In 1957 Frank Sinatra recorded At Long Last Love, a wry, somewhat cynical song about the authenticity of true romance. “Is it for all time or simply a lark? Is it Granada I see or only Asbury Park?” Comparing Spain’s majestic city to an obscure town on the New Jersey coast, the inference was clear: Granada is the real, heart-swelling deal; Asbury Park, little more than a kiss behind the bike sheds.
Ol’ Blue Eyes may have had a point. First impressions of Asbury Park are remarkably unlovely. From the vantage of a fifth-floor window it looks like Croydon in a state of flux. The fact that it’s raining and there’s a building site sandwiched between me and the slate-coloured ocean probably doesn’t help; yet there’s a definite ennui to this once buoyant coastal resort that’s difficult to shrug.
Just 60 miles from the bright lights of New York, the difference is palpable. But change is under way, and there’s every possibility that AP, as it’s known locally, will rise phoenix-like from the flames of regeneration. Developments have come thick and fast.