Posts Tagged ‘Paul Simon’

A couple of weeks ago I was in New York City. Although I have been to NYC many times since I first visited it in October 1985, this was the first time I had spent the night in Manhattan.

On the evening of Saturday 17th November I booked a ticket to go up the Empire State Building to take night-time photos. The cost of a ticket to the 80th floor is US$32, and I’d say that it’s good value. But, what is not is the extra $20 to go up to the 102nd floor. I had forgotten from my last time that this is not worth the extra money. Hopefully I’ll remember next time.

I was on the observation deck of the Empire State (86th floor) for about 2 hours taking photos and videos. I’ll post some of them over the next few weeks. Then, at about 11:30pm I walked to Time Square. I stopped to get a coffee and warm up a bit so got to Time Square at about 12:30am. The place was heaving, hundreds of people were milling around and many of the shops were open.

At about 1:30am I caught the subway to Brooklyn as I wanted to get a photo of Manhattan with the Brooklyn Bridge in the foreground. I took my photos from the Brooklyn Bridge Park, then walked back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.

By this time it was lashing it down with rain and I was soaked. The rain had seeped through my winter coat and my sweater and trousers were pretty much wet through. But, as I walked over the bridge I caught sight of the Statue of Liberty illuminated (it was about 3am by this time). So I decided to walk to Battery Park to take photos of her at night.

When I got to Battery Park and set up my camera I discovered that my camera battery was dead from all the long exposure photos I’d been taking. So I got my spare battery out of my backpack, only to find that it too was dead. So, I didn’t get any photos of Lady Liberty at night. It was now 4am.

I then walked back to my hotel which was in the Little Italy part of Manhattan. The rain was still lashing it down, and by now my phone was getting damp leading to Google maps misbehaving. The app kept on going haywire every minute or two, so I couldn’t use it to guide me back from Battery Park to Little Italy. Instead I just tried to figure it out, and it took me two hours!

I collapsed into my bed at 6am, having spent nearly 12 hours wandering around nighttime Manhattan taking photos.

When I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at about 3am this great Simon & Garfunkel song kept playing in my head.

The Only Living Boy in New York

This song appears on Simon & Garfunkel’s last album Bridge Over Troubled Water. Written, of course, by Paul Simon, the “Tom” in the lyrics refers to Art Garfunkel. When they were teenagers in Queens they released a single and briefly called themselves”Tom & Jerry”.

By 1970 Simon and Garfunkel were arguing and about to go their separate ways. Garfunkel decided to have a go at acting, he appears in the movie Catch 22. Simon is wishing him the best for his part in the movie Garfunkel is filming in Mexico.

As is usual with Paul Simon, the song’s lyrics are exquisite.

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know your part’ll go fine
Fly down to Mexico
Da-n-da-da-n-da-n-da-da a
And here I am
The only living boy in New York

I get the news I need on the weather report
Oh, I can gather all the news I need on the weather report
Hey, I’ve got nothing to do today but smile
Here I am
The only living boy in New York

Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where
And we don’t know where
Here I am
Half of the time we’re gone, but we don’t know where
And we don’t know where

Tom, get your plane right on time
I know that you’ve been eager to fly now
Hey, let your honesty shine, shine, shine
Like it shines on me
The only living boy in New York
The only living boy in New York

Here is a video of this beautiful song. Enjoy!

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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.


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.


“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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Tonight I am going to see Paul Simon play at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. I am very excited to see him perform live, he is one of my favourite songwriters and it’ll be the first time that I’ll have seen him in the flesh. I have watched the 1981 concert that he did in New York’s Central Park with Art Garfunkel countless times on DVD, and also his “Graceland – The African Concert”, a DVD of the 1987 concert he performed in Zimbabwe (the closest he could get to performing in South Africa in the days of apartheid).

I have blogged about Paul Simon several times, including here in Rolling Stone Magazine’s  list of the 100 greatest songwriters (Rolling Stone place him at number 8, I would place him higher in my own list).

