JOURNEYS INTO NEW JERSEY
Contemplate this. Let's imagine that you're driving along an interstate or some back road, and you suddenly come across one of those signs welcoming you to a new state.
If you're like me, depending on the state, a song could invariably pop into one's head.
Some personal travel favorites for me are the likes of "New York State of Mind," "My Old Kentucky Home," "Back Home in Indiana," "In my Mind I'm Going to Carolina," "Georgia" and "California Here I Come."
Now imagine that you just crossed into New Jersey.
Is there a New Jersey song in your head?For the record, in a state that has a designated state tree (red oak), state insect (honeybee), state animal (horse), and even a state dinosaur (hadrosaurus), New Jersey is one of only two states with no official state song (New York is the other).
It's not that we don't like music in these parts. And, it's not for a lack of effort. But in a microcosm of the way too much of government works these days, the politicians in Trenton have not been able to agree on a proper song for the state.
In 1980, there was an attempt to make Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" New Jersey's unofficial rock song, but even that effort could not garner enough consensus among the political gatekeepers.
One of early television's most famous images involves New Jersey — sort of. In "I Love Lucy," the Riccardoes (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) are entering the state via the George Washington Bridge singing with the Mertzes (William Frawley and Vivian Vance) in the back seat. But the song they were singing was "California Here I Come" as they were embarking on a trip to Hollywood in a now long popular episode.
Is there a quintessentially Jersey musical offering that can best capture and represent us at our best to the rest of the world?
Coming from a different place, time and sensibility a few titles come to mind.
As one raised in the shadow of the big band era, our home often considered New Jersey's song to be "Jersey Bounce." This World War II-era hit is still a favorite to many in Jersey City — especially those who remember Journal Square in its heyday. I'm not sure, however, if it's as compelling to generations that followed.
More recently, a cute tune out of the 1980's was "I Like Jersey Best," best remembered by a John Pizarelli version.
Not too long a ago, a regional internet site article and those commenting on it came up with some of these candidates: "Jersey Girl" by Tom Waits, "Wildwood Days" by Bobby Ridell, "Fourth of July, Asbury Park" (Sandy) by Bruce Springsteen, "I'm From New Jersey" by John Gork, "Palisades Park" (written by Chuck Barris of The Gong Show) recorded by Freddy Canno, or Uncle Floyd's "Deep in the Heart of Jersey." Bon Jovi, it must noted, did an album entitled "New Jersey."
And back in 2006, radio station WFMU tackled the question and came up with 22 tunes "celebrating the great state" that they called a "Garden State of Mind." Some included the likes of "My Old New Jersey Home" by Bill Murray, "Summers in New Jersey" by Cliff Eberhardt, "Jersey Devil" by Jim Alberston and "No Left Turns in Jersey" by Edie from Ohio. As an addition to the lost, one commenting suggested "Atlantic City, My Old Friend," composed by Paul Anka and performed by Robert Goulet on the "Atlantic City" soundtrack album (link).
And still another website from 2006 offered some 30 other Jersey songs — many partial to pop punk, indie rock, hardcore and emo styles. They included the likes of "Jersey Thursday" by Donovan, and "New Jersey in My Rear View" by The June Spirit (link).
Clearly none of these titles is as immediately recognizable as "Back Home in Indiana," "Take Me Home Country Roads," "Moonlight in Vermont" or "Yellow Rose of Texas."
Perhaps it's more diplomatic to simply say that like so many aspects of life in our state, we're still in waiting for our perfect song.
Eric Model explores the "offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten" on SIRIUS-XM Radio and at journeysinto.com.