27 April 2006

tom waits - "jersey girl" (from the heartattack & vine lp, available for purchase here.)

here's another one that almost went on a mix. at the time, it seemed far too obvious and the sentiment expressed too strong. (an "oh, by the way" w/ r/ t/ mixtapes: never put a song on a mix if its promises or declarations aren't something you're prepared to back up.)

of course, it was short-sighted of me to think that the sentiments wouldn't eventually become all too fitting. maybe i was just feeling ambivalent or, more to the point, noncommittal : another mooted selection, "i hope that i don't fall in love with you" by mr. tom waits (again, the lyrics were off, as are the lyrics to most songs that involve bars & drinking). barthes argues that one chooses, to some extent, to fall in love, setting off a "release switch" to allow oneself to be "ravished," but i disagree w/ him : i was v. happy not being in love--but what did i know?

i suppose i know why i went w/ the tom waits version and not the boss's, and it goes beyond simple preference. first, it would have been double obvious (although i find the cheering when particular locations are mentioned charming); and besides i don't much care for his added verse : it's springsteenian to the point of parody and it's really just a weak warm-up for "atlantic city." also : though his wife grew up in morristown (exit 142, trainspotters!), tom waits is an outsider; one generally feels more flattered when compliments come from someone from outside. it's a kind of vindication, if needed, that you just don't love a girl b/c she's near, but, like a california girl, b/c she has some charm unique to her due in some part to her geographic location.

so what is it about a jersey girl, i.e, beyond the hair, the accent & the gum-snapping? at their best, they are unpretentious--but discerning!--always in the mood for diner food, whatever hour of the day, but keenly aware that, say, the killers are but petty crooks, guilty of nothing more than killing the mood; they get the little things and adore simple pleasures : malls, endless highways, creating mischief, fried hot dogs, &c.; they love their family and have a love / hate affair w/ their hometown; they are humble and always concerned about whatever it is that might be wrong w/ you, whoever "you" are, whether it's physical, emotional, or existential; they are pleasantly crass but surprisingly refined, kin to the lowbrow, appreciative of the highbrow, and have no truck w/ the middlebrow; they dream endlessly, which is only natural in a state stuck smack between two of the major urban centers in the country; at the same time, though, they are content w/ their reality, w/ who they are & what they have & will stand up for all of that to the death--and that's just by way of introduction, really.

another reason for the waits version is that he distills the heart of a jersey girl into the pulse of his song, taken at a slow thrum like an old drifters tune, in which nothing much seems to happen and no one really cares. as the strings shimmer, all of a sudden everything seems a distinct possibility, as it seems when you've got your girl beside you & the windows rolled down on a warm still new jersey evening. after all, tom waits confided that he never thought he'd write a song that had "sha-la-la" in it--and i never thought i'd do what i ended up doing, either.

but that's what a jersey girl can do.

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