Paul Simon is playing in Cardiff tonight (Friday 4 November) at the Motorpoint Arena.

In several interviews Paul Simon has said that he considers “Graceland” to be the best song that he has ever written, the title track to his seminal 1986 album of South African music. I have blogged about that album here, but I am surprised to see that I have never blogged about the song itself. So, here it is. Simon has commented on his process for writing this song; that the word “Graceland” was just a placeholder as he composed the words to fit the melody that he had recorded in South Africa.

He felt sure that he would replace the word as the song came together. But, he found that the word would not go away. He decided to take his first ever trip to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, to discover what the word may mean and how it could be relevant in the song. In making that trip, he got the opening lines for the song. He also realised that the word could mean “a state of grace”. Notice that in the last verse he drops the reference “Memphis Tennessee”, the “Graceland” that he is referring to at the end of the song is a more general, universal one than Elvis’ home.

The Mississippi Delta
Was shining like a National guitar
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the Civil War

I’m going to Graceland
In Memphis,Tennessee
I’m going to Graceland
Poorboys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to Graceland
My traveling companion is nine years old
He is the child of my first marriage
But I’ve reason to believe
We both will be received
In Graceland

She comes back to tell me she’s gone
As if I didn’t know that
As if I didn’t know my own bed
As if I’d never notice
The way she brushed her hair from
Her forehead and she said, “Losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow”

I’m going to Graceland
Memphis, Tennessee
I’m going to Graceland
Poorboys and pilgrims with families
And we are going to Graceland
And my traveling companions
Are ghosts and empty sockets
I’m looking at ghosts and empties
But I’ve reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

There is a girl in New York City
Who calls herself the human trampoline
And sometimes when I’m falling, flying
Or tumbling in turmoil I say
Whoa, so this is what she means
She means we’re bouncing into Graceland
And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow

In Graceland, in Graceland
I’m going to Graceland
For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see Graceland
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there’s no obligations now
Maybe I’ve a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

Whoa, in Graceland, in Graceland
In Graceland,
I’m going to Graceland

And here is a video of this exquisite song. It is one of my favourite Paul Simon songs. Enjoy!

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On Thursday of last week (13 October) it was announced that Bob Dylan had won the 2016 Nobel prize for literature. It should be obvious to anyone who has read my posts on Bob Dylan, of which there have been many, that I am fully in agreement with his receiving this accolade. As I have stated several times, to me Bob Dylan is a poet, but someone who has chosen to set his poems to music. Not all of his songs can be considered poetry, but I would argue that many of them can be, and there is little doubt that he brought a level of literary craftsmanship to writing song lyrics which had not existed before.

That the best songwriters are creating poetry is, for me, a matter of little dispute. At the top of this list sits Bob Dylan, but he is not the only one. Other names which spring to mind are Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. As the Nobel prize cannot be awarded posthumously, the Nobel committee better get a move on if it’s going to award any of these three the same honour that it has just bestowed on Dylan.


On Thursday of last week (13 October) it was announced that Bob Dylan had won the 2016 Nobel prize for literature.

As four examples of Dylan’s genius for writing songs which are poetry, here are “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” from 1965 (which appears on the album Bringing it All Back Home), “The ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” from 1967 (which appears on his album John Wesley Harding), “Tangled Up in Blue” from 1974 (which appears on the album Blood on the Tracks) and “Not Dark Yet” from 1997 (which appears on on the album Time Out of Mind).

Do you think Bob Dylan is deserving of the Nobel prize in literature, or is songwriting a lesser form of literature than poetry? Which are your favourite Dylan lyrics?

