I’m not one to decry someone else’s interpretation of a particular work of art. I mean, isn’t that what makes art so special? That we can all derive our own significance and meaning from it? Yeah, that’s great, but there are exceptions to that rule. Here’s one of them.
I’ve never read PolicyMic before (and probably won’t again), but I gather it’s yet another Buzzfeed-wannabe hell bent on cranking out pithy lists rife with desperate allusions to the zeitgeist. Earlier this week, they published a piece presumptuously titled 22 Songs Only True New Yorkers Will Understand. First of all, fuck you. Don’t tell me what “true New Yorkers” will or will not do, especially if you’re under the age of friggin’ 30. What the hell do you know about it?
In any case, while there’s plenty to snort derisively about with this listicle, I was particularly peeved by the entry on “53rd and Third” by the Ramones, reprinted here…
It's New York City in the '70s, amidst war protests, drugs, crime and the heyday of CBGB. Tough, unvarnished and full of anger, this song is the ultimate "fuck you" to the police, the Manhattan glitterati and even the "city of dreams" itself. There's no harsher reality than NYC when you hit bottom.
But even on 53rd and 3rd, when you're down and out, there's some love for the city to be found.
“53rd and Third” is the semi-autobiographical tale of Dee Dee Ramone’s days as a male prostitute, augmented via poetic license with the flourish of an elite military background. The song’s title is a specific allusion to a once-thriving strip for cruising, and the lyrics are ultimately about desperation, self-loathing and homicide. There is absolutely no love expressed for New York City – or anything else -- herein, nor is there much for any “true New Yorker” to specifically identify with.
The actual locale of the narrative hasn’t played host to the sort of activity detailed in the song in decades. In 2014, it is a staid, antiseptic and trouble-free quartet of corners as can be imagined, and has been for a long time.