We believe the best way to know Paul Simon’s work is directly from him. Many times one wonders what’s the meaning of these lyrics? or where did Paul get inspiration from to write this one? or how did he do this one?. Fortunately Simon has made many declarations about his songs. We have compiled his statements about them from interviews, album notes, introductions from concerts and some other sources. So we have been able to compile 96 songs quotations. Disgracefully all his songs are not include, but it is most his work, including his most famous and best loved songs. It goes from Hey Schoolgirl to Surprise album songs. You will find them below on alphabetical order, except for Surprise album songs quotations which are included all together in a same section on the bottom. In many cases on every song we have included several declarations from different sources done on different times of his life. We illustrate this section with some pics from his work at the studio and from some interviews. We do hope you enjoy this section and it is useful for you.
1. ALL AROUND THE WORLD OR THE MYTH OF
“This Los Lobos thing has come up before, so I wanted to talk to you direct. They said all this stuff to Songtalk magazine in the States, and I've replied to it all in an interview that hasn't run yet, but its all there. There was a bad atmosphere at those sessions (with Los Lobos on Graceland) from the start; I don't know what it is with them. The whole deal for them working on Graceland was all worked out beforehand between Los Lobos and Lenny Warnoker (Managing Director at Warners USA) and there were no complaints at the time. It was made clear from the outset that we didn't have a song. There was no song. It was being written from scratch. I was - and still am - a fan of the band. What I really love is the accordion sound. So we started jamming in the rehearsal room and nothing was really coming together, and so I said do you have any ideas we can work on. What I wanted for the Graceland track was like a generic Los Lobos dikka-de-dikka guitar sound. And so we came up with something around a riff. They never once said that this guitar line is one of ours and we don't want you to have it. So we worked on recording this track for about three days, which is a long time to work on one track. I had to teach David Hildegger how to sing this song! And then David Hildegger came up to me and said "we're not happy with this track. We wanna do a ballard". But I couldn't have that. At that time it was the last track of the whole album - eventually we did one more - and I just said at this stage I don't care whether the album comes out without Los Lobos on it. I was getting really tired of it - I don't want to get into a public slanging match over this, but this thing keeps coming up.
So we finished the recordings. And three months passed, and there was no mention of "joint writing". The album came out and we heard nothing. Then six months passed and Graceland had become a hit and the first thing I heard about the problem was when my manager got a lawyer's letter. I was shocked. They sent this thing to my manager, not me. If there was a problem they could have contacted me direct, they've got my home number, we talked a lot. If you ask me it was a lawyer's idea. You know, "the records a hit, and there's $100,000 in it". They had nine months from the recordings to talk to me about all this, but I heard nothing. And its still not sorted out because they still keep bringing it up - I heard they'd done this interview for you. I don't want to get into a public slanging match with them, because I really like their music."
“Well, I flew right out to California to see him and went directly to his house from the airport. We sat down and he said, "Why have you come?" I said, "I'm here because, given all the facts of my life, given the fact that I'm young and I'm in good health and I'm famous--that I have talent, I have money--given all these facts, I want to know why I'm so unhappy. That's why I'm here."
We began to talk, and among the things I said was "I can't write anymore. I have a serious writer's block, and this is the first time I can't overcome it. I've always written slowly, but I never really had a block." I was really depressed….. When I finished, he said, "I find what you say very interesting and I'd like you to come back and talk some more." Then he asked if I'd noticed the guitar in the corner of his living room. I said I had, and he said, "Would you like to borrow it and take it with you to your hotel?" So I said, "Yes, sure." And he said, "Maybe you'd like to write about what you've said today." I thought, That's an interesting ploy psychologically; so I said, "All right."…. The next day, he asked what had happened, and I said, "You don't understand. It takes me months to write songs." He said, "I only expected you to begin to write a song." I went back to the hotel and I wrote on a piece of paper, "Allergies, maladies / Allergies to dust and grain / Allergies, remedies / Still these allergies remain." Just that, with a melody. Went back the next day really excited about it”.
