Greetings from Asbury Park and Freehold, New Jersey

Published: November 1st 2014
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Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

A phone booth made to look like the cover of Bruce Springsteen's album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Bruce Springsteen does not have a star on Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles. But he has a guitar on E Street, Belmar

The last few days of the summer vacation this year we made a short stop in New York. Emma flew home a few days earlier than Ake so Ake had a day when he could go do some sightseeing on his own. He decided to go to New Jersey.

I thought, I want to go to New Jersey but where should I go? All I know of New Jersey comes from Bruce Springsteen's songs. Springsteen comes from New Jersey, has lived most his life in New Jersey and sings about New Jersey. In my views New Jersey is Springsteen and Springsteen in New Jersey. So I did what Magic Rat did, I went over the Jersey State Line. Not in search for Barefoot Girl but to visit Springsteenland.

"And the Magic Rat drove his sleek machine
Over the Jersey state line
Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge
Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain
The Rat pulls into town, rolls up his pants
Together they take a stab
The Stone PonyThe Stone PonyThe Stone Pony

A nightclub in Asbury Park where Bruce Springsteen and other musicians used to play in the early 1970-ies
at romance
And disappear down Flamingo Lane" /Jungleland

In Bruce Springsteen's lyrics there are often references to real life places. The song Atlantic City of course refers to the New Jersey resort town with the same name, the "auto plant in Mahwah" in Johnny 99 was a Ford Motor Company assembly factory and when he sings "The amusement park rises bold and stark Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist" in Born to Run he sings about the beach and waterfront in Asbury Park. The "Flamingo Lane" in Jungleland does not exist though but it might be a reference to Flamingo Motel in Asbury Park.

Flamingo Motel was not one of my stops this day but Asbury Park sure was.

"As the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers on the shore
This pier lights our carnival life forever

Now, the greasers, ah, they tramp the streets or get busted for sleeping on the beach all night
And me,
The Stone PonyThe Stone PonyThe Stone Pony

Many of the nightclubs in Asbury Park closed down years ago but The Stone Pony is still open. Southside Johnny is one of the other musicians who used to play the Asbury Park nightclubs in the early 1970-ies
I just got tired of hangin' in them dusty arcades, bangin' them pleasure machines
Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do
For me this boardwalk life is through, babe" /4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

You might say that Bruce Springsteen’s music career started in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Springsteen even called his first album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. The title comes from a postcard Bruce found in a souvenir shop in Asbury Park, a postcard that can be seen on the cover of the album.

Back in the 60-ies and 70-ies Asbury Park was a popular seaside resort. People came there to swim in the ocean, to visit the amusement park rides or to gamble in the casino. Back then Asbury Park also had several nightclubs where bands played live. Bruce Springsteen and many other young musicians played every night in the clubs in town and learned the trade. Most of the bands were known only locally and never reached any fame outside the clubs on the Jersey coast. But some, like Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band,
Wonder BarWonder BarWonder Bar

Another surviving nightclub in Asbury Park. The mural of the smiling boy is called Tillie and was originally featured on the wall of the Palace Amusements building. The Tillly mural was an important symbol in Asbury Park. When that building was torn down the mural was remade on the facade of the Wonder Bar
also reached an audience in the rest of the US and in other parts of the world.

"There was a lot of fights between the black and white
There was nothing you could do
Two cars at a light on a Saturday night in the back seat there was a gun
Words were passed in a shotgun blast
Troubled times had come to my hometown" /My Hometown

On the bus to Asbury Park I met two locals who told me about some of the history of New Jersey. They explained that the Asbury Park that once was, the town with the casinos, the beach, the amusement parks and the music scene, came to an abrupt end in 1980 when a series of violent ethnic riots took place in the town. Many buildings and much of the other infrastructure that made Asbury Park a resort and music town was burned down.

The destruction of the tourist facilities and the bad publicity made the tourists go elsewhere. Asbury Park never recovered from this downturn. The surviving buildings stood empty and in a few years neglect and vandalism turned them into ruins. In recent
Grand Arcade - Beginning of the boardwalk Grand Arcade - Beginning of the boardwalk Grand Arcade - Beginning of the boardwalk

The boardwalk runs along the beach. On one side of the boardwalk is the beach and on the other the entertainment venues are lined up. The boardwalk begins at the Grand Arcade
years they have started to restore and rebuild some of the facilities of Asbury Park’s glorious past. The boardwalk along the beach has been repaired, some amusement park attractions have been set up and the music clubs now see more visitors than they have in many years.

Several of the old music clubs in Asbury Park closed their doors a long time ago and in many cases not even the buildings where they ran their business exist anymore. At least two clubs survive though, the Stone Pony and Wonder Bar, both located just off the boardwalk along the beach. The importance of Stone Pony in Asbury Park is clear if you watch the eulogy NBC broadcast the day after Clarence Clemons died. Follow this link and you will find it.

There is one entertainment establishment in Asbury Park that has a history that goes back longer than the music clubs and that is the Paramount Theatre. Outside the Paramount Theatre there is a plaque honouring the musicians that created what is known as the Sound of Asbury Park.