It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only

The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest

Well, Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
They were the best of friends
So when Frankie Lee needed money one day
Judas quickly pulled out a roll of tens
And placed them on a footstool
Just above the plotted plain
Sayin’, “Take your pick, Frankie Boy
My loss will be your gain”

Well, Frankie Lee, he sat right down
And put his fingers to his chin
But with the cold eyes of Judas on him
His head began to spin
“Would ya please not stare at me like that,” he said
“It’s just my foolish pride
But sometimes a man must be alone
And this is no place to hide”

Well, Judas, he just winked and said
“All right, I’ll leave you here
But you’d better hurry up and choose which of those bills you want
Before they all disappear”
“I’m gonna start my pickin’ right now
Just tell me where you’ll be”
Judas pointed down the road
And said, “Eternity!”

“Eternity?” said Frankie Lee
With a voice as cold as ice
“That’s right,” said Judas Priest, “Eternity
Though you might call it ‘Paradise’”
“I don’t call it anything”
Said Frankie Lee with a smile
“All right,” said Judas Priest
“I’ll see you after a while”

Well, Frankie Lee, he sat back down
Feelin’ low and mean
When just then a passing stranger
Burst upon the scene
Saying, “Are you Frankie Lee, the gambler
Whose father is deceased?
Well, if you are, there’s a fellow callin’ you down the road
And they say his name is Priest”

“Oh, yes, he is my friend”
Said Frankie Lee in fright
“I do recall him very well
In fact, he just left my sight”
“Yes, that’s the one,” said the stranger
As quiet as a mouse
“Well, my message is, he’s down the road
Stranded in a house”

Well, Frankie Lee, he panicked
He dropped ev’rything and ran
Until he came up to the spot
Where Judas Priest did stand
“What kind of house is this,” he said
“Where I have come to roam?”
“It’s not a house,” said Judas Priest
“It’s not a house . . . it’s a home”

Well, Frankie Lee, he trembled
He soon lost all control
Over ev’rything which he had made
While the mission bells did toll
He just stood there staring
At that big house as bright as any sun
With four and twenty windows
And a woman’s face in ev’ry one

Well, up the stairs ran Frankie Lee
With a soulful, bounding leap
And, foaming at the mouth
He began to make his midnight creep
For sixteen nights and days he raved
But on the seventeenth he burst
Into the arms of Judas Priest
Which is where he died of thirst

No one tried to say a thing
When they took him out in jest
Except, of course, the little neighbor boy
Who carried him to rest
And he just walked along, alone
With his guilt so well concealed
And muttered underneath his breath
“Nothing is revealed”

Well, the moral of the story
The moral of this song
Is simply that one should never be
Where one does not belong
So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’
Help him with his load
And don’t go mistaking Paradise
For that home across the road

Tangled Up in Blue

Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’
I was layin’ in bed
Wond’rin’ if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Rain fallin’ on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through
Tangled up in blue

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
I helped her out of a jam, I guess
But I used a little too much force
We drove that car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best
She turned around to look at me
As I was walkin’ away
I heard her say over my shoulder
“We’ll meet again someday on the avenue”
Tangled up in blue

I had a job in the great north woods
Working as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the ax just fell
So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I happened to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix
But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I seen a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind, and I just grew
Tangled up in blue

She was workin’ in a topless place
And I stopped in for a beer
I just kept lookin’ at the side of her face
In the spotlight so clear
And later on as the crowd thinned out
I’s just about to do the same
She was standing there in back of my chair
Said to me, “Don’t I know your name?”
I muttered somethin’ underneath my breath
She studied the lines on my face
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
When she bent down to tie the laces of my shoe
Tangled up in blue

She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
“I thought you’d never say hello,” she said
“You look like the silent type”
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin’ coal
Pourin’ off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you
Tangled up in blue

I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafés at night
And revolution in the air
Then he started into dealing with slaves
And something inside of him died
She had to sell everything she owned
And froze up inside
And when finally the bottom fell out
I became withdrawn
The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew
Tangled up in blue

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
Don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

Not Dark Yet

Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep, time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree
I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

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Last Friday, I blogged about Paul Simon in Rolling Stone Magazine’s  list of the 100 greatest songwriters. They place him at number 8. Before I move on to number 7 next week, I have decided to share one of the songs I mentioned in that blog – “Late in the Evening”. This song was released in July 1980 and is from his album One Trick Pony. It got to number 6 in the US singles charts, and number 11 in the Netherlands. In the Disunited Kingdom it only got to number 58.


