Allentown riff

Today’s Zippy has our Pinhead riffing on Billy Joel’s song “Allentown”:

Another contribution to the Zippy song-burlesque oeuvre, following on “Somewhere Over My Poncho” (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”), “My Funny Serpentine” (“My Funny Valentine”), and “Everything Works Out for Me” (“Everything Happens to Me”). This one diverges pretty far from the original, but the model is unmistakable from the first line.

I like the bitter-sad Billy Joel song a lot, and not just because I was born in Allentown PA. Here’s the original, set in eastern Pennsylvania rather than Long Island:

Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line

Well our fathers fought the Second World War
Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore
Met our mothers in the USO
Asked them to dance
Danced with them slow

And we’re living here in Allentown
But the restlessness was handed down
And it’s getting very hard to stay

Well we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved

So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron and coke
And chromium steel

And we’re waiting here in Allentown
But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away

Every child has a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got
But something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our place

Well I’m living here in Allentown
And it’s hard to keep a good man down
But I won’t be getting up today

And it’s getting very hard to stay
And we’re living here in Allentown

Zippy’s version replaces the Pennsylvania references (Allentown and Bethlehem, plus the Jersey Shore) with New York ones (Levittown, the Hempstead Turnpike, Queens, Jones Beach, Manhattan, Hicksville), and adds food references not in the original: bagel shops and pizza, fries, Zorn’s Famous Chicken & Ribs (on the Hempstead Turnpike!), allusions to Roundtable Pizza and the Ground Round, chow mein. Plus some cultural references — sweat socks, tv, Schwinn bikes — to replace those in the original (the factories, the USO, slow-dancing, steel mills, coal mines).

But Zippy preserves some of the resignation and defeat of the original, in the sequence of “living here in Levittown”, “waiting here in Levittown”, “dying here in Levittown”.

3 Responses to “Allentown riff”

  1. Ned Deily Says:

    As a native of Bethlehem and very familiar with the song, I am surprised to read this in Wikipedia:

    “When Joel first started writing the song, it was originally named “Levittown”, after the Long Island town right next to Hicksville, the town in which Joel had grown up. He had originally written a chord progression and lyrics for the song, but struggled for a topic for the song. Joel remembered reading about the decline of the steel industry in the Lehigh Valley, which included the small cities of both Bethlehem and Allentown, where he got the inspiration for “Allentown.” While the steel industry was based in Bethlehem with none of it in Allentown, Joel named the song “Allentown” because nothing rhymes with Bethlehem. The original idea for “Levittown” was in the 1970s, but “Allentown” was not written until 1982.”

  2. Burlesques, parodies, playful allusions « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Allentown riff (link): Zippy: riffing on Billy Joel’s song […]

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