rule I only watch YouTube videos showing you how to do things like fold fitted sheets or remove black marks off the bottom of your iron so it may more productive to concentrate on films and tv. Anyway, two points.

Daniel Carpenter and Weeman both took us back thirty four years (and thanks for pointing that out Weeman, it really made me feel good about myself) to the release of early Beastie Boys hit No Sleep till Brooklyn. It’s a song that takes me back to being a youn- Thirty four years! Thirty four fucking years. Where does the time go, eh?  Three points.

Sex Police may not have the fondest thoughts for New York because he recommended the Main Theme from Taxi Driver by Bernard Hermann. It’s a great piece of music from a great film, albeit one that shows a New York that no longer exists – you don’t need a rain to wash the scum away anymore because he moved to Florida. Is Sex Police looking at four points? Because I don’t see anyone else getting four points.

Do you like Doves? I do. I like Doves. I don’t like all their stuff but I do like a lot of it. They have a nice droney/stompy thing going on that appeals to me. I saw them live once in a forest and I enjoyed it. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to recommend them for a New York week but it occurred to Skerret, who recommended N.Y., which got him five points.

Penny recommended Old Brownstone by Robert Leslie, a man I could find almost nothing about on the internet (I do research for this and everything you know) so I can’t tell you anything more than he has good hair and sometimes wears a hat. He may or may not have written a novel. I know how that feels. Oh yeah, and he wrote a song and I liked it. Six points.

According to the song Big Poppa, The Notorious B.I.G. liked it when people (or someone in particular) called him Big Poppa. If anyone called me Big Poppa, I would ask them not to do so again. Everyone’s different, I suppose. I don’t know why I mentioned that really, except that Mark G recommended Big Poppa and I gave it nine points (and I wrote something sensible and sensitive about the whole east coast/west coast beef, but reading it back it just sounded stupid. Don’t shoot people, kids. There are almost always better options.)

Tom Mason and Helen Allison both recommended Chelsea Hotel by Leonard Cohen, a song that I find a bit, I don’t know, I don’t like it. It is one of those Cohen songs where he doesn’t come across as well as he thinks he does, imo. (Arguably, he is aware of that and intended it, but I still find the whole thing a bit, I don’t know. I don’t like it. I just don’t like it.) However, because Jeanette Greaves recommended peak bought-a-synthesiser-but-didn’t-understand-quite-how-they-worked-era Cohen classic First We Take Manhattan (and because I kindly decided to put all the Cohen recommendations together) they will be getting eight points anyway. Seems unfair but there you go.

Back when I was thinking about grouping songs by mood, one of the categories was New York as… a state of mind and Henriette Pleiger‘s choice of Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind scored lots more points than it is doing now because it was grouped with (SPOILER) another song (OH WAIT, THAT’S NOT REALLY A SPOILER IS IT?) that we’ll get to later (OBVIOUSLY, BECAUSE ANY SONG I HAVEN’T MENTIONED YET WILL HAVE TO BE MENTIONED LATER, WON’T IT?). As it is, it is only getting nine points. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that you could have got more if my idea had worked. Too late now though.

It was while I was grouping My My Metrocard by Le Tigre into a New York as… somewhere with transport or something? category that I realised the whole categories thing was a massive mistake. I do regret not being able to put Plashing Vole’s choice into its own category of New York as… a place where you can get away with being a pretentious crap hole but the whole competition isn’t cheapened this way and we can judge songs such as My My Metrocard, recommended by David Coates on their own merits, which are very high, yes thank you, ten points.

Adrian Slatcher probably played it a bit too cool by recommending Que Pasa/Me No Pop I by Kid Creole and the Coconuts. May as well go all in, I say. If you are going down a Kid Creole path, you may as well wear a hat while you’re doing it, as I believe Winston Churchill once said. Stool Pigeon was right there and picking it would have done you no harm at all. You are getting eleven points though. Ha-cha-cha-cha.

Frankly, I find Estelle’s American Boy’s connection to New York pretty weak at best. She doesn’t mention New York any more than she does L.A. really. I do love the song though, so I have very little problem finding room for it on the chart, which is good news for Georgia Boon, who recommended it. Twelve points, I know what you’re scoring.

Jummo70 recommended Fight The Power by Public Enemy, forcing me into another one of my sorry-I-only-really-like-and-not-love Public Enemy apologies that I have to do every few weeks as a part of running this competition. I definitely prefer American Boy to Fight The Power but this is about seven thousand percent more New York-y so it gets an extra point – making thirteen in total.

Andy C recommended Cocaine in my Brain by Dillinger, another artist that I have somehow missed up until now but will be listening to more by as soon as possible. I blame the NME. They spent so much time convincing me to listen to just one more guitar band that sounded almost, but not quite, the same as all the other guitar bands. There are whole genres they kept from me for years. Bastards. I know better now of course, I just don’t know everything. Fourteen points.

