Name This Book!

As some of you may know, over the last few years I’ve been gradually putting together, and have these last few months been busy writing, what I trust will be the definitive book on the New York music scene. The project takes in fifty years of New York music genres through the middle of the century, as seen from the neighborhoods and streets that spawned them. There are chapters on: Afro-Cuban jazz in Harlem and 52nd Street; the first rhythm and blues vocal groups of Harlem; “doo wop” across the five Boroughs; the mambo in Midtown; the Greenwich Village folk scene first of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, then of Washington Square Park, and then of Bob Dylan and co.; the Brooklyn kids who took over the Brill Building hit factories; the girl groups of the sixties; folk-rock in Greenwich Village; the emergence of the East Village out of the Lower East Side; the Velvet Underground, Warhol and Max’s Kansas City; the glitter scene of the New York Dolls and co.; gay liberation and disco; punk rock at CBGBs; and hip-hop in the Bronx. Throughout, and given that nothing ever takes place in a vacuum, I’ve tried to show how the social conditions of the City gave birth to all these scenes, hopefully telling the story of 20th Century New York City street life itself.

All along, this book has had the working title of A Walk On The Wild Side. More recently, my editor nailed down the subtitle to Music From The Streets Of New York. She’s very happy with the title. So am I, to an extent. Hopefully, with a strong cover image, it would convey the book’s MO: that we (author and readers alike) are walking the (wild) streets of New York City, watching the various music scenes evolve as we do so.

But I’m still not 100% convinced, for the following reasons:

1) There are already books out there entitled (A) Walk on the Wild Side. Perhaps we should show more originality?
2) Though I’ve interviewed well over a hundred people for this project, Lou Reed, who wrote the song “Walk on the Wild Side” on which this title would be based, was regrettably not among them. I wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression.
3) Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side” is very much a New York City song; almost everyone who knows of it knows as much. But it’s primarily about Factory superstars – Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, etc. – who show up only peripherally in my book; the whole Warhol/Factory/Max’s scene is a vital nexus from the mid sixties through the late seventies, but there’s just as much in the book on people like Dizzy Gillespie, Alan Freed, Carole King and Pete Seeger, none of whom intersected with that world whatsoever. In addition, though it was Lou Reed’s biggest American hit, “Walk On The Wild Side” was actually recorded in the UK; of itself, it’s less important than, for example, Reed’s many songs with the Velvet Underground.

If I had a better title, I would have pitched it already. I don’t, so I haven’t. That’s where you come in. I may just be blanking on something very obvious: a song-title or a catch phrase that better conveys the subject matter. It’s not easy: we’re looking at fifty years and a dozen genres of music. But it’s surely possible. And so I throw it open to the public. If someone comes up with some fantastic name that I hadn’t thought of and end up using, an autographed book or two will certainly come your way upon publication next spring. If we brainstorm between us, and reach a title by consensus, then consider that a payback for all the time I put in to this site. Finally, if we end up sticking with the title I’m currently committed to, at least I will know that it’s not for lack of consideration and I’ll be that much happier going into publication.

My thanks in advance. Please use the comments section below or join a Discussion in the Pub.

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10 Comment(s)

  1. TheOnlyLivingBoyInStatenIsland

    11 March, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Here’s a title influenced from a song that was definitely recorded in NY:


  2. vurwi

    11 March, 2008 at 10:54 am

    “Where the streets always change – Music from New York”
    Surely, a little spin on a well known U2 song won’t hurt sales…

  3. 11 March, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Don’t forget Nelson Algren’s “A Walk On the Wild Side.” Its not a bad title, but you’re right about its previous uses, references and context. I’m going to give it some thought.

  4. jeff

    11 March, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    More Books about music and the streets of new york.

  5. tom

    12 March, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Tough assignment Tony and really brings to the fore how much we take a good title for granted.

    Thinking of the Big Apple all I’ve come up with so far is:
    “Gone to my Baby’s Head – the Music of (or from) New York’s Neighborhoods”

    Of course you’d have to put the ‘u’ in neighborhoods for the English version!

  6. 12 March, 2008 at 7:29 am

    “More Books about music and the streets of new york.”

    Nice…. A sense of humor has certainly been necessary during this process.


  7. 12 March, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I’m working with two ideas to throw around-

    Positively New York City: Music from the Streets


    Positively New York: Music from the City Streets

  8. 12 March, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    2 more ideas-

    No Sleep: The music of New York City.


    Big City of Dreams: The music of New York.

  9. baby jebus

    12 March, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    The Apple Stretching (who remembers that? I barely did)
    Do You Believe In Magic?
    Really Has It All
    Wonderful Town (nicely double-edged, there)

    I like the No Sleep theme, and Out In The Streets is cute for several good reasons.
    Good luck.

  10. 12 March, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    The Apple Stretching has actually been a working title for a chapter… Seemed such a marginal song that I wasn’t sure of it for the book. Do You Believe In Magic? is a song much discussed, partly because John Sebastian is so much fun to talk with, and it’s right in the middle of the story… Nice ideas.


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