This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
This column started out as one on streets with names. When I'd finished I found that half of the selections were streets of New York. So I decided to split the difference and have a column entirely devoted to New York streets (as well as the original idea omitting the New York ones – two for the price of one).
Whenever I put on a CD of FRED NEIL I'm pretty sure there are whales out in the Southern Ocean who say, "Pete's playing Fred again.”
That's because his voice is so low and mellow I imagine that those cetaceans are the only ones who can hear the full range of his singing.
It's not quite as evident on this song as it is on some others but you can perhaps hear what I mean. Fred's song is Bleecker & MacDougal, so you get two streets in the one song.
Now for a bunch of streets with numbers. I'll feature them in numerical order, starting at 4th Street and BOB DYLAN.
With New York streets you knew Bob had to be present as he made that city his home. Here he is with Positively 4th Street, one of the bitterest songs he ever wrote (and that's saying something).
LEON REDBONE doesn't sing on his tune, it's purely instrumental, and a nice gentle one it is too.
Very little is known about Leon; he defends his privacy ferociously. His style harks back to pre-war jazz, blues and ragtime as is somewhat evident in his selection today, 14th Street Blues.
I originally had Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell penciled in at this spot but I omitted them because the version I have is from the sound track of the film. As a purely musical track it's pretty incoherent, full of sound effects, tap dancing, traffic noise, people talking and whatnot. I'm sure as part of the film it's fine but it just doesn't fit.
I've kept the song though and included a version by the DORSEY BROTHERS ORCHESTRA.
The singers are THE BOSWELL SISTERS.
That picture suggests to me that they're probably listening to Bing on the radio. Here they all are with Forty-Second Street.
As I'm doing these numbered streets in order, we have a couple of jazz tracks back to back. That's fine with me, I hope it is with you as well. The first of these is by CHARLES MINGUS.
Charles's street is 51st Street. Now he doesn't specify east or west, so it could be in Brooklyn or Queens. Well, they're part of New York so it counts. The tune is 51st Street Blues.
BUD POWELL continues the theme with 52nd Street.
As with Charles, no east or west is specified so we have the same problem. Bud's tune is 52nd Street Theme.
Let's keep walking uptown until we get to 57th Street and we come across BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.
His street could be from somewhere in New Jersey whence he hails but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt so I can include the song. It's from the fine album, “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.” The song is Incident on 57th Street.
It's not too far to 59th Street and SIMON AND GARFUNKEL.
The official title of their tune is The 59th Street Bridge Song. You may know it as something else. Like Bob's song earlier, and Bruce's as well come to think of it, the name of the ditty doesn't actually appear in the words of the song anywhere. There was a bit of that sort of thing going on around that time.
Now for a bit of a hike until we encounter BOBBY WOMACK.
Bobby started as a gospel singer and guitarist along his father and brothers. They were discovered by Sam Cooke and he arranged for them to be recorded. After Bobby went solo, he recorded his own song. It's All Over Now.
Just as it was rising on the charts the Rolling Stones released a version that eclipsed his. He was initially miffed until he received his first royalty cheque. He quickly changed his mind.
Anyway, here's Bobby's street song, Across 110th Street.
Well, I've run out of numbered street songs and there's only time for one more anyway. We have to scurry on back down town, to one of the most famous streets of them all, Wall Street.
The tune is performed by DUKE ELLINGTON and his orchestra (or his Jungle Band, depending on your source of information).
It was recorded in 1929, just after Wall Street laid an egg, and is called Wall Street Wail.