“I don't really know what was in my mind when I wrote this. I think it's very 1968, kind of about a generation of kids who have just started to travel the country. But it doesn't much take me back when I listen to it , but then I'm not very nostalgic except for some pockets of arcane rock 'n' roll of the '50s. I'm a much more future-orientated person than I am reflective. I'm not sure I could even tell where the images came from - the riding on the bus. The girl is Kathy, my girlfriend in England. She was the model for the girl, but we never actually took a trip like that. None of those events actually occurred to me in my life. In many ways, this is a song with no physical roots”.
“It is a song about disillusion. It was written after Nixon was elected. It bothers me whenever I think that the definition of American doesn't include everybody, doesn't include the minorities, equally. And whenever I feel that we're in a time where that's the case, it's reactionary to me and it makes me uncomfortable, and I think that's the case today”.
5. APRIL COME SHE WILL
“When I was living in England, about three years ago, I worked in a club in a town called Swindon. It's about 100 miles north of London. I spent the night with a friend of mine in a smaller village called Great Coxswell, not that it means anything, no pun intended. We'd stayed up all night and talked and I said to her 'Let's go out in the morning and do it' 'You too huh?'. We went out at dawn and she recited an English nursery rhyme, it was a children's rhyme and it was about a cuckoo, a bird. And it went :
April come she will,
May she will stay,
June she'll change her tune,
July she will fly,
August die she must".
“Armistice Day, which I consider to be the weakest song on the album, is an old song, written in 1968 – the first part of it was. That song mainly meant, let's have a truce. I chose the title Armistice Day because it's not even called Armistice Day anymore, it's called Veteran's Day. Armistice Day is like an old name, and I didn't really mean it to be specifically about the war. I just meant that I'm worn out from all this fighting, from all the abuse that people are giving each other and creating for each other. And I like the opening line on Armistice Day – "Armistice Day, the Philharmonic will play" – from strictly a songwriter's point of view, like rhyme and the way it sings”.
" That was a hard song - we could never get it right. But Airto's playing on it was good. Also it had a lot of harmonics in it, I remember we recorded harmonics, and dropped the tuning [on the guitars]”.
“Benedictus from a church mess originally done by Orlando De Lasso, and brought it for the two of us to do it. We rewrote the two parts and added guitar chords to it, and put it into our first album for Columbia”.
“Benedictus that was written by Orlando de Lasso in the 16th century”.
“Bernadette is the best record I've made since the song Graceland”
9. BLEECKER STREET
“Bleecker street is a street in New York in Greenwich Village, and it's come to be more than just a street, it's come to be a metaphor for Greenwich Village which is unfortunate because Bleecker street is littered with bad art galleries and pizza stands and it obscures some of the good things, some of the creative things that are happening”.
“There is an area of London called Soho. Soho is roughly equivalent to Greenwich Village in New York. It has a lot of coffee houses, folk clubs, beat clubs and I worked there often and I used to go and see friends who were working there, so I was in and out of Soho very very often. One day I got caught in a downpour and I stepped inside St Anne's Cathedral, which is on a little park in Soho, St Anne's Cathedral. I was impressed with the sermon that I heard being delivered. What impressed me was that it didn't say anything, nothing. When you walked out of there, it didn't make any difference whether you walked in, unless you dug stained glass windows you know. Because the meek are inheriting nothing, nothing and that's the basis of this song called 'Blessed'”.
“I was reading the Bible around that time. That's where I think phrases such as 'workman's wages' came from, and 'seeking out the poorer quarters'. That was biblical. I think the song was about me: everybody's beating me up, and I'm telling you now I'm going to go away if you don't stop. By that time we had encountered our first criticism. For the first few years, it was just pure praise. It took two or three years for people to realize that we weren't strange creatures that emerged from England but just two guys from Queens who used to sing rock'n'roll. And maybe we weren't real folkies at all! Maybe we weren't even hippies!”.
