Fountains of Wayne: Hackensack
I grew up in a very small town in New Jersey. On snowy days, all of the kids went to The Big Hill for sledding. At some point, we would get cold, and we would go to Margaret’s house. Margaret was a woman who lived at the bottom of The Big Hill, loved kids, and had an infinite supply of hot chocolate. At any given time on sledding days, there would be between ten and twenty kids warming up in the house.
By the time I was in eighth grade, Margaret had come into the school and organized a children’s theater group. I had terrible stage fright, but I finally got involved in helping with the writing of an original musical. I worked with my best friend on a song for a show set in the 50’s. We were all born in 1960 or later, so this is pretty laughable looking back at it. Our song was about a guy whose former girlfriend leaves him to go away with a talent scout to Hollywood, and now he only sees her on the screen. We played it for laughs.
Fountains of Wayne took a similar idea seriously, and came up with Hackensack. This is one of those perfect pop songs I occasionally rave about here. The protagonist knows that this girl is not coming back, but he wants her to know that he will be there for her if she does. Everything about the performance captures this impossible yearning perfectly. And the song clocks at exactly three minutes! Amazing.
For the record, I have lived in New Jersey all my life, but I have never been to Hackensack. Yes, it is a real place. And that was my one and only experience as a songwriter.