Paul Simon’s song “Late in the Evening” was released as a single in July 1980. It is from his album One Trick Pony.

I adore this song. It has such an infectious latin rhythm, and there are also some great lyrics in it too. I bought One Trick Pony when it came out, and this was my favourite song on the album.


The first thing I remember
I was lying In my bed
I couldn’t of been no more
Than one or two
I remember there’s a radio
Comin’ from the room next door
And my mother laughed
The way some ladies do
When it’s late in the evening
And the music s seeping through

The next thing I remember
I am walking down the street
I’m feeling all right
I’m with my boys
I’m with my troops, yeah
And down along the avenue
Some guys were shootin pool
And I heard the sound
Of a cappella groups, yeah
Singing late in the evening
And all the girls out on the stoops, yeah

Then I learned to play some lead guitar
I was underage In this funky bar
And I stepped outside to smoke
myself a “J”
And when I came back to the room
Everybody just seemed to move
And I turned my amp up loud and I began
to play
And it was late in the evening
And I blew that room away
The first thing I remember
When you came into my life
I said I’m gonna get that girl
No matter what I do
Well I guess I’d been in love before
And once or twice I been on the floor
But I never loved no one
The way that I loved you
And it was late in the evening
And all the music seeping through

Here is a video of this great song. Enjoy!


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At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters is Paul Simon.  Simon is one of my favourite songwriters; I would place him in my personal top 5 and I consider him one of the greatest lyricists in popular music, along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. However, in addition to his incredible lyrics, Simon has an ability to consistently write memorable melodies.

Simon was very much at the vanguard of introducing other musical elements into western popular music. His seminal 1986 album Graceland is possibly the best known example of this, where he went to South Africa to record with some of the country’s black musicians. But, in fact, Simon was including foreign influenced rhythms and music into his songs long before this. “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)”, released in 1970 on the final Simon and Garfunkel album, was based on a traditional Peruvian melody. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” (released in 1972) and “Late in the Evening” (released in 1980) are other examples, both with strong Latin rhythms.


At number 8 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time is Paul Simon.

There are so many Paul Simon songs which I like, and I have blogged about several of them before. Here I blogged about his album Graceland, and in that blogpost I included two versions of his song “Under African Skies”. Here I blogged about his haunting song “American Tune”, and here I blogged about his song “Leaves That Are Green”, which he performed with Art Garfunkel during their days together. Finally, here I blogged about “The Boxer”, which appears on the final Simon and Garfunkel album before they split.

Today I thought I would include two Paul Simon songs, one from during his time with Art Garfunkel, the other from his solo career. “America” is a wonderful example of Simon’s ability to paint vivid pictures with his lyrics. Released in April 1968, when I first heard it as a teenager I had no idea where “Saginaw”, “Michigan”, “Pittsburgh” or “the New Jersey Turnpike” were. Ironically, when I moved to the United States in 1992 and bought a road map of the country, one of the first places I spotted on the map of Michigan was Saginaw. Several years later, when I was working at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, we had a visit from some high school students from Saginaw. I asked them whether they knew the song in which their town had been immortalised, but they did not (I guess they were too young!).

The opening lines of “America”, “Let us be lovers, / We’ll marry our fortunes together. / I’ve got some real estate / Here in my bag.” just draw you straight into the song. This song is just perfect, it completely enchants me each time I listen to it.

Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
I’ve got some real estate
Here in my bag.

So we bought a pack of cigarettes,
And Mrs. Wagner’s pies,
And walked off
To look for America.
“Kathy”, I said,
As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
Michigan seems like a dream to me now.

It took me four days
To hitch-hike from Saginaw.
“I’ve come to look for America.”

Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces,
She said the man in the gabardine suit
Was a spy.

