• The Hesh

Lyric of the Week: CLASSIC JERSEY JOKE

Updated: Apr 27

Brown tide is rolling in

Just empty dunes where the crowds have been

The beach towns lose, the big money wins

Oh it’s a sin

Barbed wire coils a forbidden zone

The jetties crumble and die alone

Is this the future of what we love and call home

This should never be known

Well somebody stop this insanity

It’s driving us over the edge

This intentional blindness is pushing us forward

And we’re standing on a narrow ledge

No I ain’t gonna listen

To no classic Jersey jokes

No more

They take our assets, they take our cash

They take all our business but they won't take our trash

They say, We don’t have to take your secret stash

Go turn it all into ash

So the scow heads south with a mile-high load

A hush-hush and a flush down the Atlantic commode

Just over the horizon so nobody will know

Returns home with empty barges in tow

Well now, how you gonna make your money

How you gonna live like a king

When all this shit you’re dumping

Is gonna wipe out everything

No I ain’t gonna listen

To your classic Jersey jokes

No more

Well, the highway buckled under the intense heat

From all the garbage fires under the steel and concrete

You can stay stuck here or negotiate the local streets

Just another morning rush in Jersey

It’s a long stretch of highway between New York and Delaware

The miles roll by but we’re not getting anywhere

The Turnpike end-to-end—hey Mom, are we there?

The way to get to grandma’s house—through Jersey

So, you from Joisey?

…umm, what exit?

Land of endless strip malls

And megacineplexes

Turnpike, Parkway, AC Expressway, what-the-freak-ever

New Jersey and you

Perfect together.

Jimmy Hoffa’s under the stadium—he played the wrong kind of game

Crazy Eddie’s in the joint—his prices were too insane

The rock stars are in their compounds—I don’t have to mention names

That’s notoriety and fame in Jersey

Well I was out with my girlfriend—I couldn’t tell

If she wanted me to go down or just go to hell

She told me, Hey babe, you gotta kiss me where it smells

So I drove her to Jersey

Guidos in blown-out gel spikes with their big-haired chicks

Cancer in Toms River, autism in Brick

Refineries and gas flares, toxic waste

New Jersey, come see for yourself!

What a difference a state makes.

So this is what’s out there about our beloved garden state

The one state the other 49 love to hate

But we live here, we love it here, and we think it’s great

There’s no place like New Jersey

Though we’re the national butt, the ass the whole country kicks

A too-convenient target for these patronizing shticks

By folks who’ve never been off our highways, needing a cheap fix

Nothing like a laugh at the expense of New Jersey

Well it’s time to break the cycle, it’s time to clear our heads

Time to wash away all the evil being said

Well we ain’t gonna listen to no classic Jersey joke

Tell me something new, I’ve heard it all before

Well we ain’t gonna listen to no classic Jersey joke

You might think you’re funny, but we think you’re a bore

Well we ain’t gonna listen to your classic Jersey joke

No more.


©2019 The Hesh Inc.

"The #baywayrefinery is working hard to end humanity on the planet." Photo by @schltss, via Instagram

I began writing this song in the summer of 1988, when I was living in Boston shortly after my first wedding. I was always in tune with what was going on at the Jersey Shore, which was always one of my favorite places in the world, and that summer the headlines from that area were all about medical and other toxic waste that had washed ashore, forcing many of the beaches to close at the height of tourist season.

I sat at the piano in the basement of one of my new bride's friends' houses, banging out a riff loosely based on Manfred Mann's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Spirit in the Night," thinking of these headlines and how upset I was about them. My wife, who had been upstairs in the kitchen chatting with her friend, came downstairs and asked what I was playing so passionately. When I explained, she got all huffy and pouted, "why aren't you writing a song about ME instead of toxic waste?!?"

Now there is a recipe for writer's block. My riposte to that, all these years later, is: Best you don't ask me to write a song about you, because a song by me is not likely to be flattering. That's just the kind of songwriter I am. All these years, songs, and albums later, the listener knows what I mean.

But I digress.

A couple of years later, after divorcing my petulant, pouty bride, I was finally living at the Jersey Shore, and there were all sorts of environmental incidents making the headlines: More toxic waste at the beach, pockets of cancer near former chemical sites, highways collapsing due to garbage fires underneath them, refineries emitting mysterious mists that send tens of people to the hospital ... hey, this is New Jersey, and these are the things that make the state, ah, famous.

But I love the state of New Jersey, and each one of these incidents was upsetting in its own way. I compiled newspaper clippings and asked friends what came to mind when they think of the name "New Jersey," and when the list grew to substantial length, I assembled the whole thing into the lyrics you read above: part sneering satire, part environmental call to arms, part love song to a place that matters.

Musically, the song retains its psychedelic hard-rock vibe in the first two verses and choruses à la Manfred Mann's Earth Band, but with the "Spirit in the Night" riff exchanged for a Shlomo Carlebach nigun (listen closely and you'll hear it). Then after all the environmental intensity, the rhythm speeds up into something funkier and the joke references start flying fast and furious for several more verses, until I yell at all the jokers to shut up at the very end. The form of the song, believe it or not, is actually quite Jewish ... Hasidic, actually: Several slow verses expressing pain and yearning, leading into a faster part just before the end that expresses higher hopes for a better world, the world to come, and ending in a reprise of the original motif.

The song was intended for the second Soul In Exile album and was recorded during the sessions for it, in 2002. However, it didn't quite fit into the album's story arc, and so I left it out. I will probably edit for brevity and include it in Soul In Exile 4, which is in its earliest stages of pre-production as I write this.

Meantime, the outtake in its entirety has been made available on Soundcloud:

Enjoy, and have a good laugh.


#SoulInExile #outtakes #NewJersey #JerseyShore #originallyrics

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