After Asbury Park I went to Belmar few kilometres further south along the coast.

The boardwalk The boardwalk The boardwalk

Beach on the right and entertainment on the left

"The teenage tramps in skin-tight pants do the E Street dance and everything's alright
Little kids down there either dancin' or hooked up in a scuffle
Dressed in snakeskin suits packed with Detroit muscle
They're doin' the E Street Shuffle" /The E Street Shuffle

"From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands
I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half
With the Tenth Avenue freeze-out
Tenth Avenue freeze-out" /Tenth Avenue Freeze Out

Bruce Springsteen and his band spent much time in a there rehearsing in the early years. So much time in fact that they eventually named the band E Street Band after the name of the street where the house they rehearsed in was. The house has been torn down and there is a garden there today. Nearby there is another street fans of Bruce Springsteen are well aware of, 10th Avenue, which gave name to the song Tenth Avenue Freeze Out from the album Born to Run from 1975.

The local authorities
The former casino - The end of the boardwalk The former casino - The end of the boardwalk The former casino - The end of the boardwalk

The town that once was, with the casinos and the amusement parks came to an abrupt end in 1980 when a series of violent ethnic riots took place in the town. The casino is today a ruin
in Belmar have realised the importance of Belmar and have put a sculpture of a guitar in the corner of E Street and 10th Avenue.

Even though 10th Avenue is in Belmar the song Tenth Avenue Freeze Out was probably written in another town, Long Branch a few kilometres north of Asbury Park. That was where Bruce Springsteen lived when he made the album Born to Run and many of the songs were written in the bedroom of that house. On YouTube I found two video clips, or rather two copies of the same video clip, where Bruce Springsteen talks about what the song Born to Run means to him and he also mentions that he wrote it in his bedroom in Long Branch, New Jersey. In case they are taken down from YouTube I here add links to both: the first clip you find here and the other clip here.

The final stop of my little trip in New Jersey was Freehold, the town where Bruce Springsteen was born and raised.

"Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now
I'll be leaving in the morning from St. Mary's Gate
We wouldn't change this thing
Another ruinAnother ruinAnother ruin

This ruin stands south of the casino. Many other entertainment venues have after they closed been torn down
even if we could somehow
Cause the darkness of this house has got the best of us
There's a darkness in this town that's got us too" /Independence Day

"At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9" /Born to Run

"Born down in a dead man's town" /Born in the USA

It is also a town that he sometimes refers to in his songs. Highway 9 runs just outside Freehold, the town he refers to in Independence Day is sure to be Freehold. But if the "dead man's town" in Born in the USA might not be Freehold. I just threw that quote in because it fits so well.

"I was born right here on Randolph Street in Freehold
Here right behind that big red maple in Freehold
I went to school right here
Got laid and had my first beer
Here in Freehold" /In Freehold

Bruce has written a song called In Freehold. I have added the entire lyrics to
Commemorative plaqueCommemorative plaqueCommemorative plaque

Commemorative plaque over the musicians who played the night clubs in Asbury Park
that song in the end of the blog if you want to know what Bruce himself has to say about his former hometown. It is a bit funny at times so it is worth reading. I visited Randolph Street myself. The house Bruce was born in is no longer there and neither is the red maple tree. It is now a parking lot of the church next door.

When I visited Freehold I also walked by one of the other houses where Bruce Springsteen used to live in. That house still stands and I asked the people living in it if they where OK with me taking a photo of their home. They said OK but the look they gave me makes me think that they don't know that Freehold's most well-known musician lived there in the 60-ies.

"They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown"/ My Hometown

The textile mill mentioned is the A & M Karagheusian rug mill in Freehold. Today the building that used to hold the textile mill has been turned into an
The corner between 10th Avenue and E StreetThe corner between 10th Avenue and E StreetThe corner between 10th Avenue and E Street

Bruce Springsteen's band E Street Band is named after E street and the song Tenth Avenue Freeze Out is about 10th Avenue
apartment complex.

The final place in Freehold I’d like to mention here is the St Rose of Lima School, a school Bruce Springsteen went to for several years. Bruce Springsteen held a concert there in November 1996. St Rose of Lima is a catholic school and, not that I know anything about what it is like to go to a catholic school, I guess sex education is not high on the agenda there. For some reason during the concert Bruce Springsteen decides to hold his own sex education for the audience. When he introduced a song he started to talk dirty and the longer it went the dirtier it got. The reason I know about that little speech because it is featured in the movie Springsteen & I, so it seems that Bruce don't regret his dirty talk. If you wish to listen to it follow this link.

There are places in New Jersey that have been mentioned in Bruce Springsteen songs that I didn't visit on this trip, Atlantic City and Mahwah being two examples. The purpose of this trip to New Jersey was never to see everything that is connected to Bruce Springsteen's music. I just
Vacant lot on E Street, Belmar Vacant lot on E Street, Belmar Vacant lot on E Street, Belmar

E Street Band used to rehearse in a garage on E Street, Belmar. I have found three different suggestions for the address where it was and this is one of them
needed a plan for where to go and, having listened to Bruce Springsteen's music for three decades, Asbury Park and Freehold happened to be two places that I had heard about. New Jersey is a nice place so I might visit the state again. However, I have to come up with some other excuse for going there because the Bruce theme has now served its purpose and can't really be reused.