I said, “Be careful,
His bow tie is really a camera.”
“Toss me a cigarette,
I think there’s one in my raincoat.”
We smoked the last one
An hour ago.

So I looked at the scenery,
She read her magazine;
And the moon rose over an open field.
“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and
I don’t know why.”

Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come
To look for America,
All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.

The other song I have decided to share is one that I mentioned above, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard”. This song shows the other side of Simon’s songwriting skills. There is nothing particularly profound about the lyrics; but I challenge you to listen to this song and not start at least tapping your hands or feet, if not wanting to start dancing. It just has a completely infectious rhythm. This song features on Simon’s first solo album after the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel, simply entitled Paul Simon and realeased in January 1972.

The mama pajama rolled out of bed
And she ran to the police station
When the papa found out he began to shout
And he started the investigation
It’s against the law
It was against the law
What the mama saw
It was against the law

The mama looked down and spit on the ground
Everytime my name gets mentioned
The papa said oy if I get that boy
I’m gonna stick him in the house of detention
Well I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going
I’m on my way

I’m taking my time
But I don’t know where
Goodbye to Rosie the queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
Me and Julio down by the schoolyard

In a couple of days they come and take me away
But the press let the story leak
And when the radical priest
Come to get me released
We was all on the cover of Newsweek
And I’m on my way
I don’t know where I’m going
I’m on my way

I’m taking my time
But I don’t know where
Goodbye to Rosie the queen of Corona
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
See you, me and Julio
Down by the schoolyard
Me and Julio down by the schoolyard

Here is a video of this great song. Enjoy!


Which is your favourite Paul Simon song? Either from his time with Art Garfunkel, or from his solo career.

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Just a quick post today of this amazing song by Simon & Garfunkel. There are many songs I like by this duo, dozens; but this is one of my favourites. “The Boxer” was on their last album, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.


“The Boxer” was released in April 1969, reaching number 7 in the US charts and number 6 in the Disunited Kingdom charts.


Which is your favourite Simon & Garfunkel song?

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Paul Simon is one of my favourite songwriters. In my opinion, along with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, he is one of the best lyricists of the past 40-50 years. His songs with his singing partner Art Garfunkel (as Simon and Garfunkel) are probably nearly as well known as The Beatles’ songs. I suspect much of his solo work is less well known.

I blogged last summer about his seminal album, the amazing Graceland, which is generally recongised as his greatest piece of work. And Paul Simon himself feels his best ever song, of the hundreds he has written, is the song Graceland on that album.

Today I am sharing one of my favourite Paul Simon solo songs, American Tune. I am not sure how well known this one is, it is on his 1973 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. Until about 14 months ago I had only ever heard the live version of this song which is on Paul Simon’s greatest hits album Greatest Hits etc., but upon my first hearing it many years ago it quickly became one of my favourite songs by him. Last year I finally got around to buying There Goes Rhymin’ Simon and heard the studio version for the first time. In addition, the “new” version of the album that I bought also had some bonus material, which included a demo version of “American Tune

Paul Simon's American Tune is one  of his moist poignant songs.

Paul Simon’s American Tune is one of his moist poignant songs.

These are the lyrics to this wonderful song.

Many is the time I’ve been mistaken, and many times confused
Yes and I’ve often felt forsaken, and certainly misused.
Ah but I’m alright, I’m alright, I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be bright and Bon Vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home.

And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease.
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees.
But it’s alright, it’s alright. For we’ve lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on,
I wonder what’s gone wrong, I can’t help but wonder
What’s gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying. I dreamed that my soul rose
unexpectedly, and looking back down at me, smiled
reassuringly, and I dreamed I was flying.
And high up above, my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty, sailing away to sea.
And I dreamed I was flying.

We come on a ship they call the Mayflower,
We come on a ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune.
Oh and it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright.
You can’t be forever blessed.
Still, tomorrow’s gonna be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest,
That’s all, I’m trying to get some rest.

