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This song is a satire of the commuter train system and the "modern" fast pace of life in the big cities, a situation already well-established by the time of World War I, and of course subject to jokes when things don't go as planned. There is no "chorus" to this song, each stanza is unique. Its five stanzas add up to somewhat of a "shaggy dog story" that tells a tale of a frustrated commuter, one of many (as he soon discovers) who keep missing the 5:15 train to the suburbs, and consequently get in trouble with their wives. Here is the first stanza:
Talk about your subway, talk about your "L"
Talk about your streetcar lines as well
But when you're living out where the fields are green
You've got to go home on the 5:15
You leave the office at 5:00
Stop at the butcher's for a steak or a chop
Get the evening paper and a magazine
And you run like the Dickens for the 5:15
Oh the 5:15 - Hear the whistle blowing!
Oh the 5:15 - Your "Ingersoll" is slow!
Oh the 5:15 - Down the track she's going,
BANG! go the gates on the 5:15!
The Ingersoll watch, made by the Ingersoll Watch Company, was a popular brand at that time due to its famous one-dollar price.
The unnamed subject of the song is eventually taken to divorce court by his angry wife. He wins his case easily, as he says, because "the jury, the lawyers, the judge supreme / all are commuters on the 5:15".
One oddity about the song is the brief instrumental bar played at both the beginning and the end of the song, namely "Shave and a Haircut", suggesting that that famous little song was already well-known among musicians.
The spirit of the song's punch line is a common humorous or ironic gag. One example was a story Alan King told Johnny Carson about the time a particular airline had sued him for naming them on live TV after he experienced flight problems. He reported that the judge threw the airline's case out because the judge had also flown on that airline, with similar frustrating results.