Sunday, November 18, 2012

40 Year Itch : "American City Suite" Peaks at #27

1972 began with an epic hit single in the eight minute long #1 "American Pie" and ended with another epic single , Cashman and West's ten minute "American City Suite", which peaked at #27 on November 18. Terry Cashman and Tommy West were best known for producing Jim Croce hits like "Operator", "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" and "Operator" .

With the help of great studio musicians, including Jeff "Skunk" Baxter ( Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers) on guitar and Jim Gordon on drums, Cashman and West recorded the suite as a tribute to Cashman's hometown of New York City. The first of the four songs ( "Sweet City Suite") in the suite will remind you of Simon and Garfunkel. The second part, "Hello Jack",  was removed, so the single would run just 7 minutes. The final two songs are called "All Around The Town" and " A Friend is Dying". That friend is NYC.

As Cashman told

"It was actually four songs strung together as a suite. Tommy and I signed as an act, Cashman and West, with ABC Dunhill. We had written a number of songs, but I really wanted to do something that would be special for the album. And it was a very sad time for me. A lot of my friends were leaving the city and going off, getting married, and you know, things were changing. I was 30 years old, and New York where I had grown up all my life was really deteriorating. It was a very bad time financially, and it was a time of turmoil and of racial strife. It looked like the city was gonna collapse. This great place where I had grown up and enjoyed so many friendships and so many good times - the city that I love - was actually dying. I was going into our office the next day, and I said to Tommy, 'I had this thought about New York in particular, but it's really happening to all the Eastern cities. They're decaying and white people are moving out of the cities and going to the suburbs. There are only very rich people and very poor people in the cities, and homelessness.' We started talking about the whole phenomenon, and we came up with this idea to do a song about how it was, which was the first movement of the first song of the suite was called, 'Sweet City Song,' and it was very happy, it was about growing up in a city where everyone got along and it was fun to be there - rock and roll was in the air. And then tracing that through, going away to school and coming back and seeing that things had changed, and then the third movement is an up-tempo song about how things were at that particular time as opposed to ten years before. And then it goes into 'A Friend Is Dying,' which is the last movement of 'American City Suite,' which is about the city dying. And that's the way it seemed to us at the time. That it was not only New York City, but all the Eastern industrial cities were having the same problems."

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