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Well, I saw you coming

Shuffling down the boardwalk this way

I heard you playing

So passionately with something to say

Those chords from your piano

Brought back such bittersweet memories

That voice from the shadows

Kind of reminded me of me

I sang the pain and anguish of the city

I sang melodies of hope and despair

I sang all at once of the ugliness and beauty

But damned if I could get anyone to care.

Well, I lived through the hell years

I lived through corruption, destruction, hate, and lies

Sometimes I was the only one here

Who held on to a belief that what must fall would again rise

I watched riot, exodus, and exile

I saw all the players playing their parts

Anger and ire, fury and fire, venom and bile

I cried for this city drained of its souls and hearts

I appealed to the conscience of all those who loved the city

But I was ignored, despised, and spurned

They eventually cried for mercy but received no pity

And so they stood by and watched as it all burned.

I had a vision of a pot overflowing

When there was trouble brewing in the north

I spoke straight about where I saw things going

As the pooh-bahs and pundits held forth

But nobody wanted to listen to that damn fool Jerry

They’d rather shut me up and throw me down a well

It was easier to bliss out than hear anything scary

And so they created their own hell

But I kept on playing and said what needed saying

Despite any threats of peril toward me

Through the northeast wind blowing I kept my song going

And in the end all I predicted came to be.

Make no mistake about me, son

I was no mere prophet of doom

It seemed to be lost on everyone

That I foresaw the glow at the end of the gloom

That one day again there’d be dancing in these streets

The children would come back to where they once played

We’d hear the sound of weddings, our joy complete

And there would be none to make us afraid

Now I see it happening

Little by little, people are coming back

The exiles are ingathering

All my visions are rapidly becoming fact

You know I never could conceive

That I’d be seeing this as long as I’d be drawing a breath

And now, son, I do believe

That I’ll just sit here and drink myself to death.

Because with all this new blood in the city

I’m outmoded, outdated, outclassed

No one wants to hear the grainy and the gritty

Painful reminders of the past

You see, I sang the pain and anguish of the city

I sang melodies of hope and despair

I sang all at once of the ugliness and beauty

But now don’t even ask me if I care.

©2023 The Hesh Inc.

A bright future for Asbury Park?
I sang all at once of the ugliness and beauty ...

Imagine if the prophet Jeremiah lived long enough to see the end of the exile and people beginning to return to the city he bewailed ... would he be happy to see it happening, or would the new direction the new people were steering the renewed city in drive him back to despair?

I have often compared Asbury Park to Jerusalem in my writing, in that both were places where people would make pilgrimages from around the world, to walk in their streets, to touch the buildings, and to be surrounded by the glory of great things that once happened in the past but as of now are mere echoes of their former grandeur. The theme of returning exiles seemed to invite a similar comparison.

I wrote this during my writing burst of 2007, when I was still living at the Jersey Shore and saw the beginnings of people starting to express interest in coming back to Asbury Park after several decades of neglect, corruption, abandonment, and bad reputation. It was really something I wrote and sang about a lot during all of those years, and released three albums revolving around the subject. During all those times I'd walk on a deserted boardwalk among old, crumbling buildings in the middle of the summer, I imagined what it would be like when people would return and bring new life to the city.

And now the trickle I observed over a decade ago has become a huge tidal wave, with journalists gushing over the supposed renaissance and giving it ridiculous monikers like "Brooklyn by the sea" and whatnot. Wasn't this what I had wanted, and sung about? Well, no. Not when it seems to cater almost exclusively to out-of-town trendoids and <1%ers while pricing and otherwise shoving the locals out. Not when redevelopment involves bulldozing the old landmarks throughout the town or allowing them, seemingly intentionally, to decay by themselves so that the developers are left with no choice but to bulldoze them. Not when its very sense of history and funkiness are ignored, steamrolled, plowed under, and built over.

The song has an upbeat, 6/8 shuffle rhythm and minor key, similar to songs like "Don't Believe a Word" and "Chinatown" by Thin Lizzy, dispelling any notion that this would be a slow, dirgelike jeremiad straight out of the Book of Lamentations (that honor belongs to my songs "Feel Alive Tonight" and "Convention Hall") ... the prophet is happy to see the city coming back to life and the letter of his prophecies fulfilled, hence the fast tempo. But he'd rather go out in a haze than see wherever the current trends may lead.

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