Upstate New Yorkers know the commercial. It was on for nearly 30 years. They know the jingle, too. Some even hear it in their sleep.
Unfortunately for anyone who grew up with the Water Slide World song (just search on YouTube), this summer marked the first that Lake George’s premier water park was officially closed for good. Its original owner, Gary Koncikowski, died in May 2018 and the park was on hiatus last summer. Koncikowski’s wife, Dawn, announced that the park would be closing for good this March.
The news upset generations of locals, not just because they’d be missing out on one of Lake George’s most recognizable locations, but they’d no longer be able to hear the iconic, nostalgia-invoking ’80s jingle that plays during the water park’s mullet-filled commercial spot.
But even with the park long gone, many agree the song will live on.
They just can’t agree on the lyrics.
The 30-second song is a simple ’80s pop masterpiece. It starts with a female vocalist whispering the words “Water Slide World,” goes on to build up to the triumphant pop ballad that generations remember, and ends with the line “I really love the way you feel.”
Or “I really love the way you gleam.”
Locals aren’t too sure. Since the song’s origin, upstaters have ruthlessly debated what the song’s lyrics were. YouTube comments for the commercial show not only love for the long-gone park, but hundreds of commenters wondering what the last word in the song is. Even a Reddit thread shows locals unsure of the lyrics.
But after two months of investigative research, The Gazette tracked down an original minute-long extended recording of the Water Slide World jingle. And we may have the answer.
But before our grand reveal, we contacted over 20 upstaters to see what they heard.
Will Levith, executive editor for Saratoga Living magazine, grew up with the Water Slide World song and says it has stuck with him through his late 30s. He’s leaned toward “feel” his whole life, but as someone who’s taken linguistics courses in college, he could see how someone could hear the singer saying the word “gleam.”
(See Levith’s “10 Most Memorable Upstate NY Advertising Jingles”)
In fact, Levith is so certain the last line is “I really love the way you feel,” that he included it in an article once and even questioned the bizarre lyrical decision on the songwriter’s part. He’s convinced “I really love the way you feel” is a “weird thing” to say about a waterslide.
Kevin Marshall, a New York City resident born and raised in Troy, is certain the lyric is “feel” and agrees with Levith’s notion that “I really love the way you feel” is a bizarre thing to say about a water slide. He still reiterated that jingle lyrics “aren’t poetry.”
“I have the utmost respect for jingle writers,” Marshall said. “There is no jingle writer on this planet that would end a jingle with the word ‘gleam.’ ”
Marshall visited Water Slide World as a teen, and although he says it wasn’t quite what he expected as a kid, he can still recite the whole jingle from memory … with the word “feel.”
Others, however, are certain the lyric is “gleam.”
Kelly Gallagher of Scotia has been a “gleamer” her whole life. She grew up with the commercial and still remembers the gleam of the water.
“I came to that conclusion myself and no one ever fought me on that,” Gallagher said of her lyrical certainty.
But in her early 20s, a friend finally fought her on it. So she went to the Water Slide World commercial’s YouTube video and put her “two cents” out there.
“I thought it was gleam,” her 2013 comment read, surrounded by hoards of “feel” believers.
A select few even work around the uncertainty of the lyrics.
Mirriam Seddiq, a Virginia resident, grew up around the area and brings her kids upstate for vacations. Whenever she’s upstate with her kids, they sing the jingle together. But when they get to the last line, they get creative.
“I literally say ‘we really love the way you hnnnnnnn,’ ” Seddiq said. “I stopped trying to figure it out; it was making me crazy.”
Seddiq said that not knowing the last line is part of being an Upstate New Yorker.
“It’s childhood and I’m so glad I got to share it with my kids,” Seddiq said. “If you know what I’m doing here when I make up the last word to this jingle, we are kin. Like dogs sniffing butts.”
Mark Behan, CEO of Albany PR firm Behan Communications, said that although his company never worked with Water Slide World, the song is proving that “great advertising gets a conversation started.”
“Isn’t it funny that 30 years later, people are still talking about it?” Behan said.
But the mystery may be solved.
Pat Tessitore, owner of Cathedral Sound Studios in Rensselaer, has been in the audio production business since 1975. When he looked on his studio shelf Tuesday, after being contacted by a reporter, he found an original 1988 recording of the Water Slide World jingle. He worked on the jingle around 1991, and mixed a speaking voice with the track to distribute to about five or six radio stations.
After reviewing the recording, Tessitore is certain the last line of the jingle is “I really love the way you feel.”
“Just listen, the word is plain as day,” Tessitore said as he played back the jingle on his stereo system. “This is not my first rodeo.”
The packaging of the recording included 10 different versions of the jingle for different running times. An address on the packaging, for radio station Y96 FM, can be traced back to its new name HITS 95.9 WCQL.
“Many radio station sales departments would work with jingle companies to produce quality sounding jingles to help build the top-of-mind awareness that Water Slide World and many others have built,” said Clay Ashworth, the station’s owner and operator.
Tessitore believes that the jingle was created somewhere in Texas, as not many people in the 518 worked on jingles at the time.
And after listening to a full 60-second version of the jingle, with an instrumental breakdown and ’80s synths blaring midway through the song, The Gazette can confirm the last line of the Water Slide World jingle is “I really love the way you feel.”
Levith, who was right in his lyrical stance, recognizes the importance of the song in the Capital Region, and says it will go down in 518 history.
“This is one that’s going to survive after a nuclear war,” Levith said. “There will be cockroaches crawling around earth and this is how Upstate New Yorkers will remember the past.”