This YouTube clip is of Paul Simon performing the song on Parkinson, a long running chat show in the Disunited Kingdom.

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This year sees the 25th anniversary of the release of Paul Simon‘s Graceland album. It is one of my favourite albums of all time, and it is my favourite by Paul Simon, including his Simon & Garfunkel days (and, that means it is up against some pretty good albums like “There goes rhymin’ Simon” and “Bridge over troubled water“). To my mind, it is one of the greatest albums of all time, and certainly in a very short list of greatest albums of the 1980s, along with “The Joshua Tree” by U2, “Hounds of Love” by Kate Bush, and one or two others. Graceland won the 1987 Grammy for the best album of the year.


Paul Simon’s Graceland album was released in the autumn of 1986.

I remember first hearing Graceland from a bootleg tape I bought in Bangkok in October 1986. I liked it straight away, even though it was like nothing I had ever heard before. I think it was the first time I had really heard any “African” music, and I was breath-taken by the complex rhythms and melodies in the music. [For any authorities reading this, I have since bought the album on record, CD, and just a few weeks ago downloaded from iTunes the 25th Anniversary edition, so have more than paid my royalty fees to Paul Simon and Warner Brothers 🙂 ]

On Tuesday of last week (3rd of July 2012), the BBC broadcast a fascinating documentary called “Paul Simon’s Graceland – Under African Skies”. The programme in particular looked at the album’s impact on the struggle going on at the time for South African liberation under the racist Apartheid system, but it also talked about the recording process for some of the songs.

Whether Paul Simon helped or hindered the cause for South African blacks’ liberation is a very interesting debate. Yes, he broke the UN embargo on cultural exchanges with South Africa, and flew in the face of the desires of the African National Congress and Artists Against Apartheid. But, as he points out in this documentary, he was invited by black musicians to go there and play music with them, and certainly his album Graceland brought this “township music” to an audience it would never otherwise have reached. I myself had not heard any African or South African music before I heard Graceland, but soon after I bought an album by LadySmith Black Mambazo. I have since gone on to buy albums by the Bhundu Boys, The Four Brothers and John Chibadura.

There is an excellent series of programmes available via the BBC Radio 3 website called “World Music“. Personally my two favourites are the ones Andy Kershaw made on South African music, Kershaw in South Africa, and on Zimbabwean music, Kershaw in Zimabwe.

My favourite song on the Graceland album is “Under African Skies“, although after saying that there is not a song that I don’t like. But, this one stands slightly higher in my liking than the others. The original version of the album has Linda Ronstadt duetting with Paul Simon. In fact, Simon specifically wrote the verse which begins

In early memory
Mission music
Was ringing ’round my nursery door
I said take this child, Lord
From Tucson, Arizona
Give her the wings to fly through harmony
And she won’t bother you no more

for Ronstadt, as Ronstadt grew up in Tuscon, AZ..

The other version of this song that I adore is the version performed by Paul Simon in the Graceland concenrt he did in Harare, Zimbabwe. For this song he invites “mama Africa”, Miriam Makeba, onto stage to sing with him. Here is a YouTube clip of this version.

Is Graceland the best album Paul Simon has done? Is it the best album of the 1980s? What is your favourite Graceland song?

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Yesterday my daughter Esyllt and I were in Bute Park in Cardiff taking photographs of some of the beautiful autumn colours of the leaves. Here are a few of our results:

I find this time of year very beautiful, particularly in the New England part of the United States, where the colours of the trees changing colour is truly breathtaking. I am in the process of scanning many of my photos that I took pre-digital camera, so hopefully sometime over the next few months I can post some of the many photos I have of the North American “fall“.

Seeing today’s colours also made me think of this beautiful song – “The leaves that are green” by Paul Simon, sung by him when he was with Art Garfunkel. The opening lines of the song are:

I was 21 years when I wrote this song.
I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long.
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.

And, here is a Youtube video of Simon & Garfunkel performing the song live:

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