NYC’s Top 10 Music Landmarks 

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If anywhere can lay claim to being the spiritual home of rock music it’s New York City. It is after all the city where Bob Dylan made his break, where the Velvet Underground pioneered their art rock sound and where The Ramones proved that anyone can learn three chords and start a band. But what are the most important music landmarks to check out in the Big Apple? Put on a beat-up denim jacket and read our comprehensive guide to find out…

1. Strawberry Fields

West side of Central Park between 71st and 74th St

Every music fan should check out the landscaped garden in Central Park known as Strawberry Fields. Located on the west side of the park, the gardens serve as a memorial to John Lennon, who was fatally shot just outside his home at the nearby Dakota building by an unhinged fan. The black and white ‘Imagine’ mosaic at the centre was commissioned by Yoko Ono and serves as a poignant reminder of the imaginative Beatle and the couple’s favourite walking spot.

 2. Electric Lady Studios

52 West 8th St, Greenwich Village

Electric Lady is the Greenwich Village recording studio that Jimi Hendrix built to record his own music after the lengthy and expensive sessions for Electric Ladyland. Sadly, Hendrix passed away after only four weeks of recording here, but the studio lives on with a client list that has included Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and the Rolling Stones. It’s still the go-to place for New York bands such as The Strokes who favour its all-vintage, all-analogue sound, which hasn’t changed much since 1973. 

3. Physical Graffiti

96-98 St Mark’s Place, East Village

New York City has long been the backdrop for many an iconic album sleeve design but perhaps most notably for Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. Rumour has it that Zep and sleeve designer Peter Corriston spent weeks wandering around town looking for the perfect building, which they eventually found in 96-98 St Mark’s Place. In case you’re wondering why the real building has five floors but on the cover it only has four, that’s because they cropped one out to fit on a square LP sleeve.

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4. Hotel Chelsea

222 West 23rd St, Chelsea

A hotel where every room tells a story, writers and musicians have been living at the Chelsea since the 1950s, either because they were too broke or too troublesome to live elsewhere. Among its many rock star guests have been Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix and Sid Vicious. Leonard Cohen wrote the song ‘Chelsea Hotel’ about a night with Janis Joplin there, and Bob Dylan stayed up for days writing ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ in room 211. However, gone are the days when you could get high just from opening the lift door; the hotel has been closed for renovations since 2011. 

5. CBGB

315 Bowery St, East Village

The quintessential punk rock club, CBGB opened in 1973 and was famous for putting on early shows by the likes of Patti Smith, The Ramones and Blondie, then later Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains. The venue finally closed its doors in 2006, being replaced by a high-end fashion store, following a similar fate similar to many other classic New York venues. However, its current incarnation as a clothes shop is still worth a visit as it keeps many of the original features intact. 

6. The Factory

Decker Building, 33 Union Square West

The sixth floor of the Decker Building was once home to The Factory, the studio where Andy Warhol produced his iconic screenprints and hosted some of the wildest parties of the 60s. House band the Velvet Underground were regulars here, using the Factory as a rehearsal space and having the sleeve of their debut album designed by Warhol himself.

7. Cafe Wha?

115 MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village

Of all the 1960s folk clubs in Greenwich Village, Café Wha? was perhaps the most influential, helping launch the careers of Jimi Hendrix, the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan to name a few. Dylan played his first NYC show here in 1961, immortalising the experience in the lyrics to ‘Talkin’ New York’ (“blowing my lungs out for a dollar a day”). Café Wha? is not quite the folk club it used to be, but the house band still knows how to put on a great show.

8. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Jones Street at West 4th Street, Greenwich Village

Ever wondered where that iconic photo of Bob Dylan was taken on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan? The shot, which features a young Dylan huddled close to his girlfriend Suze Rotolo looking all cute and romantic, was taken at the northern end of Jones Street at West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. It’s still the perfect place to pose for a photo op with your partner.

9. The Dream House

275 Church Street, Tribeca

Minimalist composer La Monte Young has always been a big influence on NY’s underground music scene (on bands like Sonic Youth) but few know that he actually has his own music attraction here. The Dream House is a sound and light environment in Tribeca created by Young and his artist wife, Marian Zazeela. Bathed in purple light and emitting an around-the-clock cosmic drone, the Dream House is the perfect place to lie back and have your brain rewired.

Of course, who could leave the legends of broadway like Rogers and Hammerstien, Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Webber and more can not be blinked away. See a classic this season like Cinderella or Phantom of the Opera. But as long as you stroll down 42nd Street you can soak in a little magic. 

Additional Information

Right Here NYC – a great source of information on the location of famous rock ‘n’ roll addresses

HotelClub New York – accommodation website offering a range of hotels in the area

 

Images by Dawn Huczek and Andrew Malone