I don’t like quite as many LCD Soundsystem songs as everybody else does, so picking a song by them is a bit of a lottery, but New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down is very clearly lovely. So it is no surprise that it is worth fifteen points or that Rebecca H will get fifteen points (because she recommended) (and it is worth fifteen points.

I can’t say I adored New York Groove by Ace Frehley but I liked it, and it does sum up perfectly how New York is a place where wearing ‘spaceman’ make up and platform boots will have next to no effect on your career progression. In conclusion, Tom A gets sixteen points. [Oh, and if you all have a minute, you should probably look up Russ Ballard (who wrote New York Groove) on Wikipedia. That guy wrote some songs.]

Rob Cutforth will probably be slightly miffed that his recommendation of C.R.E.A.M. by Wu-Tang Clan is only getting seventeen points but of the seven thousand songs they have collectively released since the early nineties this one seemed a bit, dare I say it, obvious? Soz, Rob.

We couldn’t have a New York countdown without Talking Heads could we? [Though having said that, if you had asked me last week I would have said we couldn’t have had a New York countdown without Blondie or Madonna but you guys showed me I was wrong about that.] Anyway, Mat Pringle and Lil’ Vanni Byniaeth recommended This Must Be The Place and Donna Morris recommended And She Was and they will all be getting eighteen points.

I couldn’t tell if Sleepy was joking when he said he wanted to change his choice from The Schuyler Sisters from Hamilton to something off Moana. I assumed he was because I could see no relation between New York and Moana. Certainly not one strong enough to get nineteen points, which his original (and I think only?) recommendation is getting. I think everything has worked out ok. Yeah? Yeah? I hope so.

I really liked the Prince-esque vibes of Crying by TV on the Radio, recommended by Dan Edmonds. That’s it. That’s the whole anecdote. I listened to it and I liked it. I listened to it a couple more times and I still liked it. I’d even go as far as saying it I liked it a bit more than the first time. I am currently in the process of awarding it twenty points. There we go. I’ve done that too now. I don’t know what else to say.

Nick Rayney missed the deadline this week. But when he told me yesterday that he would have nominated Good Fortune by PJ Harvey it was no problem for me to stick it with Richard Jones‘ recommendation of You Said Something by PJ Harvey and give it twenty-one points because they are on the same album and everything. It just goes to show, if you have missed the deadline you don’t have to despair. It might be alright. I’m a pretty nice person, all things considered.

Two other choices I could easily group together were Julie‘s recommendation of Rockaway Beach and Graeme‘s of 53rd & 3rd, because all Ramones songs sound exactly the same. That sounds like a criticism but it isn’t. Also, it isn’t true. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I dunno. This hasn’t been my best week for ideas. I was going to bake a cake and didn’t get round to that either. It looked really nice too. Errrrrrm… twenty-two points.

I haven’t listened to a Nirvana record in at least a decade so I was dubious about the prospects of James Battisson‘s recommendation of Where Did You Sleep Last Night (from MTV Unplugged live in New York if you were searching for the link) but listening to it again for the first time in a long time you can’t help but get hit by that voice. So it’s twenty-three points, which just goes to show how much I know, doesn’t it?

Sherri Turner recommended East River by The Brecker Brothers which I had never heard or even heard of until this week. Tell you what, I love running this tournament. I get to hear so much new stuff. Sure I might waste the odd Saturday trying to add a new and exciting scoring system that doesn’t work but I’m still a winner, song-wise. Twenty-four points.

Something else I hadn’t heard before this week was Cavern by Liquid Liquid, at least not in its original form, White Lines made the bassline one of the most famous of all times (and then the legal disputes began, taking two record labels down in the process and ultimately helping nobody – I told you I researched your choices). It was recommended by Mike and he gets twenty-five points for doing so.

If I had to say what the worst live performance I have ever seen was it would either be Monster Magnet (at a festival) or Lou Reed (in Leamington Spa, of all places, with my mother-in-law) with Lou Reed probably just edging it because Monster Magnet sang that song that starts, “If you’re looking for the one / that fucked your mom / It’s not me,” and that was dead funny that. I’m still glad I saw him, but he was truly terrible. Everything was turned up to eleven. On record though, top stuff. So it’s twenty-six points for Beth Woodward, who recommended Satellite of Love, and Leighton, who recommended New York Telephone Conversation.

The yin to Sex Police’s yang (or vice versa, depending on what the words mean) Graham Cox provided a far sunnier viewpoint of New York than the actions of Travis Bickle by recommending We Are Family by Sister Sledge (which was recorded in New York, in case you were wondering). It’s a tune all right, and a positive view of the world when that sort of thing is very welcome. Twenty-seven points.

If early Beastie Boys are worth three points, what about two songs from their (ridiculously underrated) sixth album, To the 5 Boroughs? Twenty-eight points, that’s what. So Sean Rhodes (who recommended An Open Letter to NYC) and Benjo (who recommended Ch-Check it Out) can relax this evening, knowing they have achieved something good this weekend, which is more than most of us. Except the people in the top twelve of course. And Mario Lemina, he’s had a cracking weekend. But still, pretty good. Pretty good.

