Tag Archives: coal region

Episode-819- Billy Joel’s Allentown – History Lesson, Prophecy or Both

Today we are going to do something completely different and look at the old Billy Joel hit from 1982, “Allentown”.  My hope is after you hear today’s show you will fully understand what I mean when I say, “history, prophecy or both” in regard to the song.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • What “closing the factories down” was actually like
  • Why unemployment was a national problem but worse in the coal and steel regions
  • What the song means when talks about “weekends at the Jersey shore”
  • The “restlessness” that was handed down
  • “Graduations hang on the wall” today they are college degrees vs. high school diplomas
  • The multiple broken promises that generation experienced
  • What “filling out forms, standing in lines” means to us today
  • What “hard to stay” is really all about
  • The true nature of the WWII generation post war prosperity
  • How “one word plastics” from the movie “The Graduate” relates to this song
  • What “the threw and American flag in our face” was all about
  • How the “flag in the face” relates to today
  • How this song is really about one of the massive shifts in the world
  • How this generation got caught in this shift
  • Some of the other massive shifts on the past 200 years
  • The real nature of the current shift

Lyrics of the Song Allentown

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 at 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, 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 had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got
Something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face

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

 Resources for Today’s Show

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