Musical locations in Manhattan

Washington Square ParkOn a recent trip to Manhattan, my partner and I visited specific locations referenced in songs by our favorite artists while we listened to the song. The concept of a musical tour of the city made for an intriguing plan. Our first stop was Washington Square Park. In “Garlands,” Tori Amos sings about two lovers meeting up here to go see a Chagall exhibit uptown. The paintings seem to chronicle elements of their love. The song was a bonus track on The Beekeeper. Tori originally considered titling the song “Washington Square.”

77 Bleecker StreetPrince wrote “77 Bleecker Street” for Jill Jones. The song was recorded for her 1987 debut album on Prince’s Paisley Park Records label. She met Prince in 1980 and was his on and off again girlfriend for a number of years. The song is about a love affair with a man who lives at 77 Bleecker Street. Why did Prince choose this address? Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s two blocks from Prince Street and the Prince Street subway station. Did he ever live at this address, and might there be an autobiographical reference?

Electric Lady StudioJimi Hendrix and his manager originally intended to open a nightclub at this address, but instead decided to build a recording studio (purportedly to avoid paying the Mob for the privilege of operating a club). Hendrix spent only four weeks recording new material at Electric Lady Studios during final construction in 1970 prior to his death. “Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland),” from which the studio took its name, was recorded by Hendrix in 1968, and is a psychedelic mix of magic carpets and electric love.

Chelsea HotelMeShell Ndegeocello recorded the Leonard Cohen song “Chelsea Hotel” for her 2011 album Weather. The landmark hotel has had a cavalcade of notable residents, including Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen (who died in one of the rooms), Virgil Thompson, and Janis Joplin. The song reflects the world of music and fame in the context of two temporary lovers who may not be among the beautiful but at least have their music.

Wollman Rink, Central ParkIn “Song for Sharon,” Joni Mitchell sings about a woman who chases an illusion of love and marriage but remains always unfulfilled. At one point, she visits a gypsy on Bleecker Street (perhaps not far from 77 Bleecker Street) who lights a candle for her love luck, and “18 bucks went up in smoke.” Later, she watches 29 skaters on Wollman Rink in Central Park skating in singles and pairs “in vigorous anonymity.”

We couldn’t think of any other specific sites, although there are undoubtedly many. New York is a popular reference in songs — perhaps even the most popular city. Any recommendations?

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