Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Don’t You Forget About Me: The Trade Winds – “New York’s a Lonely Town” (1965)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 7, 2007

My woody’s outside, covered in snow

Apologies to readers of my regular Thursday chart column (all zero of you–hey, sorry, you try getting up the motivation to write something creative every Thursday), but not enough happened in the charts this week to justify a whole entry (Rihanna = still #1, Plain White T’s and Amy Winehouse moved up some, that’s about it). Anyway, I’ve written about this song before in a Stylus article about the Top Ten Songs That Prove That Originality is Overrated, but I heard this song on the XM 60s channel today and felt like writing something more on it.

I’m not sure when exactly I first heard “New York’s a Lonely Town,” but I think it was around the end of my Freshman year at NYU, and for a variety of reasons, it was exactly the sort of song I wanted to hear at that time. The sensation of being a stranger in a city that big, of running into thousands of different people every day of your life but feeling like you don’t fit in with any of them–I might not have had the unused surfboard, but aside from that, the sentiments of the song definitely spoke to me. Listening to the song today, back home in Philadelphia for the summer, was sort of a surreal experience, since it’s probably the first time I heard the song without it really striking even a single chord with me personally.

Luckily, “New York’s a Lonely Town” is beautiful and emotional enough that being able to relate to it (even though I think most people probably could, on some level anyway) is only part of the song’s appeal. To say it sounds like The Beach Boys would be, uh, to state an accurate fact–“New York’s a Lonely Town” is a Beach Boys song in all but name and technical credits, and I’m not even totally convinced about that part. It sounds like something straight off of a ’64-era BBoys albumnamely classic single “Don’t Worry Baby,” which shares the same guitar pattern, the same background chimes, the same production and of course, the same heavenly sighing harmonies and whatnot. Brian Wilson didn’t write it, so it ultimately loses the Beach Boys soundalike contest to Jan & Dean’s “Surf City,” but it comes in a very, very, very close 2nd.

But here’s the good news: ’64-era Beach Boys were awesome, and “New York’s a Lonely Town” is even better. And what’s more, thematically, it’s sort of an anti-Beach Boys song. It seems like an emotional inversion of the BBoys’ Endless Summer–in fact, I can think of few songs that sound more definitively winter-ish, part of why hearing it on the radio today was so strange. But in rock history, summer has been sort of overrated in general, and winter has been criminally under-represented, so it’s great to see such heart-rending haromines and Spectorian production being used to support the cruelest season for once.

And 24-Year-Old Brittany from Philadelphia, if you’re reading this, give me a buzz. At least we’d never have to worry about a wedding song.


7 Responses to “Don’t You Forget About Me: The Trade Winds – “New York’s a Lonely Town” (1965)”

  1. john said

    hey, i read charts on fire!

  2. Steph said

    Classic song. “Surf City” sounds like the Beach Boys because Mike Love & Brian Wilson wrote it, and also did backing vocals. Still a fantastic song even if it’s not entirely Jan & Dean. šŸ™‚

  3. […] both Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” and as I’ve previously written about, the Trade Winds’ “New York’s a Lonely Town,” while in terms of civic pride […]

  4. Marty B said

    I heard that the drummer on that song was a 14-15 year old kid from CT

  5. Marty B said

    By the way, that kid also spent time at the former Electric lady land Studio in N.Y. . How do I know this ? I was also there once or twice and this guys name was John or Jon and if I remember correctly he was from CT.

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