Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes “It’s Been A Long Time” (1991)

I come today in praise of old friends. And live music. In my book, two of life’s highest imperatives.

Saturday night I saw Southside Johnny and the superb current incarnation of The Asbury Jukes do their best to tear the roof off of the Hard Rock Café in NYC’s Times Square. My slightly aging friends and I, in turn, did our best to try to keep up with them. The occasion was the First Annual Gala for the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, the brainchild of Steven Van Zandt and the prodigious apparatus through which he pursues his massive mission to rescue arts education in public school curriculums. One of my oldest friends, Dan, was being honored for his contributions to the organization, and thus a throwback gathering of much of our extended high school crew had assembled: Dan, Linda, Hoosh, Jody, Duck, Kim, Zuck, Karen, myself and Laurie. So much history exists among us, and it’s such a short trip to revert to old stories, old jokes, and old behavior (a mixed blessing, perhaps, but still). And nothing lubricates those wheels of nostalgia – no, not even liquor – like knowing the words to an old song and belting it out arm-in-arm with your buddies.

The band took care of that. Sounding even better than I’d had reason to expect, the 70-year-old Southside soulfully reeled off hit after hit, while throughout the night welcoming guest appearances by rock luminaries Eddie Brigati of The Rascals, acclaimed ‘Quarter To Three’ shouter, Gary U.S. Bonds, and the man of honor himself, Little Steven (the legendary Dion was also spotted as present yet somehow did not make it onto the stage; I guess he’s The Wanderer for a reason). But even among The Jukes incredible crowd-shaking catalogue, the song that captured the evening’s magic vibe of reminiscence for us was ‘It’s Been A Long Time,’ an unapologetically sentimental and autobiographical soul ballad written by Van Zandt, reflecting back on youthful days around Asbury Park for three long-time pals: himself, Southside Johnny, and their third buddy, Bruce Springsteen. The video for the song (below), shot live at the spiritual home and epicenter of the Jersey Shore music world, The Stone Pony, depicts the three of them trading lead vocals and leaning in, arms around each other’s shoulders, to share a smile and a microphone on harmonies. Really, it’s just a record of old friends, blood brothers, you might say, telling tales about their lives growing up together, their glory days, and testifying to the ties that bind. Little Steven, Southside and The Boss are singing it, but it might as well have been about all of us. “My friends, it’s been a long, long time.”

It’s Been A Long Time – lyrics

We lived in a time and a world of our own
Making up the rules as we went along
Just one coat between us and we never felt cold
We were never gonna get old
Playing cards ’till the sun came up, rollin’ dice
Down to the club and listen to the blues all night
Girls out on the corner get lonely now and then
We’d never be that free again
It’s been a long time since we laughed together
It’s been a long time since we cried
Raise a glass for the comrades we’ve lost
My friend it’s been a long, long time
Workin’ just enough to pay the rent
Money got made, baby, money got spent
Sleeping when we had nothin’ left to do
Under the boardwalk and up on the roof
We never quite fit, baby, we never played the game
Came out explodin’ like a runaway train
Up all night talkin’ about dreams of better days
Ain’t it funny how some things don’t change?
It’s been a long time since we laughed together
It’s been a long time since we cried
Raise a glass for the comrades we’ve lost
My friend it’s been a long, long time
We lived in a time and a world of our own
Making up the rules as we went along
Just one coat between us and we never felt cold
We were never gonna get old
It’s been a long time since we laughed together
It’s been a long time since we cried
Raise a glass for the comrades we’ve lost
My friend it’s been a long, long time

3 thoughts on “Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes “It’s Been A Long Time” (1991)

  1. Beautiful blog, Billy. you really captured the love and connection you have, which is so intangible and so priceless!

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