“I thought that "lie la lie" was a failure of songwriting. I didn't have any words! Then people said it was "lie" but I didn't really mean that. That it was a lie. But, it's not a failure of songwriting, because people like that and they put enough meaning into it, and the rest of the song has enough power and emotion, I guess, to make it go, so it's all right. But for me, every time I sing that part... [softly], I'm a little embarrassed”.
“All I can remember is a time on a plane. I had taken a bible from one of the hotels and I was skimming through the bible and I think I saw the phrase "work- man's wages." That's all I remember from that song”.
“The Boxer" came with the melody line; they had a flow to them that made them easy to sing. Consequently I found I had started a song about a "poor boy" who had "squandered (his) resistance/For a pocketful of mumbles:' I just tried to make the rest of the lyrics follow as naturally as possible”.
“The first thing we did in sixteen-track was The Boxer. It wasn't a sixteen-track machine; it was two eight-track machines synchronized, and it was a bitch to get them to work together. In other words, you had to press the button at the same time to record that way. It was hard. Halee rigged it out. It was hard”.
" …the snare drum on "The Boxer was recorded in the elevator shaft of the CBS studios in New York at 52nd Street. That was a pure Roy sound. He situated the drum in the elevator shaft and he hit it and he recorded that. It was just huge”.
“It was recorded with Tao Ea Matsekha (the name means "Lion of Matsekha"), a group from Lesotho. Their music, described as "Sotho Traditional" on their album jacket, had a very powerful medium-paced rhythmic groove with the bass playing lead and accordion supplying harmonic structure”.
“I had it written on guitar, so we had to transpose the song. I had it written in the key of G, and I think Artie sang it in E. E flat. We were with Larry Knechtel, and I said, "Here's a song; it's in G, but I want it in E flat. I want it to have a gospel piano." So, first we had to transpose the chords, and there was an arranger who used to do some work with me, Jimmie Haskell, who, as a favor, he said, "I'll write the chords; you call off the chord in G, and I'll write it in E flat." And he did that. That was the extent of what he did. He later won a Grammy for that. We'd put his name down as one of the arrangers. Then it took us about four days to get the piano part. Each night we'd work on the piano part until Larry really honed it into a good part. Now, the song was originally two verses, and in the studio, as Larry was playing it, we decided--I believe it was Artie's idea, I can't remember, but I think it was Artie's idea to add another verse, because Larry was sort of elongating the piano part, so I said, "Play the piano part for a third verse again, even though I don't have it, and I'll write it," which I eventually did after the fact. I always felt that you could clearly see that it was written afterwards. It just doesn't sound like the first two verses”.
“Then the piano part was finished. Then we added bass--two basses, one way up high, the high bass notes. Joe Osborn did that. Then we added vibes in the second verse just to make the thing ring a bit. Then we put the drum on, and we recorded the drum in an echo chamber, and we did it with a tape-reverb that made the drum part sound different from what it actually was, because of that afterbeat effect. Then we gave it out to have a string part written. This was all in L.A. And then we came back to New York and did the vocals. Artie spent several days on the vocals”.
“I did say, "This is very special." I didn't think it was a hit, because I didn't think they'd play a five minute song on the radio. Actually, I just wrote it to be two verses done on the piano. But when we got into the studio, Artie and Roy Halee, who coproduced our records, wanted to add a third verse and drums to make it huge. Their tendency was to make things bigger and lusher and sweeter. Mine was to keep things more raw. And that mixture, I think, is what produced a lot of the hits. It probably would have been a hit with two verses on the piano, but it wouldn't have been the monster hit that it became. I think a lot of what people were responding to was that soaring melody at the end?
Funny, I'm reminded of the last verse. It was about Peggy, whom I was living with at the time: "Sail on, silver girl ... / Your time has come to shine" was half a joke, because she was upset one day when she had found two or three gray hairs on her head”.
