[Non-]Lyric of the Week: BEACH TOWN IN THE OFF SEASON
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
This is an instrumental piece, and as such has no lyrics. But it does have a video—first official, non-performance video I ever made. And even if it has no words, it does deserve its own blog among those I've written for my other songs.
The song began in my assorted piano noodlings during the 1990s, during the era when I would take a motel room in the dormant Wildwoods, on the southern New Jersey shore, after the tourist hordes had gone home for the winter. There was just something special and spiritual about being there, and just about any other beach town in that time of the year. In October 1995 I took a walk along the boardwalk that lined the beach in the Rockaway peninsula in New York. The chords I had been noodling on the piano played in my mind as I walked, but this time, as I paced myself, the chords were joined by an insistent bass line reminiscent of Booker T. & the MGs. When I reached the end of that boardwalk hike, the song started taking shape in my mind as "Rockaway-Wildwood Theme." I took this music to my friend Colie Brice's home studio in Bradley Beach, NJ, a couple months later and recorded a keyboard-only version of it there (I still have it somewhere among my things). But then, as I walked along other beaches in the region, I realized that the title should refer to the state of mind, not just the actual places.
The song stewed and brewed in the back of my mind and got noodled on the piano countless times for the next few years, and it was finally recorded for the Soul In Exile 2: Jersey Shore Baby sessions in 2002. When the rough mixes were assembled into a demo at the send of the sessions, I submitted it to Gary Wien at AsburyMusic.com, who said the tune was one of the "highlights on this disc ... which just might be the best Jersey Shore instrumental since Springsteen’s 'Paradise By The C'." High praise indeed. Privately, he told me that he hoped I would keep it as an instrumental, since it was much more evocative without words than it would be with them. So credit for the song remaining an instrumental must go at least partially to him. Later on, once he began broadcasting his local-artist show on his Internet radio station, this song became the jingle. I remain most honored and flattered by the selection. (And sometimes, you can still hear it played there.)
The album itself was completed during my first sojourn on the West Coast, where it was mixed and mastered by Steve Goodie at Punch Sound in Santa Monica. Thus the California vibe found its way into the song as well, even if you might not see it in the video. It all came out some five years later, released on Colie's AERIA Records label back in Asbury Park.
NJ music journalist John Pfeiffer, writing in his ShoreWorld column for The Aquarian Weekly, loved the album. About the song, he wrote, "another interesting tune on the disc is an instrumental entitled 'Beach Town In The Off Season' which features guitarist P.K. Lavengood and has some of the most soulful slide work I've heard in a while. Morphed from tradition and in the powerful vein of Dickey Betts, Lavengood steers the song past its dark, stormy bridge and back into the main theme with great plainsman style."
Here it is, sans video:
And here is the album it was recorded for:
And here is the "best-of" collection that also includes it: