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Lyric of the Week: ATLANTIC CITY ROCK’N’ROLL


Well the boardwalk’s glittering but the town remains the same

The future construct, the past annihilate

Of what used to be here, nothing remains

Only tourists looking to try their luck with fate

If you know how to handle things you’ll do more than get by

But if you can’t get it together, you’re lost

The cards are stacked against you but the stakes are high

And if you lose, man, you pay the cost

Well baby

Nothing can be the way it was before

Nothing stays the same, you can’t go back no more

But we’re gonna make sure we don’t get left out in the cold

In Atlantic City

Rock’n’roll!

The schmaltz runs freely on the take-your-chance circuit

No admittance unless you’ve mainstreamed with class

It’s all agleam with new schemes but I’ll know how to work it

Maybe I’m a lowdown here but I’m gonna kick some ass

Now they say this town’s for class folks—no lowdowns here

This is no low-rent bazaar hawking low-class trash

The entertainment’s more sit-down than fall-down here

But I’ll find a way to reverse the flow of cash

Well baby

Nothing can be the way it was before

Nothing stays the same, you can’t go back no more

But we’re gonna live it up before we get old

In Atlantic City

Rock’n’roll!

Well they say there’s supposed to be a beach here

How to reach it nobody knows, not a soul

Evidently there’s some kind of ocean

But all the motion’s where the wheels of fortune roll

Is this America’s number-one destination

A fine vacation spent in smoky dim-lit halls

All in pursuit of life, liberty, and the dollar

Well gimme a holler when your lucky star falls

Well nothing can be the way it was before

Nothing stays the same, you can’t go back no more

Well nothing can be the way it was before

So long, it’s gone, no more.

It’s just a shiny golden frame around a grimy old painting

That’s been slashed and burned with no mercy

It’s just a scam that’s been shammed through all kinds of tainting

Around what once was the pride of New Jersey

Well the expressway’s backed up three lanes into one

And they’re passing on the shoulders and on the right

Traffic laws don’t mean jack when there’s fortunes to be won

In the looming land of gleaming glittering lights

Well baby

Nothing can be the way it was before

Nothing stays the same, you can’t go back no more

But we’re gonna hit it big before we have to pawn our gold

In Atlantic City

Rock’n’roll!

©2017 The Hesh Inc.

It’s just a shiny golden frame around a grimy old painting

That’s been slashed and burned with no mercy

As you may have guessed, this song started as a response or maybe an offshoot of the song by The Boss. I began writing it when I was still in Israel during my army service in the mid-1980s, when all I had to work from was a memory of a trip I took to Atlantic City when I was 12 years old, in the pre-gambling era. From that I extrapolated what it might be like to settle there as an adult, trying to make my rock'n'roll thing happen amidst all the purveyors of casino entertainment.

Later on, in late 1989, I made my first trip to gambling-era AC. I played a few slots, won some, lost some, and generally wondered if this was all. I walked on the boardwalk and marveled how on a summer's day there were so few people to be found on the beach. But the thing that made the biggest impression on me was how the boardwalk glittered with the illusion of instant riches while the rest of the town moldered in poverty. I went back to Boston, where I was living at the time, and scribbled the first few lines of the song.

Two years later I was living on the Jersey Shore and I took the time to explore the region in depth, from Sandy Hook all the way to Cape May. Trips to AC during that time only reinforced the impressions I got on my 1989 jaunt. In the mid-1990s, when I was living in Philadelphia, I actually played gigs in and around AC. Every single time I went there, I felt like I was sprayed with a patina of cheesiness that I could only lose after showering multiple times afterward. Atlantic City, intended to be the Queen of the Shore (and perhaps even inhabited that role into the mid-20th century), was really an anomaly when compared to the other resort towns on the Shore.

(I will say, though, that the boardwalk area is quite photogenic ... if you suspend disbelief for awhile, you might actually catch a glimpse of the fun place it was originally intended to be.)

Musically, I always intended this to be a full-band piece, with the tempo a few beats per minute faster than the original song that inspired it. It was and is intended to be recorded for and included in one of my subsequent Soul In Exile albums, although by the time that happens, the lyrics might get a rewrite.

#JerseyShore #AtlanticCity #originallyrics

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