“The demo of Bridge Over Troubled Water will show you that it was much less grandiose thing than the record. In fact, it wasn't grandiose at all. It was a humble, little gospel hymn song with two verses and a simple guitar behind it. And because of Artie's vocal perforamnce - which was astounding - a real virtuoso perforamnce - and a big Righteous Brothers third verse, the record became an enormous hit and defined the song in that way, that made it seem like it was a big, big song, when it was actually a tiny little country church song and not a huge, River Deep Mountain High gospel song. The live version - when Richard Tee, who just passed away, played it, he always played it black gospel, like in church, so we used to do it that way, very simply. Artie's version is always much more white gospel, more Methodist than Baptist. The song has lived a long life and I've gone through many deifferent feelings about it, from negative to superlative. I just turned on the telly last night and was watching Elvis Presley do it. It was in his Las Vegas period and done with conventional thinking: it kind of imitated the Simon & Garfunkel record. He sang it well, but it would ahve been nice to hear him do it that way, take it back - as opposed to the big ending; he seemed to end everything with a karate chop and an explosion. So he didn't really add anything to the song. It's not nearly as significant as Aretha Franklin recording. It's just a pleasure for me that Elvis Presley recorded one of my songs before he died”.
“I got the idea for the lyrics while listening to a Swan Silvertones' recording of "O Mary Don't You Weep". The "sail on silver girl" verse was written in the studio several weeks after I had completed the first two verses, and I always felt you could tell it was added later as it never really fit the first two verses in style. Also, I couldn't think of another "down" rhyme, so the metaphor- "I will lay me down" is discarded in the last verse and "I'm sailing right behind" is substituted”.
“The drum from "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was recorded in the echo chamber of a studio in LA, but it was recorded on one machine and played back on another machine to create the effect of a misalignment so that's what created that feeling of (sings drum delay sound - "tu-tutu-tu-tu"). It was because the heads of the machines didn't match up. It was a fortuitous thing”.
“It has such fabulous percussion, the Uakti. And all these classically trained guys who invented their own instruments. I really love that track. Nobody ever plays that!”.
“In Cars Are Cars, I began by talking about the similarities between cars. Then I took the ironic approach to explaining the contrast I was setting up. I wrote, "But people are strangers / They change with the curve / From time zone to time zone / As we can observe / They shut down their borders / And think they're immune / They stand on their differences and shoot at the moon / But cars are cars / All over the world." Even then, I felt the song was too impersonal, it wasn't growing. The repetition of the thought was boring to me: the idea that we're really all the same people - "engines in the front and jacks in the back." So I wrote, "I once had a car / That was more like a home / I lived in it, loved in it / Polished its chrome." Actually, I was thinking of my first car, a 1958 red Impala. Triple carburetor. A fast car”.
“The car burned down eventually. It caught fire at the corner of Artie's block in Queens, as a matter of fact. And then I ended the song with "It some of my homes had been more like my car / I probably wouldn't have traveled this far." I find, basically, that's it's hard to stay away from domestic themes”.
“Cecilia was recorded on a home tape recorder. We were all sitting around the livingroom, making up rhythms by pounding on a piano bench and hand clapping, and the lyrics and melody were added later to this per cussion track. The lyrics were the first words that came to mind-"I'm down on my knees/I'm begging you please"-lines heard in hundreds of songs. They're "cliches" but then the song really has nothing to say”.
“Cecilia tick a tong tick a tick a tong tuck a tuck a toong tuck a… on a Sony, and I said, "That's a great rhythm set, I love it." Every day I'd come back from the studio, working on whatever we were working on, and I'd play this pounding thing. So then I said, "Let's make a record out of that." So we copied it over and extended it double the amount, so now we have three minutes of track, and the track is great.So now I pick up the guitar and I start to go, "Well, this will be like the guitar part " – dung chicka dung chicka dung, and lyrics were virtually the first lines I said: “You're breakin' my heart, I'm down on my knees." They're not lines at all, but it was right for that song, and I like that. It was like a little piece of magical fluff, but it works”.
