12 Essential New York Records.

CBGB bowery OMFUG rock punk


I’m not someone who gets overly annoyed easily (but if you chew loudly or sniff constantly on public transport, I’ll probably want to smack you in the kisser.) However, after reading the apparent “essential” NYC records chosen by BBC 6Music, I got annoyed. In fact, it went beyond being annoyed. I am pissed off. A pissed off Punk who is absolutely infuriated by this list and I know that I am not alone in this.

If you want to share my rage, here is the list:

1. The Strokes – Is This It
2. Wu Tang Clan – Enter The 36 Chambers
3. Blondie – Parallel Lines
4. Talking Heads – 77
5. Nas – Illmatic
6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
7. Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
9. Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
10. The Rapture – Echoes
11. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
12. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver


I am a massive fan of Nas, Wu Tang, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes. The Strokes first record was my crutch for a long time, and I do agree with it being there- but not at the top. There is so much missing from this list- how can you even condense it down to 12 anyway? Maybe 20 wouldn’t even be enough.

So with my burning rage, I have to come up with my own list. I don’t want to claim that my list is correct or anything like that- it’s just an opinion. I could be wrong, or someone may feel like they agree with me. The severe lack of Punk in the list just makes me sad. I do agree, as I said with some of the records being there, but some are wrongfully missed.

Also, it isn’t in any order- I don’t like order, it makes me nervous.


It was either this or Leave Home. I think Leave Home is my favourite Ramones record, but their debut deserves to be there because of the huge impact it had. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was about 14/156. The age where everything and anything can influence you. I remember hearing it and feeling like I had been born in the wrong era. Every song gave me this incredible feeling, and every song just made me idolise them. I think it is obvious that I worship Joey Ramone. Oh man, Beat On The Brat is one of my favourite Ramones songs. I love the lyrics and I love the humour in their songs but there is a real sensitivity in Joey’s voice that is so unique and beautiful. It’’ just such an iconic record. It was made to influence and to be played loud.

Lou Reed-Transformer.

The most important NYC record of all time. ALL.TIME. Why the hell wasn’t it included?! It’s pretty insulting to Lou’s legacy that this record isn’t on there. It’s not only a great NYC record; it’s probably my favourite record of all time. As a gay person, this record gave me this sense of freedom that I hadn’t found in any other record when I first heard it. I didn’t come out until years after hearing this record, but it gave me this feeling of being alright with who I was. Besides, me being gay doesn’t define me. Never has, never will Transformer is just the coolest record ever made. I hate the word cool, we know that but fucking hell Lou Reed was THE coolest person to have ever lived and he just smacks it in our faces with this record. Sally Can’t Dance and Coney Island Baby are obviously worth mentioning. Pretty sure my list could just be Lou and Ramones records. Vicious and Andy’s Chest…man alive! “You hit me with a flower.” That’s GOT to move you in some way. I love the lyrics to Vicious, and I think this whole record shows Lou in a different way, you know? He just expressed himself in a way nobody else had dared to. I still don’t think anything can touch this record.

New York Dolls-New York Dolls.

The clue is in the bloody name really. Absolutely criminal and horrendous that this record isn’t on the list. My mum got me into the Dolls at a very young age. I don’t even think I was a teenager. I remember finding her copy of the record, and being in awe of the Dolls in drag. How beautiful they were! I was drawn of course, to Johnny Thunders (the greatest guitarist of all time.) Subway Train is such a beautiful song. Jet Boy has this incredible snarl to it. The whole record oozes attitude that is so unique to the Dolls. The lyrics to Trash and Personality Crisis are just great. This record is New York through and through. It’s got the charm and grit. It’s got the attitude and bite. It’s a record that I always find myself going to time and time again, and discovering more things to love about it. It’s just timeless.

Richard Hell + The Voidoids-Blank Generation.

Alright so Richard isn’t from New York- but this record was recorded at Electric Lady Studios so, it’s a NYC record. And he moved there pretty early on, so it’s fine. It’s acceptable.

I am a Richard Hell obsessive. I paid £30 once for a Richard Hell t-shirt from a shop on Brick Lane. Yeah it was too much money, but it’s Richard Hell.

Blank Generation would easily be in my list of best Punk records. It’s got this raw attitude to it, and I just love Richard’s voice. As a singer and as a writer, I just love him. His autobiography is one of the best of its kind I’ve read. He has most certainly lived a colourful life. Sure he’s done questionable things, the little bugger. But, he’s made some incredible music along the way.


