Songblog: Things Fall Apart

The idea of things falling to bits was one of the key themes of the album. Things getting worn out, blasted by the weather and by time and erosion. This song was trying to express some of that, but I got distracted along the way, talking about New York and Smithfield Market and so on.

Southside Johnny at BB King's.JPG

There are several true adventures here – the ‘dead hotel’ was the old Fawcetts Royal Hotel in Portrush. I rehearsed in there with one of many bands I tried to start in my teens. It was a wonderful, spooky old place, still partly furnished but abandoned. As I seem to recall, we set up our gear in the dining room under the dusty chandeliers and played ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ by The Beatles for about three hours until our fingers were numb. We never actually made it far enough to have an actual gig, fortunately.

(I remember thinking about all the empty bedrooms upstairs and the creaking doors and dusty windows. The experience had a profound effect on me – I remember writing one short story based on these ‘abandoned hotel’ afternoons, and at least one forlorn little teenage unrequited love song)

Southside Johnny 3.JPG

And I did see Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes – at BB King’s Bar & Grill on 42nd street in New York City (left). I was in New York with a large party from Northern Ireland and I was the only old person among them who had HEARD of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (I thought, where have these people BEEN?). So I bought a ticket and sat there on my own and watched one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen.

And I did get stuck in Fermanagh once, during the bad floods of a couple of years back. Coming back from the Ardhowen Theatre after a show, the roads were underwater in so many places, and I was diverted so many times I ended up lost, driving past lakes that used to be fields, trying to get back to the motorway in the middle of the night with the petrol gauge swinging towards zero.

Musically, my dear friends Ronnie Greer (guitar) and John McCullough (piano) excel themselves on this one, I think.

MUSICIANS: Anthony Toner – vocals and guitars; Clive Culbertson – bass; Peter McKinney – drums; John McCullough – piano and keyboard; Ronnie Greer - guitar


I been to New York City,

I walked the boots right off my feet.

I saw Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

play on 42nd street.

In a car on the New Jersey Turnpike,

I saw America after dark.

I’ve been up and down the road to hell,

trying to find a place to park

I been to Smithfield Market

but that just gave me the blues.

All those old LPs from your teenage years,

and the toys nobody used

I saw a mama look down at her little boy,

and the boy regard his mother.

There’s nothing worse than two generations

disappointed in each other.

Things fall apart, and you try to hold it all together.

You can throw your arms around it sometimes,

but nothing lasts forever.

I got locked in a dead hotel,

I was a ghost on the second floor.

I kicked my way out the fire escape,

I stole the key to a hundred doors.

I got chased by the flood.

I took a dirt road home,

I went looking for higher ground

in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

Things fall apart, and you try to hold it all together.

You can throw your arms around it sometimes,

but nothing lasts forever.

Don’t read your old love letters,

you’ll feel a thousand years old.

Don’t visualize your broken heart being

left out in the cold:

That was a time of superstition,

people checked under their cars.

They stopped going out to dances,

and they avoided certain bars.