New York: Arguably the greatest city for music on earth. Here we take a look at 50 of its best artists. Who else to start with but these guys? As New York as the Empire State Building, The Strokes played their first ever gigs at the Lunar Lounge and Mercury Lounge before releasing now-legendary debut album “Is This It?”
Television formed in 1973, the same year the legendary venue CBGBs opened its doors. The band, as well as the likes of Patti Smith, The Ramones, Misfits, Blondie and Talking Heads all played their first gigs there.
David Bryne, Chris Frantz and his girlfriend Tina Weymouth all shared an apartment. They formed the band Talking Heads as a trio and played their first gig at CBGBs in June 1975. It wasn’t until Jerry Harrison joined that they became internationally recognised, building on their impressive reputation in New York.
In an interview with The Guardian, Debbie Harry, Blondie’s lead singer said: “Our lyrics have sociological things in them, mixed up with romantic ideas and New York City hipness”. The band was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
The Ramones, possibly the most famous punk band to grace the streets of New York. Played their first gigs at CBGBs. As Tommy Ramone said: “We play short songs for people who don’t have a lot of spare time”.
The late, great LCD Soundsystem played their final ever concert on April 2, 2011, at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The show, and the days leading up to and following it, is all chronicled in the documentary ‘Shut Up and Play the Hits’.
The Rapture started their post-punk, indie exploits in 1998. The band has seen many members come and go, with lead singer Luke Jenner quitting only to return. The band initially tried their luck in the eastern cities of San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. It wasn’t until they took one last shot in New York that the band prospered.
Since forming in 2007 Vampire Weekend have released three albums, two of which have reached number one in the US album charts. They announced their most recent album by tweeting from their official twitter account “NYT Classifieds…”, where, under the Notices & Lost and Found Section, five lines read “Modern Vampires of the City May 7, 2013”.
Psychedelic band Animal Collective are originally from Baltimore, Maryland, but are currently based in New York, where two members of the quartet, David Portner (nicknamed ‘Avey Tare’) and Brian Weitz (known as ‘Geologist’) both went to college.
Battles is an experimental rock group founded in New York in 2002, currently consisting of Ian Williams (guitarist/keyboardist), Dave Konopka (guitarist/bassists) and John Stanier (drummer). The band’s first full-length album ‘Mirrored’, released in May 2007, included the track ‘Atlas’ which was voted single of the week by NME.
Formed in 1981, the Beastie Boys’ original line-up of MCs Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond, Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch and Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz are all from New York. The band played their very first gigs back in the ’80s, supporting the likes of the Dead Kennedys and the Misfits at venues such as CBGBs in Manhatten.
Grandmaster Flash formed South Bronx hip-hop group the Furious Five in 1978. The band’s two albums won them recognition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and they became the first hip-hop act to be inducted into its prestigious roll call.
A Tribe Called Quest broke out of the New York hip-hop boom of the 80s. Despite recording 5 studio albums, three of which were top ten hits, Ali Shaheed Muhammad modestly stated: “I’m still a DJ from Brooklyn in my mind”.
Wu-Tang Clan is another member in the long list of hip-hop bands to come from New York. Forming 10 years later than Public Enemy in 1992, the Staten Island group consisted of 10 members, including the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
RUN-DMC formed in 1982 and the trio of Joseph Simmons, Joseph Mizell and Darryl McDaniels all hailed from the Hollis area of Queens, New York. In 1986 Adidas signed the trio up to a $1.5m sponsorship deal.
Chicago born Patti Smith performed her first gigs like so many others at CBGBs. Despite Smith using New York to find fame, fortune and as well as obtaining her “Godmother of Punk” status, she now believes: “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling… New York City has been taken away from you. So my advice is: Find a new city.”
Forming in 1981, Sonic Youth had thirty years of success before they split in 2011. The band became friends with fellow New Yorkers Swans and embarked on their first tour supporting them in 1982.
New York natives Les Savy Fav formed in 1995 when the original line up met at the Rhode Island School of Design. Two years later they released their first album ‘3/5’.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were, along with fellow New Yorkers The Strokes, part of the now legendary ‘Class of 2001’ who changed music at the turn of the millenium.
Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and JD Samson formed the ground-breaking and politically aware electronic group Le Tigre and broke onto New York’s music scene in 1998.
The Dirty Projectors, based in the Brooklyn area of New York, started creating music in 2002 and already have 6 albums to their name. When preparing to record the album ‘Swing Lo Magellan’, David Lonstreth travelled to a more peaceful retreat in upstate New York to write.
Although formed while attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, MGMT have a long association with New York. They famously performed at the city’s Guggenheim Museum, famous for its modern architecture and its location on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Psychedelic pop band Yeasayer originate from Brooklyn, New York and formed in 2006. They have three albums under their belts and a hell of a lot of festival appearances (including Latitude fest here in England in 2010).
