A Tour Of New York's Music Landmarks

Joe Strummer Mural | © Wikipedia Commons
Joe Strummer Mural | © Wikipedia Commons
Photo of Dana deLaski
24 September 2016

NYC is full of monuments, landmarks, and museums for anything and everything. No matter what you’re interested in, it probably has history in New York, and music is no different. Nearly every famous musician has come through here, and it’s the city where many of them actually got their start. And while there’s plenty to learn about music in New York through museums or historical sites, one of the more unique things about NYC’s music history is that, if you know where to look, you can see it on the street. From cafes to building facades to perhaps your very hotel room, our guide will help you find some of NYC’s best music landmarks that you might’ve otherwise overlooked.

Strawberry Fields

A memorial to John Lennon in Central Park, Strawberry Fields is a 2.5-acre space directly adjacent to the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, once lived. It was just outside his apartment that John Lennon was shot and killed in December of 1980, and in 1981 city council member Henry Stern designated this area of the park ‘Strawberry Fields’ after The Beatles’ song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

Central Park West Between 71st and 74h Streets, New York, NY, USA

On #InternationalDayOfPeace and every day, we #Imagine … #JohnLennon #StrawberryFields #CentralPark

A photo posted by The Fest For Beatles Fans (@beatles_fest) on

Joe Strummer Memorial

Born in 1952, Joe Strummer was the lead singer of iconic British punk band The Clash. The band was known for its rebellious attitude, politically charged lyrics, and fearlessness. The Clash influenced the alternative rock scene in countless ways, and in 2003 both The Clash and Joe Strummer were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Strummer died in 2002, and in 2003 a mural in his memory was painted in the East Village. Though it was temporarily defaced due to construction in 2013, it has since been fully restored.

Joe Strummer Mural | © Wikipedia Commons

Cafe Wha?

Music Venue
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Though you’d never know it from the outside, Cafe Wha? was an essential venue in Greenwich Village during the 1960s’ days of art, music, and revolution. It helped launch the careers of Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan (to name only a few). Bob Dylan even played his very first NYC show here in 1961. Though it’s changed over the years, Cafe Wha? is still a great place to hear music, or simply to feel the energy of its musical history.

Physical Graffiti

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While NYC has been the backdrop for countless music videos and photoshoots, it’s also the backdrop for the cover of Led Zeppelin’s album Physical Graffiti.There isn’t much to do at this site other than recognize it, but if you’re a Led Zeppelin fan it’s pretty cool to see. The rumor is that Led Zeppelin and the album cover designer spent weeks wandering NYC in search of the perfect backdrop, and they settled on 96-98 St Marks Place.

Jones Street and West 4th Street

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Another iconic album cover is The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, released in 1963. It was his second album, and the romantic photograph of him and his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, was taken at the corner of Jones Street and West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. The site is close to where the couple lived at the time, and the photograph is said to have influenced cover art to come with its casual and unposed look.

Hotel Chelsea

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Also called the Chelsea Hotels or just ‘Chelsea’, Hotel Chelsea is famous for its past celebrity guests. Since the 1950s, writers, musicians, and other artists have stayed here, from Patti Smith to Jimi Hendrix and more. It’s been mentioned in many classic songs, such as Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel’, Bob Dylan was known to have stayed up all night in room – number 211 – writing ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’, and it’s even where Sid Vicious’s girlfriend was found murdered.

Memory Motel

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Out in Montauk on Long Island is the Memory Motel, a small, nondescript 13-room motel made famous by The Rolling Stones. The band members were regulars here and were known to hang out at the bar listening to the jukebox. The hotel still exists, and so does the jukebox, so if you happen to stop by the bar be sure to put on a Rolling Stones song.

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