Suicide are probably the best duo of all time. Frankie Teardrop is the best 10 minute song of all time. Dream Baby Dream is a masterpiece. The whole record is a work of art. If any record can capture the roughness of New York in the 70s, it’s this record. It is such a grand record and well ahead of its time. It still is. Nothing and no one has ever come close to this. For me, I think Suicide are massively underrated but they have influenced so many bands that I adore. It still hurts and it still sucks that Alan Vega is no longer here. I remember when he passed; I had the same reaction most had for Bowie. Suicide were never afraid to push their sound and to make music that was entirely different. It is a beautiful noise that brings such pleasure and joy to the ears. It is a gritty record from start to finish, and they keep that grittiness throughout every record they have ever made.

The Heartbreakers-L.A.M.F

I think this was recorded in London, but Johnny Thunders was a New Yorker, The Heartbreakers were a supergroup. I did want to pick a solo Johnny record, but I remembered how much I am obsessed with L.A.M.F (it stands for Like A Mother Fucker.) and how One Track Mind is such a great song. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if Johnny was still here. Like I said earlier on, for me he’s the greatest guitarist of all time. His style was just impeccable and one of a kind. No one else could play like him. His style was way ahead of its time. He was ahead of his time.  He had this way of just magnetising you with every note. The record has been reissued so many times, but regardless of what version you have- it’s a genius record. It is proper Rock N Roll and has Punk foundations. Of all the records I own, I think this might be my most played. It’s one of those records I just really enjoy listening to over and over again.


Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time, that’s obvious. There are so many Hip Hop records I could have chosen. I know that The Big Picture by Big L is one of the best. I bought it when it came out, and to this day it is still one of my favourite records. Like Nas, Big L was and still is above the rest. Illmatic portrays New York in a way that most don’t want to hear. Nas is not, and has never been afraid to show the harsher side of life. From losing friends to growing up in the projects in Queens- he really takes you there. He’s a poet, a storyteller. Halftime is one of the songs on Illmatic that really show this. He makes you see the world and his world the way he does with Illmatic. Is it his best record? For sure. It’s one of the best Hip Hop records of all time. Nas has constantly brought out remarkable records that have, and still do influence so many. It’s one of those records that you can’t imagine not ever happening. It is such an important record- irrespective of what kind of music you’re into; it is such a phenomenal record. What he did with this debut record most want from their whole career.

A Tribe Called Quest-People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Tribe have always made consistently great records that are so experimental and diverse. They fused together all styles of music. There are so many records by them I could have chosen, but it felt right to go with their debut. It came out in a time where you had groups like NWA with their aggressive songs. Sure their songs may have been, but it is important to remember that NWA were telling us about the things that were happening in Compton- it is just as important and to an extent maybe more so. But this about New York right now. What I love about the first Tribe record is that it frees your mind, it gives you something that you won’t find anywhere else. Q-Tip and Phife are two great rappers, and I don’t think they have ever got enough credit it. Tribe’s records each have distinctive sounds. Push It Along is nearly 8 minutes long, Bonita Applebum is genius, I Left My Wallet In El Segundo is timeless and Luck of Lucien is just amazing. The samples on this record used range from Grace Jones to The Beatles to Lou Reed. It’s a record that quite simply, you need to own.

 Sonic Youth-Confusion Is Sex

I could have happily listed every single record by Sonic Youth. I’d have no idea where to start- so I went to the start. It’s such a heavy record; it’s a record that has influenced so many. It is powerful, it is loud and it has Jim Sclavunos on drums. What more do you need? (She’s In A) Bad Mood is such a brilliant way to start the record. Jim’s drumming is so brutal; they all just move you in a way that you wouldn’t expect. There is nothing calming about the sound on this record- they just rile you up in a way that is mind-blowing.

I think it is possible the record that shows us all just how amazing Kim Gordon is. I mean, we know that anyway but Confusion Is Sex has some awesome moments that just leave you inspired by Kim. Shaking Hell is my favourite on this record; it’s so aggressive and really brutal. The louder you play this, the better. The way she yells “Shake off your flesh!” is so hypnotising.

The Velvet Underground-Loaded

Maybe I should have gone with their first record. Maybe. But, Loaded is my favourite and I remember buying my copy of this in Brussels and feeling like I had won the lottery. My copy doesn’t play as well as it should but that’s because I am always playing it. I love listening to it and allowing Velvet Underground to take me some place really magical. Rock & Roll is such a fantastic song, and you can’t help but think you’re the person Lou has written about. Lonesome Cowboy Bill is out of this world- it’s not like anything else.

Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ is up there as being one of the greatest songs of all time. It’s one of Lou’s best, easily. I’ve written about this record so many times, and I’m sure I have never done it justice.

