It's a mighty long day, in the freight elevator,
Say, "Hey there Dan, gonna catch you later"
As you were taking up the cases
Of the man with alligator shoes.

You can take it to the basement, ride it to the top
Punching out the floor numbers, hitting on the stop
Balling out the bell boy
For creasing up the racing news

Oh! The freight elevator, it's so good to ride.
So far from the lobby on the other side.
There's no sort of space, a stowaway can hide
And the sign on the wall says
"Just freight inside"

They've got a hot band in residence
Lights above the door
"Come in every evening and swing with Artie Shaw"
Seems the whole of 52nd street
Is packing out that floor so tight

They've got a young black vocalist, she's setting them on fire
Singing voice like velvet
Stretched out over wire
Gonna hire in extra waitresses
At least that's what I heard tonight

It's got fresh bed linen
For the 14th floor
And a crate of canned grapefruit
For the cold food store
Pair of high heel shoes
From a Denver man's door
And that young black vocalist
What's she riding for?

Oh! The freight elevator, it's go good to ride
So far from the lobby on the other side
There's no sort of space, a stowaway can hide
And the main elevator says
"No blacks inside"

Song Description

Up until after World War Two, black and white musicians in the USA could perform on stage together, but often weren’t allowed to stay in the same hotel. This song tells a true story about the Jazz singer Billie Holiday, who appeared night after night in the Artie Shaw orchestra on 52nd Street, the centre of New York’s nightlife. There she enchanted the public with her voice – like velvet stretched over barbed wire. The crowd is so big, that they’ve had to hire extra waiting staff. But Billie Holiday wasn’t allowed to use the main elevator which the other guests and performers used. Instead the hotel management forced her to use the freight elevator at the back of the building – just because she was black! The freight elevator, crammed in between fresh sheets, a case of grapefruit juice in tins, and the shoes that a guest from Denver has left in front of his door. For the liftboy the freight elevator isn’t such a bad workplace, he can ride up and down to his heart’s content and bawl out the bellboy, who’s under him, because he’s dirtied the newspaper with the racing news.

Versions

  • AStudio Version (3:50)
  • BStudio Version (5:11)

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