The City is a Gatefold (Slight Return) – More album covers of New York
New York, New York. It’s been said that New York City is so nice they named it twice. Our first look at iconic album cover locales of NYC was so well received, we decided to dig further into the album crate, hit the streets and present more sites that have become part of our rock n roll psyche.
(you can check out part 1 of The City is a Gatefold here: http://www.hardrock.com/rpm/the-city-is-a-gatefold-album-covers-of-new-york)
Carnegie Hall is known for hosting jazz, classical and chamber music, but it’s also been the site of some of rock’s biggest concerts. Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and Pink Floyd are just some of the artists who made West 57th Street rock. During the height of their success, The James Gang took their explosive show to the famed concert hall and recorded a live album. Its cover art captures both the importance of the moment and the outlaw aesthetic of the band: Three horses standing proud in front of a New York institution.
Head a few blocks south and you’ll find yourself in the crosshairs of a musical Mecca: West 52nd Street. Swing Street. Known to music connoisseurs as simply “The Street” and the incubator for the revolution known as bebop, West 52nd was home to scores of live venues during the golden age of jazz. Columbia Records made West 52nd its headquarters and operated cutting-edge recording studios that captured both a sea change in jazz and the elevation of rock ‘n’ roll to true art. Simply put, West 52nd between 5th and 6th was THE place you wanted to be if you wanted to become a successful musician, producer or executive.
Billy Joel’s follow up to his breakout album, The Stranger, was named for this famed piece of pavement and paid homage to its storied past by featuring jazz musicians such as Freddie Hubbard. In keeping with the spirit and vibe of the project, Joel also shot the album cover on The Street (uncharacteristically holding a trumpet). 52nd Street was another gigantic hit for Billy; with classic songs like “Big Shot”, “Honesty” and “My Life”, it remains one of the most beloved releases of his long career.
If you want to connect to the Upper East Side or head out into Queens, it just takes a couple stops on the E train. As you enter the uptown train through the Madison Ave entrance, you will be standing in the same spot where the seeds of the folk rock boom were planted. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (which contained the future anthem, “The Sounds of Silence”) featured the Queens-bred duo catching the subway, presumably back to Forest Hills, where they first met and began making music together.
A quick transfer at the Lexington Ave station puts you back on the 6 train heading downtown towards Murray Hill. Sniffen Court is a small alley consisting of 10 two-story brick houses between 35th and 36th Street near the approach to the Queens Midtown Tunnel. The regal, high-end decor provided a perfect counter for photographer Joel Brodsky as he was putting together the artwork for The Doors’ second album, Strange Days. His use of jugglers, dwarfs and other street performers perfectly captured the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded the band at the time.
Walk several blocks south and you’ll run into Gramercy Park, another high-end neighborhood on the east side of Chelsea. This is where Albert Grossman – infamous manager of Bob Dylan, The Band and Janis Joplin – had an apartment. The entrance to the apartment is now a must-see stop for any hardcore Dylan fan: It was on the steps where Dylan – in full rock ‘n’ roll outlaw mode – shot the cover for the absolutely iconic Highway 61 Revisited.
Head back onto Park Avenue South and you’ll run into an eatery wedged between office spaces and the W Hotel; but for a brief time from the late ‘60s through the ’70s, it was Max’s Kansas City – THE hangout for poets, writers, the avant-garde and musicians such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper, The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen and many others. The Velvet Underground was practically the venue’s house band, so it’s façade was used for the cover of the 1972 album, Live at Max’s Kansas City.
Continue south and you’ll hit Astor Place. Once known as the cradle for high-class, high-end entertainment, with time it became the portal to the downtown New York counterculture scene best exemplified by the shops on St. Mark’s Place and the mecca of all things rock n roll, CBGB. This locale brings us back to Billy Joel, who shot the cover of his 1976 album Turnstiles at the Astor Place subway station with an assortment of colorful characters.
Finally, the back alley of CBGB was the ideal spot for The Ramones, who put the Bowery dive bar on the musical map and used the alley for the cover of their third album, 1977’s Rocket to Russia.
You can’t swing a cab in New York without hitting a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history, so next time you’re in the Greatest City in the World, take some time to explore these wonderful, offbeat locations.