Television-Marquee Moon

I cannot make this list without mentioning Television, and this record. Many have regarded it as one of the best records ever made, and they aren’t wrong. It is such a wonderfully created record. From the vocals to the production- it is so effortlessly great and really does have a slick sound that you know is from New York. Every song on Marquee Moon is so distinctive. You hear one note, and you immediately know that it is them. The intro to the title song is one of the most iconic ones of all time. It’s an intro that just stays with you. You immediately go back to the first time you heard it as soon as it comes on. It’s just a magnificent record that definitely does deserve its status as being one of the greatest records ever made.

The Strokes-Is This It

There are a number of records I could have picked. I could have gone with Foxy Brown, Mos Def, Interpol, Talking Heads, Big L- so many. Why did I stick with The Strokes when I could have picked someone else? Because this record holds a lot of importance to me. It’s got me through hell and back. It still does. I adore Julian. I love his words, his voice and just him. It’s a record I constantly go back to. I can play it and I immediately go back to my first time hearing it. I was 15 years old, being bullied at school. I’d play it every day. And every single day I would imagine I was hanging out with Julian in New York City eating pizza, going to record stores and going to shows. This record was my escape, and it still is. It captures New York and it captures what music means to me. So from a totally personal point of view, this record is New York. This record is important. Again, it is one that is still a massive influence to bands. They are all great musicians, and there will never be anything else quite like it- just like all the records I have mentioned.


Like I said, there are so many records that could have been named. This is just my personal take. Maybe it is wrong, maybe it is right. It’s just a point of view, like the 6Music one is. But I just find it hard to accept that so many great and influential records were missed off.



“I know it’s hard for you to face the fact Max Factor failed your face
And that your social life’s misshapen ‘cuz you feel so out of place.”

Many will argue what defines Punk and what is Punk. Is it still alive or did it die a quick but painful death? Everyone has their own take on it. Some think it is putting a safety pin through their ear but some may regard it being a state of mind. I’m with the latter. For me it is something that goes beyond three chords and ripped jeans. Music always goes beyond what is expected, and Punk did just that. It still does that.

I can’t remember how old I was but I’d imagine I was in my teens when I first heard of Richard Hell. I heard Marquee Moon by Television and was fully aware that I was listening to something I could never be turned off from. Of course I was born too late to experience the Punk movement when it started, but I realised quite quickly that this wasn’t something I was going to let go of nor was I going to take this music lightly. I delved into the bands that Richard Hell had been involved with, but more importantly I seemed to care about what he had to say rather than what band he was in.

Over the past few years I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading his poetry, his reviews, his essays, his thoughts, his autobiography- really anything he wrote, I would track down and read religiously. The only person I’ve had this urge to really indulge in all they do is Patti Smith. For me, they are people with great minds who make you think. I’ll take someone who makes me question everything and everyone over someone who doesn’t, easily. I’m currently nearing the end of Massive Pissed Love, it’s a collection of his work from 2000-2014. I find everything he writes to be utterly captivating and it sets my mind off. He talks about topics most would shy away from and he’s not afraid to voice his opinion. From his thoughts on art to sex, he makes you think. What most would shun as a “taboo” he just gives it to you without a second thought. That is Punk.

The best way to learn anything is to experience it, but I still regard Patti Smith, Morrissey and Joey Ramone as the best teachers I ever had. They held my attention more than any teacher ever could. Richard Hell is up there too. There have been a handful of writers that really got me into poetry and lured me into always having a notebook with me in case I felt the need to unleash pathetic words onto a page. Words no one will ever see. What Richard Hell taught me was to really go from the heart and not be too cautious with where it takes me. Having a careful tongue isn’t fun. It’s alright to cross the line at times and it’s a fucking great thing to question everything around you.

Richard Hell was (and probably still is) my vision of a rebel. The way he was on stage, his words, his look- everything about him oozed something different to everyone else. You couldn’t help but really fall in love with him. I’ve read his autobiography a few times, and with each read I find something new to love and admire about him. In the 80s he pretty much stopped making music and focused on his writing. Sure I’d love a new record by Richard but he writes so beautifully that it doesn’t seem to matter. The music he did made still sounds timeless and his words still resonate with you. He was part of the ULTIMATE super group- The Heartbreakers (featuring the greatest guitarist, Johnny Thunders) and on stage or off, he had this way of just getting under your skin in the best way imaginable.

