• The Hesh

Lyric of the Week: ROCK'N'ROLL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE


We’re gonna buy that old building

Make it a national monument

Move the music back in and give the old times a new spin

Let’s get on with it

We’re gonna buy that old building

Plaster posters on the walls

Gonna party past midnight every night all night

We’re gonna have a ball

We’re gonna live out our dreams

‘Cause we must persevere

We’re gonna be everything we couldn’t be

In those years

We’re gonna buy that old building

Put a recording studio inside

Put all our songs on vinyl from first version to final

We’ll have the greatest band of all time

We’re gonna buy that old building

Gonna dig in real deep

Fix the leaks, clean the floors, all the windows and doors

We’ll be playing for keeps

We’re gonna rebuild the glory

‘Cause we can’t let it die

And if anybody tells you it can’t be done

They’re telling you a lie

(Rock’n’roll chamber of commerce)

Just back in time for the renaissance

(Rock’n’roll chamber of commerce)

We’re gonna do it right and get a good response

(Rock’n’roll chamber of commerce)

Put that carousel where its rightful place is

(Rock’n’roll chamber of commerce)

Give this town a reason to live

We’re gonna buy that old building

Make it what it used to be and more

Keep the arcades in place and give the arena a new face

The premier spot on the shore

We’re gonna buy that old building

Shine it up till it gleams

Turn on all the lights for 1,001 summer nights

Pack it tight till it bursts at the seams

We gotta reinstate the crown

And bring back the pride

We can’t let it all fall into the water

There’s too much history inside

(Rock’n’roll chamber of commerce)

Don’t demolish what keeps this town alive

(Rock’n’roll chamber of commerce)

Don’t let some grandiose plan cloud your eyes

(Rock’n’roll chamber of commerce)

Don’t bring it all to an end

(Rock’n’roll—I tell ya)

It’s gonna live, breathe, and jump again.

©2017 The Hesh Inc.

Turn on all the lights for 1,001 summer nights

This song has its genesis in several different places. First one was the 1986 film Playing for Keeps, in which several directionless high-school graduates refurbish a dilapidated hotel in the Catskills that one of them received in a deceased relative's will. At the time I was feeling somewhat nostalgic for my old high school buildings in Jerusalem, and several friends and I hatched a cockamamie plan to somehow buy them and turn them into a full-fledged music facility, event space, and performance venue. The second was the Thin Lizzy song "Don't Believe a Word," not for any lyrical theme but rather for its blues-rock groove. The third, believe it or not, was "Love Her Madly" by The Doors, and the fourth several songs by U2, from the band's War era. I began writing an anthem for our acquisition and renovation effort called "Buy My Old School," using "Don't Believe a Word" as the template for the lyrics and rhythm, the intro to "Love Her Madly" as the song's opening, and the U2 songs as the transitions in the verses from minor key to major. Needless to say, our big dreams and plans didn't advance further than the talking stage, and the lyrics remained unfinished in my notebook.

Fast forward about five years now, from Jerusalem to Asbury Park. By now I was a local, with a band and a purpose. The Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame did not yet have its physical vessel; it was at the time a series of annual dinners and inductions. Much debate went back and forth through music circles about where the Hall should be located. And in Asbury Park, redevelopment dreams were rocked by scandals and corruption, and the people who believed in the city needed something to give them some hope. I put two and two together and proposed that the Hall of Fame be located in the two historic amusement buildings in Asbury Park's south end—the Casino and the Palace. My proposal was outlined in the updated lyrics to the song; by now "buy my old school" had become "buy that old building."

In 1995, the question of where to put the Rock Hall was settled with the opening of its building in Cleveland. Back in Asbury, though, the hell years were at their worst. The Palace and Casino were falling down by themselves, and no one had stepped in yet to buy the buildings and restore them to their former glory. When the Palace's roof caved in in 1998, it was decided to demolish the building after a structural analysis deemed it unsound. In stepped an organization called Save Tillie, whose stated goal was to save the Palace building and, barring that, to at least save the iconic face painted on the building's wall. Amidst all the turmoil in the city due to its corrupt leadership, all efforts to move the waterfront redevelopment stalled, and I, living in nearby Ocean Grove, recorded the song, now titled "Rock'n'Roll Chamber of Commerce," for my debut album—the first Soul In Exile, now out of print—which I released in 1999. This song for me was an expression of hope that the city would dig itself out from the mess it was in. I had become friends with a number of businesspeople in town and they introduced me to the Save Tillie people, to whom I offered the use of my song for use in their promotional efforts. They gladly accepted the offer and the song appears in the opening sequence to their video, which was released in 2001. Tillie, the iconic Palace face, was saved when the Palace itself was finally demolished, after much wrangling and controversy, in May 2004.

Tillie says goodbye to the Pony.

With the Palace gone and Tillie in storage under questionable conditions, I repurposed the song back to what had inspired it in the first place—the Casino (well, in the second place, after my old school in Jerusalem). The building itself went through various paroxysms of demolition and refurbishment, and as of now it still stands in a state of barely contained decay at the southern end of the Asbury Park Boardwalk. No organized effort was ever started to save it; I imagine the city did not want a repeat of the Save Tillie business. The song still remains, if not as a rallying cry, at least as a statement of hope for a better future, just as it was for the Palace.

"Rock'n'Roll Chamber of Commerce" had always been envisioned, even before all the goings-on in Asbury, as an emotional release in the sequence of songs that made up Soul In Exile, after the intensity of the title track, which immediately precedes it. The original 1999 version had been recorded purely with keyboards and vocals; a fully orchestrated version was begging to be made. This year, 2017, it finally came to be.

In his review of the album for The Aquarian Weekly, Shoreworld columnist John Pfeiffer writes:

"Rock And Roll Chamber Of Commerce" is up next. Guitars chug over bass and drum work as Hesh comes in with ultra-low vocals before coming into the second verse. "We’re Gonna Buy That Old Building" starts things off with majestic hopes and dreams. Recording studios and musical fame frame this out with wishful dreaming and aspirations of hope. What I like about Hesh's creative direction is the no-holds-barred feel of the entire disc. He manages to pay homage to the past while cutting his own musical swath through the present-day situation. It’s not an easy thing to do. [Guitarist Lane Sparber] coils and hisses guitar magic with chords and melodic voicings as the rest of the band switches time signatures and style with all the grace of King Crimson.

Listen to the song here ...

... and then hear how the song rounds out the album's song sequence by listening to the album itself.

#originallyrics #albums #AsburyPark #PalaceAmusements #AsburyCasino #SaveTillie #SoulInExile

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