THE OTHER “NEW YORK, NEW YORK”: Ryan Adams’ accidental anthem for a stricken city

Filtered through the narrow, isolated, and entirely subjective lens of an interviewer and his subject going about their respective businesses 15 years ago, here’s a retrospective look back to the days before, and immediately after, that devastating, shock and sorrow-filled day of September 11, 2001. I remember waking up to blue skies and a bright, gorgeous autumn morning in Massachusetts much like this one today, with another story to write (about the indie-rock band Beulah) and another appointment to keep (bringing my preposterously fuzzy cat, Memphis, to get her annual haircut). The next thing I remember is glancing at a small television set propped in a corner of the pet store with a handful of other people and watching, in the span of a few minutes that seemed to stretch and yawn into a horrifying forever, my and our reality ripped apart. It was all so sudden, so jarring, yet so utterly unbelievable that it seemed at first to be a nightmarish optical illusion; as if my own eyes and mind had conspired to play a terrible trick on a David Copperfield-esque scale of epic malevolence: an act of reducing a magnificent city glinting in the sun with life and people to a mountain of grey ash, smoking rubble, and extinguished lives. Of course the terror, incomprehensible as it seemed, was awful and real. And just like that, the meaning of everything and everyone inhabiting the world — the world itself, in fact — irrevocably changed. Life right down to our collective humanity and heartbeat felt impossibly fragile or already corrupted, destroyed — our worst selves causing us to be warped grotesquely beyond human recognition. Fifteen years later, I wish I could say that fateful morning feels like a lifetime ago. But a heavy heart always meets the memory of the violence, suffering, and loss visited upon us. Perhaps that’s a good thing as we go forward, live out lives, and pause to look back. If history has taught us anything, it’s that memory, and the lessons we can learn from it, is everything.

RPM: Jonathan Perry's Life in Analog

The cover of Ryan Adams' second solo album, "Gold," released Sept. 25, 2001. By tragic coincidence, the album's lead single, "New York, New York," dropped Sept. 11, 2001. The cover of Ryan Adams’ second solo album, “Gold,” released Sept. 25, 2001. By tragic coincidence, the album’s lead single, “New York, New York,” dropped Sept. 11, 2001.

The jarring image of an American Flag turned upside down on the album cover,  and the single “New York, New York” (no, not that one) that graced singer-songwriter Ryan Adams’s second solo album, “Gold,” were both mere (some might say awful) coincidence. So was the release date of that aforementioned single: September 11, 2001. The video for the single, a valentine to Gotham whose refrain was “I’ll always love you, New York,” featured many exteriors of the city, including its most prominent and (in retrospect) iconic visual backdrop: The Twin Towers. The video had been shot only four days before that terrible day of destruction and terrorism. At first, Adams was opposed to performing his new single, or airing the video, apparently not wanting…

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