"In Freehold

I was born right here on Randolph Street in Freehold
Here right behind that big red maple in Freehold
I went to school right here
Got laid and had my first beer
Here in Freehold

Well, my folks all lived and worked right here in Freehold
I remember running up the street past the convent to the church in Freehold
Chased my daddy down in these bars
First fell in love with this guitar
Here in Freehold

I had my first kiss at the YMCA canteen on a Friday night
Maria Espinoza baby where are you tonight
You were thirteen but
10th Avenue/E Street10th Avenue/E Street10th Avenue/E Street

This guitar sits in the corner of 10th Avenue and E Street
way ahead of your time
I walked home with a limp but I felt just fine
That night in Freehold

Well now the girls at Freehold Regional yeah they all looked pretty fine
I had my heart broken at least half a dozen times
I wonder if they miss me if they still get the itch
Would they have dumped me if they knew I'd strike a rich
Straight out of Freehold

Well, a lot of good folks gave us kids a hand in Freehold
When we started up our rock and roll band in Freehold
Yeah we learned pretty quick how to rock
I'll never forget the feeling of that first five bucks in my pocket
That I earned in Freehold

Well, I got outta here hard and fast in Freehold
Everybody wanted to kick my ass back then in Freehold
Well if you were different or black or brown
It was a pretty redneck town
Back in Freehold

Well, now something broke my daddy's back in
Mural in BelmarMural in BelmarMural in Belmar

This mural in Belmar features features Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons saxophone and the E St/10th Ave sign
He left for thirty years he'd never come back
'cept once he drove from California in just three days
Called my relatives some dirty names
And pulled straight out of Freehold
Now he’s there by the highway buried in the dirt
His ghost flippin’ the bird to everybody in Freehold

Well my sister got pregnant at seventeen in Freehold
Back then people they could be pretty mean
Ah honey you had a rough road to go now you ain't made of nothin' but soul
I love you more than you'll ever know
We both survived Freehold

Well my buddy Mike he's the mayor now in Freehold
I remember when we had a lot more hair in Freehold
I left and swore I'd never walk those streets again Jack
Now all I can say is Holy shit I'm back
Back in Freehold

Well I read something in the papers a few weeks ago that was pretty funny
The town council is debating whether to put up a statue of
7 ½ West End Court, Long Branch7 ½ West End Court, Long Branch7 ½ West End Court, Long Branch

In this house on West End Court in Long Branch the song Born to Run was written. The song that turned Bruce Springsteen from a local celebrity to a national star. Rolling Stone Magazine placed Born to Run as #21 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list
me in my home town
But it cost too much money
Well I’d like to thank the town council my friends
For saving me from humiliation and displaying the good hard common sense
We learned in Freehold

Well, this summer everything was green
Rode my kids on the fire engine through the streets of Freehold
I bored 'em with where dad was born and raised
And first felt the sun on his face
In Freehold

Well I still got a lot of real good friends back there
And I can usually find a free beer somewhere
With free dinners I am blessed
Should I go crazy, blow all my money, hit the tabloids
Become fodder for moronic talk shows and turn my life into a complete fuckin’ mess
Well, at least I'll never go hungry I guess
In Freehold

I got a good Catholic education in Freehold
Led to an awful lot of masturbation in Freehold
Well Father it was just something I did for a smile
87 Randolph St 87 Randolph St 87 Randolph St

The house Bruce was born in is no longer there and neither is the red maple tree. It used to stand to the left of the house in the picture
Hell I still get a good one off once in a while
And dedicate it to Freehold
Don't get me wrong, I ain't puttin' anybody down
In the end it all just goes and comes around
In my hometown back in Freehold"

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


68 South St 68 South St
68 South St

A house Bruce Springsteen used to live in. I asked the people living in the house today if they where OK with me taking a photo. I think they don't know that Freehold's most wellknown musician lived there in the 60-ies.
Rug Mill Towers Rug Mill Towers
Rug Mill Towers

"They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks". The textile mill is the A & M Karagheusian rug mill in Freehold
St Rose of Lima SchoolSt Rose of Lima School
St Rose of Lima School

St Rose of Lima School, a school Bruce Springsteen went to for several years. He held a concert there in 1996 and shocked one or two people by talking dirty...

1st November 2014
Mural in Belmar

Springsteen Town
What a well researched blog Ake. Musical riffs and chords bouncing off the page...the Boss very much in charge. Might I suggest you get into the delights of Travelblog's World Music Forum and share in the delights our musical caravan has to offer.
1st November 2014
Mural in Belmar

I'll have a look in the forum
Thank you for the comment. I'll have a look at the forum. /Ake
1st November 2014

Springsteen pilgrimage!
How fab to learn so much about one of your fave singers and then follow his lyrics around his hometown! Pilgrimages like this make traveling a meaningful treat. You'll have a whole new visual sense when you listen to his music and can imagine what it was like to be Born in the USA.
2nd November 2014

Loved the blog. Great perspective and information.

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