This week, here in the UK, 6 Music have been celebrating New York with a series of brilliant programmes and playlists. Until I visited last year, I hadn't been to NYC for over 20 years. In fact I could hardly say I'd been there at all as that first trip was only a fleeting 24 hours in which all we really did was rush up to the top of the Empire State Building and rather than feeling in awe of the city, we simply felt giddy about being so far away from home unsupervised. But then I found myself booked to go back to help to organise an event.
The first trip over was a 48 hour whirlwind recce. We landed late on the Monday night and at 5am on Tuesday morning I lay wide awake in my hotel room one block away from Central Park. What else to do but get up and walk? I decided I would head to Radio City Hall and zig-zagged across the blocks, round the side of the park and straight down Broadway. I stood and stared up at the vertical signs feeling excited and disorientated with commuters around me, my wide eyes giving me away as a jet-lagged tourist. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped for coffee and a bagel and then took a detour past Carnegie Hall, which I've wanted to see since listening to Ryan Adams' beautiful album of the night he played there. The city had me hooked.
We returned a few weeks after the recce to deliver the event and threw ourselves wholeheartedly into the city. I found myself feeling completely intoxicated by its creativity, energy and movement. It's clearer than London with wider streets. You can see it more easily, have more perspective. There's noise and madness but I also found so many quiet, creative corners.
When I first went to New York, all those years ago, to see the Empire State building and nothing else, I was on my way to spend a summer working in the Rocky Mountains. I met an American guy who made me a mix-tape. It included New York State Of Mind by Billy Joel and one lyric resonated more than the rest, "Been high in the Rockies, under the evergreens." On this trip to NYC, a group of us went to a brilliant piano bar in Greenwich Village one night. At 2am after one too many glasses of red, I paid twenty bucks for the pianist to play the song. The waitress stepped out from behind the bar. leant casually against the piano and belted out the words like a Broadway star. One lyric resonated more than the rest, "I don't have any reasons, I left them all behind... I'm in a New York state of mind." It's a moment I'll remember all my life. What a town.