Palisades Park

Released 1962
Genre Rock and roll
Length 1:53
Label Swan
Writer(s) Chuck Barris

“Palisades Park” is a song written by Chuck Barris and recorded by Freddy Cannon. A tribute to New Jersey’s Palisades Amusement Park, it is an up-tempo rock and roll tune led by a distinctive organ part. The track also incorporates amusement park sound effects, including the sounds of screaming riders on the roller coasters, and the quoting of a slower version of the “March of the Clowns”, played on an organ imitating a Hurdy Gurdy or Caliope. In the song, the singer takes a walk after dark and discovers Palisades Park, where he meets a and falls in love with a single girl. Among the list of rides and attractions listed in the song are: “Shoot the Chute, Rocket Ship, Roller Coaster, Loop the Loop, Merry Go Round, Tunnel of Love, and the Ferris Wheel.

Barris wrote a song about an amusement park and it was suggested he use the name of an amusement park as the title. One night he was in Manhattan when he looked toward the New Jersey Palisades Cliffs, on which the amusement park sat. That was when inspiration hit and the title was added. Years later the Palisades Amusement Park closed, on September 12, 1971.

Released by Swan Records as a B-side to “June, July and August,” “Palisades Park” broke in when a Flint, Michigan radio DJ played it by mistake. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 23–30 June 1962, the biggest hit of Cannon’s career.

The song was covered by Shelley Fabares on her 1962 album The Things We Did Last Summer, Jan and Dean covered this song on their album Jan & Dean’s Golden Hits in 1962, Gary Lewis and the Playboys on their 1965 album A Session With Gary Lewis And the Playboys, The Beach Boys on their 1976 album 15 Big Ones, and The Ramones on their 1989 album Brain Drain.

Though never officially recorded and released, the song was also performed by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band on their Tunnel of Love Express Tour in 1988.

In addition, the song was performed live by The Stompers, a Boston-based band with members from Lynn, Massachusetts (Cannon’s home town, although he was born in Swampscott, Massachusetts) beginning in the late 1970s. However, the group only recorded the track on a live album released in 1994.

New York City garage punk band The Devil Dogs covered the song for its 1990 album, Big Beef Bonanza.

The song is excerpted in the Buchanan and Goodman novelty number “Ben Crazy” (1962, based on the Ben Casey TV show.

In 1987, Cannon re-recorded the song, but as “Kennywood Park” (which, unlike Palisades Park before it, is still in operation), a reworking of the song about the Pittsburgh amusement park of the same name. It was issued as a limited edition 45 vinyl single distributed through National Record Mart as a fund-raiser for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Free Care Fund.

Cannon also used a version of the song as a jingle for Boston’s Oldies station WODS-FM, Oldies 103, in the 90’s.

More recently “Palisades Park” appeared in the films Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, picturing Barris’ life, and X-Men: First Class, during a scene set in 1962, the year of the song’s initial release.