Deep Cuts: The Yardbirds, “New York City Blues” from Greatest Hits (1966)

Composed by Yardbirds lead singer Keith Relf and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, “New York City Blues” was nestled on the B-side of “Shapes Of Things,” which reached the No. 11 position on the charts in the spring of 1966.

“New York City Blues” (Epic Records) did not appear on an album until 1967, when it was included on the band’s first Greatest Hits collection, but has since been digitally reissued on a few occasions.

Out of all the bands born of the British Invasion, the Yardbirds were easily the bluesiest of the bunch. Citing folks like Muddy Waters, Leadbelly, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Bo Diddley as main mentors, the band assumed these inspirations and modified them in a highly revolutionary context. A forward-thinking band from pillar to post, the Yardbirds soon expanded their repertoire to even greater degrees. It’s no stretch to say they invented psychedelic music, progressive rock, and heavy metal before such classifications existed.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Founding stalwart Jim McCarty joined us to chat about continuing the Yardbirds’ legacy into a new era, and his hopes for Chris Dreja’s return.]

A brutal burst of electric guitar, coaxed from the supernatural fingers of Jeff Beck, sparks “New York City Blues” then slinks and slouches into a burning blues statement. An altogether tight and intense performance, the Yardbirds are at the pinnacle of their game here. Stinging riffs moan and groan with power and despair, while the vocals are convincingly pained and the drumming is crisp and cohesive.

Recounting a doomed love affair, “New York City Blues” tells a tale of meeting a girl and bringing her home, only to be greeted by her dad armed with a shotgun. Now that’s the blues!

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.