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As I mentioned in this blogpost here, last Friday (4 November) I went to see Paul Simon playing live in Cardiff. It was a wonderful concert; I found Paul Simon totally mesmerising. He is very small. I knew that already, but it strikes you when you see him on stage. He was also very very charming, chatting to the audience, and he was very funny.

His set included a great mix of some songs from his new album Stranger to Stranger (which is well worth getting, I have been listening to it a lot over the last few weeks), but also songs from Graceland, Rhythm of the Saints, other solo albums and some Simon & Garfunkel songs too. He finished with “Graceland”“The Boxer” and “The Sound of Silence” in his final encore. To see the man who wrote “The Sound of Silence” singing it live and standing only about 10 metres away was a truly moving experience.

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I took this very blurry photograph of Paul Simon performing “The Sound of Silence” as his final song in the concert.

I had been listening to quite a bit of Paul Simon music in the lead-up to the concert, and so all the songs that he played were songs that I had recently listened to. Except for one, his 1972 song “Duncan”. For some reason, even though I know this song and have it on one of his Greatest Hits albums (a vinyl Greatest Hits album), I did not have it on my phone, so had not heard it in many years. It is a remarkable song, so indicative of Simon’s wonderful song-writing skills. The opening lines “Couple in the next room / Bound to win a prize / They’ve been going at it all night long” are just wonderful. Simon grabs your interest straight away with those lines, and gives us something with which we can relate. We have all stayed in a cheap hotel or motel room with those paper-thin walls.

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“Duncan” is on Paul Simon’s 1972 solo album called Paul Simon. It was released as a single in July 1972.

“Duncan” was released as a single in July 1972, it was the third single to be released from his second solo album Paul Simon. It only got to number 52 in the US singles charts, not very high for someone who had many number ones with Art Garfunkel. But, I think the stature of this song has grown over the years, it is a beautiful example of Simon’s skills in writing a narrative. The song also includes some Andean flute playing, again a nice illustration of Simon’s love of bringing in musical influences from all over the world into his songs.

Couple in the next room
Bound to win a prize
They’ve been going at it all night long
Well, I’m trying to get some sleep
But these motel walls are cheap
Lincoln Duncan is my name
And here’s my song, here’s my song

My father was a fisherman
My mama was the fisherman’s friend
And I was born in the boredom
And the chowder
So when I reached my prime
I left my home in the Maritimes
Headed down the turnpike for
New England, sweet New England

Holes in my confidence
Holes in the knees of my jeans
I was left without a penny in my pocket
Oo-we, I was about destituted
As a kid could be
And I wished I wore a ring
So I could hock, I’d like to hock it.

A young girl in a parking lot
Was preaching to a crowd
Singing sacred songs and reading
From the Bible
Well, I told her I was lost
And she told me all about the Pentecost
And I seen that girl as the road
To my survival

Just later on the very same night
I crept to her tent with a flashlight
And my long years of innocence ended
Well, she took me to the woods
Saying here comes something and it feels so good
And just like a dog I was befriended
I was befriended

Oh, oh, what a night
Oh, what a garden of delight
Even now that sweet memory lingers
I was playing my guitar
Lying underneath the stars
Just thanking the Lord
For my fingers
For my fingers

Here is a recording that I made of “Duncan” from last Friday’s concert. The audio quality is not great, but you get an idea of the atmosphere in the concert. Enjoy!

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