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Jersey Girl by Tom Waits

Album: Heart Attack And VineReleased: 1980
  • Waits wrote this song about his new wife, Kathleen. He was getting over a 2-year relationship with Rickie Lee Jones when she came into his life and "saved him." (thanks, John - Los Angeles, CA)
  • Bruce Springsteen covered this song in concert on many occasions. He started performing it at a series of shows in 1981 at the new Meadowlands arena in New Jersey. Even though he did not write this, Springsteen feels the character is the same guy from his earlier songs "Sandy" and "Rosalita," who has now grown up and got the Jersey Girl.
  • Springsteen released this as the B-side of "Cover Me" in 1984. Two years later, he used the same version, taken from a show at The Meadowlands, on his boxed set Live 1975-1985. This is one of the few cover songs Springsteen released. Usually it was other artists performing his songs.
  • In 1981, Waits joined Springsteen on stage for this at a show in Los Angeles.
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Comments: 17

24/08/81 - SPORTS ARENA, LOS ANGELES, CA

Audience tape and incomplete soundboard. Show features a guest appaerence by Tom Waits on Jersey Girl which Bruce introduces with something like "when I first heard this song, I couldn't believe that I didn't write it..." Released on CD "I Don't Wanna Go Home" (E St Records). Now also available as a direct master recording remaster by Ev2 - sound is (again) very good and a big upgrade over previous audience recording of this show. (Title: "Scenery In Another Man's Play"- (Ev2). Thanks to Dari for the additional information and Per for corrections.
Stefanos - Thessaloniki, Greece
Downloading songs from "limewire" I once found the live version of the song played by Springsteen and Waits. The recoring was/is not so good, but I made the first dance with my wife at our wedding with it.
Does anyone have an idea where I can find the complete recording of that concert (in 1981-in LA)? If anyone want the song I can send it.
Tan - Ankara, Turkey
I actually read that Tom Waits wrote this as a sort of a smack aimed at Springsteen and his predictable songwriting (hence the 'Springsteenesque' lyrics.) As for the The shalalalala stuff--go listen to Sandy: Fourth of July Asbury Park... I read back in the early 80's that Waits was actually kind of surprised when Springsteen decided to do the song. Personally, I happen to think he writes circles around Bruce, although I think Bruce's first 2 albums are classics...Mitzy - Dc, Dc
I found this, so it was in fact written for his wife Kathleen, who was born in Illinois but grew up in NJ.

Q (1998): When you wrote "Jersey Girl," did you have Bruce Springsteen in the back of your mind? I know you've been asked this. TW: No, well I wrote it for my wife, she's from Jersey, well she's originally from Illinois, she moved to New Jersey, and she grew up there, Morristown, New Jersey, and so I wrote it for her when we met, and eh, so.. eh. (Source: "Mixed Bag, WNEW New York ". Interview on WNEW FM. October 1998)
Maeve - Manhattan, Ny
I spoke with a woman today through my work who claims she is cousins with Bruce Springsteen. She claims she grew up in New Jersey and Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Jersey Girl" for her and about her. I stumbled on this website while trying to determine if she was being honest or not.Gigi - Newcastle, Wy
On the first comment, "Waits now has a new wife. No word what state she is from"... Mrs. Waits-Brennan is from...you guessed it...Johnsburg, Illinois.Dale - Leavenworth, Ks
I might be wrong but I think the "...whores on eighth avenue" are a Simon and Garfunkel reference that Bruce originally made and Waits adopted.Tom - Vineland, Nj
Also, regarding the "whores" change, Springsteen probably did it so as not to sound as if he was talking down about New York and in other live versions of Waits performing this track I've heard him use this substitute tooNiall - Co.kildare
Agreeing with Martijn could someone please remove the "fact" that Tom has divorced Kathleen? I mean come on, how desperate are some people to submit a fact?!Niall - Co.kildare
Bon Jovi had better hair...thats about it.Rob - Vancouver, Canada
Bon Jovi's version!!! There is having your own opnion and being downright crazy. You, my friend, are crazy.Don - Dearborn Heights, Mi
Toms voice is raw u feel the song.It is like a black & white movieBobby - Valley S Tream, Ny
I feel I must correct a few mistakes here. First, as has already been pointed out, Tom is still married to Kathleen. Where on earth did the other idea stem from? Second, I'm 99% sure that Tom was with Ricky Lee Jones for much longer than 2 years, but I may be wrong. And lastly, that comment about the song being meant to feel like somebody showing a picture of his wife, you're confusing songs. The song that Tom wrote for Kathleen that he made that comment about is Johnsburg Illinois, from the album Swordfishtrombones, which is only one verse. The comment was made about the brevity of the song, and not the use of Shalalalala. Tom has commented on how unusual it is for him to use such a thing in a song, but has not explained why he did it.
I can't be sure, but I think the extra verse in Springsteen's version is not by Tom. When they performed the song together in 1981 Waits sang all the other verses, but Springsteen did the last one, so it seems like it was his own.
Eyvindur - Reykjavik, Iceland
An odd song for Waits, due to the extended use of the word "La." One or two verses are nothing but "la la la." Waits explained the lyrical simplicity of this song saying that a woman like Kathleen is too beautiful for poetry, and the song should feel like he's pulling out a wallet picture and saying "That's her, that's my girl" and leaving it at that.Craig - Madison, Wi
Tom is still married to Kathleen.Martijn - Helmond, Netherlands
Bon Jovi covered this in concert in Australia..I LOVE all versions of it, but I think BJ's one is my favourte.Nikki - Melbourne, Australia
In Tom Waits' original version, the third line reads "Don't want no whores on eighth avenue" and the last verse ("I see you in the street...") is missing entirely. Does anyone know more about the changes in Bruce's version? Did The Boss make additions of his own, or did Mr. Waits update his own song?Mikael - Helsinki, Finland