'Soul In Exile' Lyric/Blog: CONVENTION HALL
Updated: 4 days ago
On the one hand, it's a big, old, moldering building on the boardwalk, with lots of history and legend inside and out. On the other hand, it is a symbol of one of the most central conventions of human society―marriage. And the slow decay of the building, whether by neglect or malice, could very well symbolize the beginning of the crumbling of a marriage, if not of the institution itself.
Let's be straightforward here: This is about me. I was married and divorced twice before in my life. The first time, I got married before I was ready for it, and I was also perhaps a bit naïve when it came to my expectations. Things were just beginning to crack and I was trying to make sense of it. At that point, my first wife had been preferring to 'go home to mother' on her vacations, leaving me by myself on holidays. I took advantage of the situations and headed from Boston, where I was unhappily living, down to the Jersey Shore, which was where I so desperately wanted to live, for those spells. The first version of the song, which I released in 1999, speaks to these events.
Life went on; I got divorced and remarried (as it happened, my second wedding took place in the Paramount Theatre, the city-side part of the Convention Hall complex, on the left side in the picture above). Several years later, after having moved across the country, that marriage ended in divorce as well, and once again I found myself back at the Shore to put the pieces of my life back together. This time, though, I had it all figured out, and I laid the reasons for the demise of the marriage out, in black and white, in the bridge, for all to see, hear, and understand. This is what you hear in the second version, released in 2017.
Interestingly enough, the 1999 version was recorded with only keyboards and vocals, and so depicts a younger man wondering what the hell is going on with what was supposed to last forever. The 2017 version has a full-band arrangement, with guitars, bass, and drums augmenting the keys and vocals, and it puts forth a more forceful portrait of the second time around: This time the singer is older, wiser, more experienced, and under no illusions of who or what he is dealing with.
I wrote the earliest version of this song in a big, empty auditorium ― not Convention Hall itself, but the Hillel House on the campus of Boston University. Later, once I had become a Jersey Shore local, I would play the song on the piano in the darkened ballroom of the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel, across the street from Convention Hall. I would have loved to play the song on the hall's famous stage, but alas, there is no house piano there. One of the biggest ironies of my musical career is that I never actually played "Convention Hall" in Convention Hall!
The building on the Asbury Park beach still stands, still crumbling, but hopefully headed to refurbishment sometime before it finally falls into the ocean. Convention Hall remains, like the convention of marriage itself, still there, if only a bit worse for the wear.
There she stands straddling the boardwalk Pushing out from the beach into the sea Like some vaunted marine version of radio city She stands crumbling but she’s calling out to me She’s the crown jewel of the waterfront The echo of former grandeur
The haggard old lady of the coastline A glimmer of former splendor
Once upon a time she saw royalty come and go Long ago when she hosted many a famous face But now even the derelicts that used to hang here are gone They moved along and never were replaced Her star once shone bright in the sky But like a meteor, she fell It was a downward spiral onto the slagheap And all that’s left now is a hollow shell
I walk the terraces soaked with ocean spray Beneath the paint-chipped vaulted ceiling I search around for a way inside Just to get the feeling Just to stand within the cavernous hall To let her spirit surround me And to try once again to make heads or tails Of what’s going on around me.
Well I can’t believe that this is happening yet again After we both agreed once that we didn’t want to repeat that end But you had this thing about “growth,” above everything else And at the same time you say I’m thinking only of myself Why don’t you look in the mirror Well we went out west to change our place and change our luck We didn’t last a year there before the disaster struck It was those ‘friendships’ you cultivated outside of us, away from me Well I know how close your kind of ‘friends’ can be Now the picture is so much clearer And all your advisers whisper in your ear That you could be doing so much better than me Your enablers tell you what you want to hear And they show you what you want to see Your sycophants that all surround you With your pronouncements, they’ll all agree And all of the above, they drown you With brown tides of sympathy And you emphatically state “there is no us” You resent the way I push and you’re not even willing to discuss But if I don’t fight for us, what does that make me?
Well you stall, blackball, and build your wall With the help of all your ‘friends’ You obfuscate and manipulate All your means to reach your ends You may say that there is no more us I say it isn’t so There always was an us, there is an us And I refuse to let it go!
And as I sit inside by the piano onstage Playing my heart out to four thousand empty seats The hidden sounds of concerts and celebrations of better days Embedded in these walls release their heat And set me on fire with a passion that consumes A passion that once existed for you filling up this empty room Bringing some life to light the palpable darkness and gloom Struggling in vain to counteract the words of my inner prophet of doom
No more funny places No more famous faces No more days at the races No more steeplechases No more former graces No more love embraces All that’s left is empty spaces And the glory with barely any traces It’s all gone!
©2017 The Hesh Inc.
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