“A very early song from the English album, the Paul Simon Songbook. A good example of what I was at. I went to college with a boy named Andrew Goodman who was killed in Mississippi with two others. It was a famous murder: Goodman, Schwaner and Chaney were killed in the summer of '62 or '63. They were killed by the Klan or whoever. And I had been in several classes with Andrew Goodman, and it was the first death I had ever experienced. So I think that was the emotional pool that I was drawing from in that song. I wasn't a harsh critic of my work at the time. I was just beginning to write in a style that was not teenage pop and I had any serious problems with writing it. Nor was I very good at writing at that point. at least I don't think so”.
“It was a direct statement about nuclear disarmament. Too direct for me. It goes : "I am a citizen of the planet. I was born here. I'm going to die here. I am entitled by my birth to the treasures of the earth. No one should be denied these. No one should be denied." I'd like to give it to some disarmament groups for others to sing, because it's quite a good song, but it's just not my voice”.
“That song is really like a sort of invocation, its like a prayer. The repetition of the phrase "Summer Skies Stars are Falling all along the injured Coast" is sort of like a chant. And there are phrases in the chorus that you know are interspersed with that constant refrain. There are also like bits of prayers "To prove that I love you because I believe in you .. Summer Skies stars are falling all along the injured coast .. if I have weaknesses please don't let them blind me .. Summer Skies stars are falling".
And then it slips into a little bit of Frankie Lymon and ah "Oo-wah Oo-wah Doo-wop a Doo-wah".
“There's a song on this new album that's one of my best. It's called "Cool, Cool River" or "The Cool, Cool River", I'm not sure which yet. That seems to be a very good one”.
“I remember I liked the image of sloping into a room. It had a very clear and amusing mental picture for me. But I don't know where Fat Charlie came from, or the Archangel. It doesn't represent anyone”.
“There are two other "Crazy Love"s that I know and I'm sure there are more. There's the Van Morrison song, so I wanted to dis- tinguish it from that. And the other [meaning] was that that romance had started, stopped, had come back, and stopped again. So it was like that, volume two”.
“The musicians playing on CRAZY are part of a band called Stimela, which has had several hits on the local South African charts. This is guitarist Ray Phiri's group,but his playing on CRAZY LOVE is more like the music of Malaw and Zimbabwe - more gentle and syncopated than the hard 4/4 rhythms of Soweto”.
“The album began with the song that became "Darling Lorraine." That was the model that I used to look for a band. Darling Lorraine grew out of a guitar riff in a Capeman song”.
“Well it can really make you cry the first time you hear it, because you're surprised that the story goes there ó it fooled me. You know, all the songs I wrote on this album came in a day or two days. So they were really surprising. "Darling Lorraine" was very surprising to me.
I was just making it up and making it up . . . didn't know what was happening, didn't know until I said "I'm sick to death of you Lorraine." As soon as I said that, you know . . . I knew that was foreshadowing that she would die and that that's what would happen, so I was really surprised, because I didn't know what the story was, really”.
“I never saw them as actually breaking up. I saw them as a couple that, you know, they love each other and they have fights, and they made up and they weren't going anywhere. Until she died. And then you realize the degree to which you're dependent and that the relationship is beyond being in love ó it's beyond that. You've traded essences and you're each other and now you don't know how to be a complete person . . .”
“It was recorded in May of 86 in New York a week after an appearance with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the Soweto Rhythm Section on "Saturday Night Live." The beginning is a collaboration with Ladysmith and the body of the song had a "township jive" beat similar to GUMBOOTS. Youssou N'dour is a popular singer from Senegal. He and two percussionists from his band were overdubbed onto the South African rhythm section”.
“That song was written before I had an opening verse. Then I put the opening verse in”.
