NJArts.net reached No. 350 in the 350 Jersey Songs series in September 2015, but occasionally adds a new “bonus” pick. Here’s another one.
Veteran singer-songwriter Tom Rush’s “If I Never Get Back to Hackensack” joins the small club of novelty songs that take advantage of the large number of weird New Jersey town names (such as Dave Van Ronk’s “Garden State Stomp” and Steve Forbert’s “Strange Names (New Jersey’s Got ‘Em)”).
The song is basically a series of jokes, such as:
I got nutty friends in Nutley,
they’re bonkers in Bayonne.
My sidekicks down in Squankum,
they won’t let you drink alone.
They’re raucous in Secaucus
and they whip it in Whippany.
If I never get back to Hackensack,
it’ll be all right with me.
Rush released the song on his 2018 album Voices, and told The Bergen Record that year that the song was indeed inspired by a disappointing bar gig in Hackensack, “decades ago.”
“One bad gig can really sour you on a town!” he wrote in the album’s liner notes, continuing: “I’ve been told, since we did this recording, that Moonachie is pronounced ‘moon AH kee.’ I wanted to go back in and re-record the whole thing, but the grownups wouldn’t let me. (Another fellow said, ‘I’ve never heard “Squankum” used in a song before.’ So I’m apparently boldly going where no songwriter has gone before.)”
Uh, actually one has. Dave Van Ronk (see above) did so in “Garden State Stomp,” though, technically, Van Ronk went with Lower Squankum. (Both Squankum and Lower Squankum are part of Howell Township in Monmouth County.)
Rush, whose career stretches back to the 1960s, tested positive for the coronavirus last month but has recovered, he announced on his web site last week.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.
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