James Beck recommended New York Soul by Ray Barretto. It was, as he suggested it might be, new to me. I’ll be honest, I have been typing for several hours and have run out of synonyms for good. Give me a minute to google a thesaurus will you.

It’s a very good song.

Just missing out on the top ten, Em recommended New York by St Vincent. It’s a brilliant song [and if you had (for example) considered recommending it but changed your mind and went with Interpol instead you would be proper kicking yourself now, thinking about the thirty points that would be yours now if you had done things differently.]

OK. Strongest top ten yet. Here we go…

Graham Watt makes the chart for a third week in a row and this time he’s in the top ten. Nice. The song he recommended was Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs which, I think we can all agree, is an absolute solid gold banger. Thirty-one points should equate to a decent move up the leader board.

There comes a time in your life when, upon hearing, DUuuuuuh DUh-DUh-DUhhhhhhh, you stop hoping for Jump Around and start hoping for Harlem Shuffle. Don’t fear that time. That time is called becoming an adult*. Michael Conley knows what it is all about. He’s down with Bob & Earl. He’s getting thirty-two points. He’s all grown up.

*It’s not, in case you were wondering. Please feel free to ignore all my opinions that don’t come with a points value.

Tom Glennie and Ben Thomas both recommended Living For The City by Stevie Wonder. It was always going to score well…

…but let me spend a moment to show you how the magic works. Remember when I said Rob Cutforth’s choice seemed ‘obvious’? I believe it, I do, but it was also a subtle nod to Rob’s suggestion on Twitter this week that Living For The City was too obvious. Subliminally, I was pushing him toward rage. Oh yeah, I’m working on about three hundred levels with this shit. I’m slowly setting up beefs and rivalries months before people realise they are embroiled in them. I’m a fucking puppet master over here, willing to break you all. Mostly I’m going to break Rob but genuinely, nobody is safe…

…and score well it did. Thirty three points.

Bridge Over Troubled Water was the best-selling album of the 1970s in the UK. It was the last decade we can be proud of as a nation, best-selling-albumwise (which isn’t a word, I know). Researching the album I fell down a bit of a ‘best-selling albums by decade’ rabbit hole this morning. Did you know the best selling album of the 200os was Back to Bedlam by James Blunt? I wouldn’t have guessed that in a thousand guesses (no offense, James). More depressingly, did you know that 2,950.000 people bought Michael Bublé’s Christmas album in 2011? That makes no sense, does it?. No sense at all. James Blunt, fine, it’s not to my taste but people have different tastes, but the Michael Bublé Christmas album? Who the fuck is buying that? Branches of Claires Accessories, sure, but there aren’t 2.950.000 branches of Claire’s Accessories in the UK, are there? There are about 370. So who bought the other 2,949,630 copies? Your nan? All 2,949,630 copies? It’s not likely is it. It’s about one in every twenty-three people. Statistically, that means three or four people who took part this week. What were you thinking? Why didn’t you buy Now That’s What I Call Christmas like a sensible person? How can I be expected to judge your choices when I know half a dozen of you might be secret Bublé lovers? It makes me shudder to think about it. I just did a sick in my mouth and everything.

Sorry. I’ll start again. Bruno Di Gradi recommended The Only Living Boy in New York by Simon and Garfunkel. The harmonies on it are fucking extraordinary, mate. Love it. Thirty-four points.

When Al Kennedy recommended Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack, I didn’t think there would be much that would beat it. I wasn’t wrong. I don’t know what else to say really. I can’t begin to describe how tired I am today. I think it the schools reopening, the change of routine, the idea that I might get something written on a weekday. It’s all playing with my hormones or something. I don’t know. I’m just rambling now. What was all that Michael Bublé stuff about? I’ll regret typing that if I ever meet him.

Oh yeah, thirty-five points.

Chris *Wear Your Dang Mask* and Picky Bastards both recommended N.Y. State of Mind by Nas,

Why would I think I was ever going to meet Michael Bublé?

It’s a brilliant song from a ridiculously good album and it thoroughly deserves thirty-six points.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m running out of steam here. I think a top forty might just be too much typing. I’m over four thousand words here. That’s fucking chaos. I’m just going to waz through the rest of this.

Neal recommended Lady Day and John Coltraine by Gil Scott Heron.

Thirty seven points.

Next.

Chris Bissette recommended Liquid Swords by GZA

Thirty-eight points.

Next.

Slugger recommended Autumn in New York by Billie Holiday.

Thirty-nine points.

Next.

And the winner is…

Dan.

Dan recommended New York City Boys by Pet Shop Boys. I don’t think anyone will have any issues with me declaring it the all time best song about New York ever made ever in the world ever. I might be wrong but I just don’t think anyone will. Nice one Dan.

And nice one everyone else, especially the two or three of you who made your way through this entire rambling mess. Hopefully, next week we’ll get back to something close to normality.

Whatever that is.

Oh yeah. The topic next week is B-SIDES. Recommend a b-side to me why don’t you.