Paul Simon: “How terribly strange to be 70”

I don’t think I can fully explain how INTEGRAL Paul Simon has been in my life, but I’ll try. In fact, I’ll try twice: once, now, for the albums related to his solo career, and again on November 5, for the earlier stuff with Art Garfunkel; November 5, Artie turns 70 as well.

Paul Simon (1972) – Here’s a video of a young woman playing Duncan at a Paul Simon concert; there’s a song I once could relate to.

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973) – for a time, my favorite Paul Simon/S&G album
Kodachrome – I used it. Quite a bit, in the day.
One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor – just a few months ago, I noted that some tax break for small struggling businesses was a good thing. Someone took great exception to this. I replied, “Well, as Paul Simon would say, ‘One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor'”. I used to cite it a LOT.

Still Crazy After All These Years (1975) – like Paul, a breakup album for me, big time. I watched the Grammys when, in “Simon’s acceptance speech for the Album of the Year award…he jokingly thanked Stevie Wonder, who had won the award the two previous years…for not releasing an album that year.” I LOL. Probably my favorite album.
I Do It for Your Love – ‘the orange [carpet] bled the blue”; not literally, but a good reflection of an apartment I once shared.
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover – listened to grand debates about whether this song was namechecking comic book icons JACK Kirby, STAN LEE, and ROY Thomas. And if so, who the heck was Gus?
Have a Good Time – I used to play this song every March 8: “Yesterday eve was my birthday…”

Paul Simon appeared in my favorite movie, Annie Hall (1977).
He put out the first of two many greatest hits albums (1977) which featured Slip Slidin’ Away. “You know the nearer your destination…”

After One Trick Pony (1980 movie and soundtrack), featuring Late in the Evening…

Hearts and Bones (1983) – this album sold not at all well. “The album was originally intended to be a Simon & Garfunkel reunion album called Think Too Much, following their Central Park reunion concert in 1981, and the world tour of 1982 – 1983….However, creative tensions appeared between the duo during the sessions…This led to the duo abandoning the project altogether; Simon wiped Garfunkel’s vocals from the completed tracks and reworked the songs for a solo album.” And many people in my circle of friends were LIVID about this, that he didn’t have the right to wipe off Art’s vocals. I defended Paul, but I was clearly in the minority.

It was generally believed that Paul Simon’s commercial appeal as a musician was about over, even by Paul Simon. He did appear on We Are the World single (1985).

But then, Graceland (1986), which was so beloved by the girlfriend at the time, it was wearying. Still, a great album, with Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al, and Homeless.

On The Rhythm of the Saints (1990) tour, I saw Paul Simon for the one and only time, in the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany in March 1991 in the nosebleed seats. And the percussion on The Obvious Child was STILL too loud. (The show was similar to the Central Park show in August of that year.) The girlfriend and I broke up very shortly after this show. Guess I wasn’t “Born at the Right Time.”

I just never warmed up to Songs from The Capeman (1997). That said, I should note that the killer wanted to go to college at my alma mater, New Paltz.

You’re the One (2000) was more to my liking, though there’s no single song that stood out for me.

Surprise (2006) was well-promoted and had songs that moved me. It included the song about narrow-mindedness, How Can You Live in the Northeast?; the unfortunately appropriate Wartime Prayers, and Father and Daughter. A different mix of the latter song appeared way back in the children’s film The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002). I took great exception to the last line in the chorus: “There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you.” Says YOU, Paul Simon! Of course, at the time it was first released, I didn’t HAVE a daughter, but still…

So Beautiful or So What (2011) – Amazingly still relevant. The Afterlife is a funny song about death.

Here’s what I ended up picking as my Top 10 Paul Simon solo cuts. Except for the top 2, it’s pretty fluid. Any one of about 15 songs, most mentioned here, could have been on the list. (All songs linked to recordings.)

10. Mother And Child Reunion (from the eponymous album) – I love the story how Paul wrote this after seeing it on Chinese restaurant menu; it’s a dish with chicken and egg.
9. Something So Right (There Goes Rhymin’ Simon) – this feeds right into my general pessimism, and surprise.
When something goes wrong, I’m the first to admit it
I’m the first to admit it
But the last one to know when something goes right
Well it’s likely to lose me
It’s apt to confuse me; It’s such an unusual sight

8. Getting Ready for Christmas Day (So Beautiful or So What) – I listened to this single, released in November 2010. Paul doing something new for him, sampling, in this case of a 1941 sermon by the Rev. J.M. Gates, interestingly from the year he was born.
7. The Late Great Johnny Ace (Hearts and Bones) – this is a song about a 1950s singer who died, but also about the death of John Lennon. The Philip Glass ending I always found haunting.
6. American Tune (There Goes Rhymin’ Simon) – the tune is quite similar to the JS Bach hymn O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, and it has a wounded lyric.
Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken, And many times confused
And I’ve often felt forsaken, And certainly misused.
But it’s all right, it’s all right, I’m just weary to my bones

5. Gone at Last (Still Crazy After All These Years) – at some point in the 1970s, I heard the Jessy Dixon Singers perform this sans Simon and the late Phoebe Snow, and it was still great.
4. Graceland (Graceland) – a wonderful story-song traveling with his “child from my first marriage” and a great guitar line.
3. Still Crazy After All These Years (Still Crazy After All These Years) – the first line was literally true, eventually: “I met my old lover on the street last night. She seemed so glad to see me, I just smiled.”
2. The Boy In The Bubble (Graceland) – The first song on the ‘Graceland’ album, and I was so obsessed with the intro of it, that sometimes I’d play it again. An extended version of this was “released on vinyl clocking in at 6:13, including a heavier focus on rhythms between the verses.” My friend Rocco owned it, and my local record store promised to order it for me, but they were unable to restock it. Thanks, YouTube.
1. Loves Me Like a Rock (There Goes Rhymin’ Simon) – growing up to be President. AND the Dixie Hummingbirds on vocals.

“On March 1, 2007, Simon made headlines again when he was announced as the first recipient of the recently-created Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The Prize, created by the Library of Congress, was awarded to Simon during a Concert Gala featuring his music at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., on the evening of May 23. The event was nationally broadcast on PBS on the evening of June 27, 2007” and of course I watched. Here’s Love Me Like a Rock, featuring Stevie Wonder.

Paul Simon at the 9/11 anniversary ceremony in 2011, performing The Sound of Silence.

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