25. EL CONDOR PASA (IF I COULD)
“I was in Paris in 1965, right before Simon and Garfunkel broke. I was roaming around Europe by myself, doing folk stuff. It was there I met Los Incas at a concert. I was booked, and they were booked, and that was the first time I had ever heard South American music. They gave me an album of their stuff, and "El Condor Pasa" was on the album. The Simon and Garfunkel record of "El Condor Pasa" was recorded over that preexisting track”.
“That track was originally a record. The track is originally a recording on Phillips, a Los Incas record that I love. I said, "I love this melody. I'm going to write lyrics to it. I just love it, and we'll just sing it right over the track”.
“There's a joke at the end of "Everything Put Together Falls Apart.":You can cry, you can lie, for all the good it will do you, you can die. When it's done and the police come and they lay you down for dead, just remember what I said." (both laugh). That's the joke. Look at these players! Mike Manieri [vibes], what a great player. Ron Carter played bass on "Run That Body Down" - wow. David Spinoza was a great guitarist, we used the harmonium here on this tune, "Everything Put Together Falls Apart."
“Fakin' It" was interesting. Autobiographically, it was interesting. But we never really got it on the records”.
"Fakin' It" on the album is vastly improved over "Fakin' k" as a single. For one thing, I think it's speeded up. For two, it was re-mixed and greatly improved in stereo. It was a jumble; it was a record that was jumbled sloppy. When you hear the original mono, it's slower and it's sloppier. It was improved on the LP, but by then it was already poisoned in my mind”.
“During some hashish reverie I was thinking to myself, "I'm really in a weird position. I earn my living by writing songs and singing songs. it's only today that this could happen. If I were born a hundred years ago I wouldn't even be in this country. I d probably be in Vienna or wherever my ancestors came from--Hungary--and I couldn't be a guitarist-songwriter. There were none. So what would I be? "First of all," I said, "I surely was a sailor." Then I said, "Nah, I wouldn't have been a sailor. Well, what would a Jewish guy be? A tailor." That's what it was. I would have been a tailor. And then I started to see myself as like, a perfect little tailor. Then, once, talking to my father about my grandfather, whom I never knew--he died when my father was young--I found out that his name was Paul Simon, and I found out that he was a tailor in Vienna. It wiped me out that that happened. It's amazing, isn't it? He was a tailor that came from Vienna”.
“As for Leitch, the girl who said that on the record, her name was Beverly Martyn--did you ever hear of John and Beverly Martyn? She wasn't married to John Martyn at that time, but I knew her from way back in English scufflin' days, and we brought her over to sing at the Monterey Pop Festival. I thought she was a really talented singer. She was sort of livin' around with us. It was during the psychedelic days. Records faded in and out; things became other things. And she was friendly with Donovan. So, we decided to make up this little vignette about the shop we wanted to come up with a name. She said, well, let's put in Donovan's name”.
“Too early. That's too early, that's too generic. It doesn't sound enough like me. It sounds like the folk movement of that period. It's a very early song. Every- body was sort of writing the same thing: Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen... They were all like that, they were all... Bob Dylan. There were also other people like Malvina Reynolds. People liked her songs. Phil Ochs... there were a lot of people. The scene produced a few writers who each wrote one or two songs that were notable. Fred Neil... And that song is sort of like that. "Bleeker Street" is another song like that. Travis picking songs on that sort of pre-hippie consciousness” .
29. FIFTY WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER
"I woke up one morning in my apartment on Central Park and the opening words just popped into my mind: 'The problem is all inside your head, she said to me . . .' That was the first thing I thought of. So I just started building on that line. It was the last song I wrote for the album, and I wrote it with a Rhythm Ace, one of those electronic drum machines so maybe that's how it got that sing-song 'make a new plan Stan, don't need to be coy Roy' quality. It's basically a nonsense song."
Eddie Simon: "Paul loves to play these little improvisational rhyming games with his three-year-old son, Harper James," Ed reveals with a laugh. "You know. 'There Goes Rhymin' Simon' and all of that--that's where that stuff comes from. It all started a while ago when Paul was teaching him this 'Fe Fi Fiddle-eye-o' song, and just grew from there. Harper James laughs like crazy when he does it!.I think that's where the song came from. I believe it grew out of those games they play. I know it's Harper James's favorite."
