For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, “La,” I’m featuring “Jersey Girl,” written by Tom Waits with additional lyrics by Bruce Springsteen. I don’t know what it is about this song, but it gives me goosebumps up and down my spine. And I’m not a Jersey girl; imagine what it must do to one of them!
Both Springsteen and Waits married Jersey girls (Patti Scialfa and Kathleen Brennan, respectively) and Waits wrote this song for his.
“Jersey Girl” first appeared on Waits’ 1980 album “Heart Attack and Vine,” which peaked at number 96 on the Billboard Hot 200. Although it was his seventh album, he confessed in an interview, “I never thought I would catch myself saying ‘sha la la’ in a song,” adding, “This is my first experiment with ‘sha la la.'” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and was one of “Rolling Stone Magazine’s” 2015 picks for the “100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.”
Springsteen started occasionally covering the song in the early ’80s and began including it in regular rotation in his set list during a series of concerts marking the opening of the then-Brendan Byrne Arena in Rutherford, New Jersey. (The arena was subsequently named The Meadowlands.) Springsteen tweaked the first verse a bit. Where Waits wrote “Don’t want no whores on Eighth Avenue,” Springsteen sang “Or the girls down on the avenue.” Springsteen also added three new verses and eliminated Waits’ final line “And I call your name, I can’t sleep at night.”
During one of Springsteen’s 1981 Los Angeles appearances, Tom Waits joined him on stage, where they performed the song together. In what we, today, would call a “mashup,” they combined Waits’ original lyrics with Springsteen’s new lyrics. Each sang backup for the other.
You can hear the audio in the video below. If you want to follow along with the lyrics, I’ve posted Waits’ original lyrics in full and Springsteen’s additional three verses.
Just in case you’re not familiar with their voices, Waits sings the first three verses. Springsteen chimes in on the first Sha la la las and sings the fourth and fifth verses written by Waits. Waits comes back in with his final verse (“And I call your name…”), after which Springsteen sings the three verses he wrote. Many Sha la las are mixed in throughout. Enjoy!
“Jersey Girl” by Tom Waits
Got no time for the corner boys,
Down in the street makin’ all that noise,
Don’t want no whores on eighth avenue,
Cause tonight I’m gonna be with you.
‘Cause tonight I’m gonna take that ride,
Across the river to the jersey side,
Take my baby to the carnival,
And I’ll take you on all the rides,
Sing sha la la la la la sha la la la.
Down the shore everything’s alright,
You’re with your baby on a Saturday night,
Don’t you know that all my dreams come true,
When I’m walkin’ down the street with you,
Sing sha la la la la la sha la la la.
You know she thrills me with all her charms,
When I’m wrapped up in my baby’s arms,
My little angel gives me everything,
I know someday that she’ll wear my ring.
So don’t bother me cause I got no time,
I’m on my way to see that girl of mine,
Nothin’ else matters in this whole wide world,
When you’re in love with a jersey girl,
Sing sha la la la la la la.
And I call your name, I can’t sleep at night,
Sha la la la la la la.
“Jersey Girl” additional lyrics by Bruce Springsteen
I see you on the street and you look so tired
I know that job you got leaves you so uninspired
When I come by to take you out to eat
you’re lyin’ all dressed up on the bed baby fast asleep
Go in the bathroom and put your makeup on
We’re gonna take that little brat of yours and drop her off at your mom?s
I know a place where the dancing?s free
Now baby won’t you come with me
‘Cause down the shore everything’s all right
You and your baby on a Saturday night
Nothing matters in this whole wide world
When you’re in love with a Jersey girl
compiled with information sourced from Wikipedia, AllMusic.com, SongFacts.com, and SongMeanings.com