As a city that represents endless possibilities, New York has been the setting for the dawning of new movements, styles, and genres. In the 20th century, the birth of Rock represented a connection between art forms and the city’s socioeconomic, racial, and sexual variants. New York Rock breaks down the rock scene’s half-century connection to New York and analyzes its distinct subculture through the prism of influences, crosscurrents and psychoactive distractions. Over 1,500 musicians, clubs, and labels, from Madonna to the Ramones, held roles in the making of New York Rock, and it’s their contributions that created this iconic art form. A compilation of firsthand narratives about each genre of rock, from Punk New Wave and Glitter Rock to New York Hardcore and Indie rock, New York Rock is the ultimate illustrated account of Rock’s role in New York City.
The majority of this music history focuses on the already-well-documented scene at the legendary (now closed) venue CBGB in New York City, but its most interesting passages discuss the scenes that preceded and followed the punk movement. Blush, senior editor at Paper, has compiled a sweeping oral history of New York rock. The songwriting of Tin Pan Alley and the productions of the Brill Building provide the pop-centric context for the rise of the short and fast punk songs by groups like the Ramones. Scenes discussing the aftermath of the punk movement on disparate scenes throughout the city are highlights. The chapter on New York hardcore discusses the music created by young working-class musicians from Queens, and how their songs responded to a changing, gentrifying city in the 1980s and 1990s. At times, the book lacks focus and devolves into lists of bands. Blush's work is sweeping in scope but lacks any central theme holding its different parts together. However, its contents provide an excellent starting point for those researching New York City's music.