TV on the Radio formed in 2001 in Brooklyn, New York and have maintained their long association with the city even though producer and guitarist Dave Sitek now operates out of LA.
New York Dolls formed in 1971 and became one of many bands to set the New York punk scene alight. They initially rehearsed at Rusty Beanies Cycle Shop and their first public performance was a set of R&B and soul covers at the Endicott Hotel.
Behind the make-up, the extravagant clothes and the outrageous on stage antics are four mere humans (Gene Simmons , Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer) who played their first gig as Kiss on 30th January 1973 at New York’s Popcorn Club (renamed Coventry). Almost nobody turned up.
The Velvet Underground formed in 1964 in New York. Lou Reed was born in Brooklyn, where he grew up and began writing and performing with various city-based garage bands. It was there that he met John Cale. The band’s first paying gig was in Summit High School, New Jersey.
Although originally hailing from Boston, The Magnetic Fields formed in 1989 and are based in New York. Named after André Breton’s novel ‘Les Champs Magnétiques’, their highest charting album ‘Distortion’ reached 77 in America’s Billboard chart.
The Walkmen and its members were based both in New York City and Philadelphia. Initially unsure about being associated with New York’s music scene, they came to be seen as one of the city’s key contemporary bands. Lead singer Hamilton Leithauser said: “Our biggest accomplishment is just being here”.
The Antlers frontman Peter Silberman set up the band shortly after moving to New York. In August 2009 the band were signed to the city’s Frenchkiss Records. They also named one of their EP’s ‘New York Hospitals’.
Steely Dan originated from Annandale-on-Hudson in the city of New York. The band is centred around its two members, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who met in Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. It is thought their signature style has been influenced by the city’s multiple jazz radio stations and the music scene in New York.
Although The National formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1999, they are now very much based in Brooklyn, New York.
The Hold Steady bassist Galen Polivka once worked as a bartender in New York, which is how he met singer Craig Finn where they first talked about starting a band.
According to rock legend, Swans gigs were so loud in the 80s that it caused audience members to vomit. However, whilst talking to The Boston Phoenix, Michael Gira stated that the claims are a “bunch of shit”.
Public Enemy originate from Long Island and formed in 1982. There first ever tour was with fellow New York Hip-Hop legends Beastie Boys.
Brooklyn band DIIV (formerly Dive) formed in 2011. DIIV are led by Beach Fossils guitarist Z. Cole Smith and he shares his commitment between the two bands.
Despite ¾ of the band coming from Texas, Parquet Courts lead singer Andrew Savage is on record saying: “we knew we were going to be a New York band from the beginning.”
Here We Go magic’s self-titled debut album was entirely written and recorded by frontman Luke Temple. It wasn’t until he was invited to tour with fellow New York band Grizzly Bear that he needed to throw a band together. Nowadays Here We Go Magic also includes Michael Bloch and Peter Hale.
Living Colour formed in 1984 and released their first album in 1988. They are famed for their often political and personal lyrics, showcasing their disdain for racism of any sort.
Brooklyn based band Chairlift’s origins can be traced back to Boulder in Colorado. The duo of Caroline Polachek and Aaron Pfenning initially intended to make background music for haunted houses. The band, were a trio for three years when Patrick Wimberly joined only for Pfenning to leave to pursue his solo project ‘Rewards’.
Despite Beirut’s forming in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the bands first live performances were in New York. The indie-folk band has never looked back releasing three albums and five EPs to date.
Nada Surf formed in New York in 1992 and their most recent album release ‘The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy’ came out in 2012, 20 years after their formation.
Liars consist of Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross. The Brooklyn band, who formed in 2000, are famous for their experimental sound. They currently have six studio albums to their name.
Dean Wareham, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang of the short-lived Galaxie 500 met in New York. Despite this they didn’t start playing until they were at Harvard University in Massachusetts. They released three albums, including critically-adored second record ‘On Fire’.
Interpol’s Paul Banks was actually born in the Essex coastal town of Clacton-on-Sea. He lived in Spain and Mexico before his family moved to New York. The band played their first gigs at New York’s Luna Lounge.
The post-punk band Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers formed in 1975. The initial line up of the band included New York Dolls members Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and Television’s Richard Hell.
Simon and Garfunkel come from the Forest Hills area of New York and first broke into the charts as 15 year olds in 1957 with the track ‘Hey, Schoolgirl’. In 1966 they claimed the US No1 spot with the ‘Sound of Silence’.
Amedeo and Simone Pace of Blonde Redhead were born in Milan, lived in Montreal and studied in Boston all before forming the band in 1993 alongside Kazu Makino in, where else?, New York.