I didn’t really go into this with any idea with what I wanted to get at, I guess I just wanted to unleash my respect for the guy somehow. I’ve spent years being in awe of his way with words. He doesn’t complicate things in order for you to see things how he does. He has this Rimbaud quality to his work that can be easy to miss but when you get right into the heart of it, you can pick up the influences. But then, you go a bit deeper and realise that there is nobody else quite like him. Sure you can pick up on who has possibly influenced him, but it slowly fades away because Richard Hell is something else. He is truly something else.

His song lyrics read like perfect poetry. The kind of poetry kids should be studying in schools to free and expand their mind. If I was an English teacher, I’d be fighting for the curriculum to have his work along with Patti Smith. Punk taught me nearly everything I know. Sure I don’t know much, but there’s always the time to learn more. I learnt very early on that I always felt like an outsider and where I was, wasn’t where I should be. I never felt part of anything, but I’ll take being part of the Blank Generation any day.



Johnny Thunders : Part New York Doll, Part Genius.


“Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies. Ask me no questions, I’ll be yours tonight.”


There’s always one band that you remember the first time you heard them, and it stays with you for life. Or maybe there is one musician who just made you feel so alive by the way he/she played their chosen instrument. Something about them made you feel so alive, and those that called you out as a “freak” are nothing to you. Let it mean nothing. Let the right one in, and when it becomes clear it is wrong- well then you will have learnt for next time. But will there be a next time. I think too much. I’m thinking too much. About an event and a person I can do nothing about, that’s when you know the person owns a part of you no one in this universe can ever claim. But you should’ve given it away to them about 3 or 4 years ago. It’s not a mistake, it’s repeatedly kicking yourself because you realised to late. What part of you is bruised? This means nothing to you, the person reading this. So skip this and read to where I make my point. What is my point?  JOHNNY.THUNDERS. The original. The one and ONLY. The man who won your heart over with the opening to Jet Boy, and since then- he owned it. Boy did he own you something good.

60 years ago today Johnny was born. I remember when he died. I remember my mum and uncle being in shock about it all. The passing of a musician has the power to break so many hearts. I’ve cried over the passing of a number of musicians. When your hero dies, it is like part of you dies with them. Yet part of them lives on in you. The bad and the good, what a clash of worlds it truly is. What a terrible thing is it. But, you pull through and cling onto the music. That’s all you can ever do. Let go of the person, hold onto their art. This isn’t just musicians that you do not know you can apply this to. I’m not going to give you a life lesson, you’re not stupid. You know how it is.

New York Dolls are a band that have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I used to be fascinated by the artwork of their debut record. Their made-up faces and killer heels, it was a world I wanted in on. I was so young, I didn’t know the power it would have over me. As I got older and listened to their music (15 onwards) I realised that this was the music that was meant for me. This was a genre of music I just needed to have surrounding me at all times. I didn’t want anything else. Their gang mentality and their true to life lyrics resonated with me. Every single part of me was in love with this band.

Music without the Dolls just wouldn’t have ever been the same. They made their mark in a way no other band ever has, or ever will. They caused their own scene. Made their own movement. They were everything and much more. Johnny Thunders was THE most charismatic guitar player of all time. I will always stand by him being the greatest guitarist of all time. This is just my personal view, and that means I am probably wrong. Being right is far too hyped up. Most things are. Follow your heart kid, and don’t bite your tongue. What good comes from holding back? I know, I truly know. I leave it too late. New York Dolls make you want to roam the streets and kick empty cans out of frustration towards your own life, and your surroundings. They tell you to make a change, but you try. You try real hard, but no one wants to give you the chance. The Dolls were and always will be my get-out card. The go to when I need to feel something no other band can give me. A sense of freedom, and the capability to do it my own way. I don’t know where I am going, or what I am doing- but the Dolls are providing the soundtrack.

Subway Train is my life. A constant reminder of missing out, being thrown about and trying to get out. There is so much romanticism (I’m too romantic and I’m starting to think it’s a bad thing.) But for me, this song oozes so much from nostalgia to accepting someone else has won. You try to win them, but there’s something greater than you that holds their attention. Force quit on your affections. I just love the song a lot. Then you have Trash, Personality Crisis, Looking For A Kiss..the whole debut record is probably one of the best things ever. If you can’t see this, then maybe you haven’t listened to it. As it would’ve been Johnny’s 60th birthday today, you should probably go listen to it. Paint up your face, put on your favourite outfit and play it loud. You’ll feel good from the inside out. You’ll feel alive.

We must never forget the impact and the role Johnny played within the music industry. His rebellious stance and gifted guitar skills made him stand-out from those before, during and after. In my heart, he will always be the greatest. The true meaning of a New York Doll.

Happy Birthday Johnny xx