Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Simon and Garfunkel’

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
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!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

IMG_4301

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.

Read Full Post »

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.



Read Full Post »