'Soul In Exile' Lyric/Blog: HEARD IT ON THE HIGHWAY
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
In the wee hours of the morning, you're headed down the highway alone ... you have your car stereo on and you hear the greatest rock'n'roll song ever recorded. From the moment those first introductory chords come through over the airwaves and the moment the drums and bass first kick in, you feel a sudden jolt of energy course through you. Then the lead vocalist starts singing and you are so totally mesmerized, you realize you better pull over before you cause an accident. Those three or four minutes catapult you to the highest of heights, into sheer sonic ecstasy, and then when it's all over you feel raw and drained, and you look out your car windows about you and wonder, what the hell was THAT?!? ... and you know that somehow your life is changed because of it.
Did something like that ever happen to you? A song comes on the radio that makes you drop everything and stare into your speakers, transfixed, unable to comprehend anything else around you until the song is over. And when it is over, and the DJ has gone on to less compelling material, you realize that what you just heard has lit a fire underneath you and you have no choice now but to pursue your destiny your own way.
Who was that singer?? you ask yourself, and then you go in search of everything that singer has ever sung. You listen to the songs (and, if you're of a certain generation, you buy the albums), you parse the lyrics, but you realize that something greater than the sum of the lyrics and music has reached deep inside of you, grabbed hold of your heart, and kicked you in the gut.
That has happened to me several times in life, from childhood into adulthood. The exact artists, I don't have to mention here. Let they who understand, understand.
I wrote the first verses in 1989, when I was living in Boston and making the five-hour trip to the Jersey Shore whenever I could take the opportunity, in search of what I was sure was the beating heart of rock'n'roll. The music came to me along the last leg of one of these journeys, as I cruised down the Garden State Parkway in the wee hours immediately before reaching my destination.
I wrote the bridge several years later, once I was already a Jersey Shore local and starting to find my way into the Shore's legendary music scene. There had been a brilliant thunderstorm the same night I had seen a great show at the Stone Pony, and then, stepping out onto the boardwalk after the storm passed, I saw the lightning flashing way out over the sea. It was like seeing the gates of heaven open, broadcasting to me the message that I was doing the right thing with my life.
Although I wrote it with a full-band arrangement in mind, I recorded and released the first version of it in 1999, with keyboards and vocals only. That's also the only way I performed it live until I put out the second version in 2017; the first full-band performance of the song took place at the album-release party for Soul In Exile 3: Love Runs Aground.
Well I heard it on the highway like the holy word of G-d
It was so loud and clear I had to pull over, I was so awed
Well I heard it on the highway and I couldn’t resist the push
It was just like a commandment from heaven, like the voice in the burning bush
Well shake, rattle, and roll down the Garden State
Down Routes 35, 71, and 88
Even if we’ll just run round in circles cursed by fate
We’ll capture all the views now ‘cause we may never be here again
I heard it on the highway, it was the greatest song in history
It had a rhythm and melody all its own but the lyrics, they were a mystery
It was the sound of the rock’n’roll heart and it was beating in full blues time
It said, Go down to the ocean and make the music of your mind
Well I saw it from the highway
Risin’ on the horizon like Mt Sinai in flames
Like a fiddler on the roof down on the Parkway
Singin’ out that tune and calling my name
It was handed to me by the seaside
White hot and written in stone
Full power forward and full speed ahead
No stopping now that you’re on your own
It was the day I graduated
when I came back in touch with the calling
It was there where fifteen bands were playing
Paying respect to the one who had fallen
It was just as the all-star open jam was ending
The sound of drums boomed from way up high
There were ten bolts of lightning, one for each Word
crashing through the mist-choked sky
I heard an organ scream through a Leslie
But none on Earth ever sounded so great
I looked up to heaven, I thought I saw the moon
But I knew I was staring clear through the gates
I kicked off my shoes, I fell down on my knees
I bowed face down into the sand
But he didn’t want none of that false formality
She just wanted me to reach out my hand
Well I heard it on the highway …
©2017 The Hesh Inc.
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