“The big discovery on this song was Steve Gadd's drum part. It's probably what made it a hit. When Steve used to be in the studio, he used to practice these little marching-band patterns. It was like a little exercice for him. So I guess that's what it was. It's tricky; I've watched a lot of drummers try to play that. They never quite get it. It's very tricky. The song has a real casualness to the verses and a sense of humor to it, and the choruses are funny and catchy. And everybody seemed to like that one, young people and old people. The choruses were from a rhyming game I used to play with my son Harper when he was about four. I think it came off unusually well as a record. I like the chords”.
30. THE 59TH STREET BRIDGE SONG (FEELIN' GROOVY)
“I was coming home one morning, about six o'clock in the morning and coming over the 59th Street bridge in New York and what a groovy day it was, a really good one, and one of those times when you know you're not really going to be tired for about an hour. So I started writing a song which later became the 59th Street Bridge song or Feelin' Groovy.' It really reminds me of such a groovy time”.
“I spent most of the year 1965 living in England, and at the end of that year in December, I came back to the United States, the Sounds of Silence had become a big hit, and I came back. And I had to make this adjustment from being relatively unknown in England to being semi-famous type scenes here and I didn't really swing with it. It was a very difficult scene to make, and very unhappy all the songs I was writing, very depressed-type songs until around June of last year, I started to swing out of it, I was getting into a of a good mood, and I remember coming home in the morning about 6 o'clock over the 59th Street Bridge in New York, and it was such a groovy day really, a good one, and it was one of those times when you know you won't be tired for about an hour, a sort of a good hanging time, so I started to write a song that later became the 59th Street Bridge Song or Feelin' Groovy”.
“Artie likes that song an awful lot. He liked to sing it. Well, it was a very romantic song but I don't like it”.
"Gone at Last" was originally recorded with Bette Midler, but never saw release because we couldn't get through all the haggling with the record companies. The version with Bette had more of a Latin, street feel. I changed the concept with Phoebe and tried a gospel approach because she was perfect for it."
“This is a very happy song. It was originally a duet with Bette Midler but it didn't work out. It was a different track, a Latin-based track. The track just didn't happen. Once I knew it was not going to work out, I thought of Phoebe Snow. She just had her first album out. Poetry Man. I thought she blew me off the record. I thought she was great. I don't have a voice that's gospel, certainly not for an uptempo gospel song. But that track - and Phoebe - really cook. One of the reasons I included it here was for the [ piano ] playing of Richard Tee, who is just phenomenal on that track and on everything he plays”.
“There's a girl in New York City who calls herself the human trampoline: That line came to me when I was walking past the Museum of Natural History. For no reason I can think of. It's not related to anybody. Or anything. It just struck me as funny. Although that's an image that people remember, they talk about that line. But really, what interested me was the next line, because I was using the word "Graceland" but it wasn't in the chorus. I was bringing "Graceland" back into a verse. Which is one of the things I learned from African music: the recapitulation of themes can come in different places”.
“I found myself writing a song called 'Graceland', and I really was resistant to it. I didn't want to write a song called 'Graceland', but I couldn't get rid of it. It just stayed with me and then I thought maybe I'm going to write a song about Graceland and I really don't know really what I'm writing about yet. And it probably makes sense to go there and see if in fact what I'm looking for is in Graceland. I was in Lafayette, Louisiana, and I drove up to Northern Lousiana to the Mississippi Delta, and up to Mississippi, and then up to Memphis. That trip was the opening verse of the song. To me it was a father-and-son trip, and I don't know whether I'm writing about : me and my son ? or me and my father ? It doesn't really matter, it's all mixed up, the same. And it's about a reconciliation, a reconciliation with a big event in a life : losing love. And the setting of Elvis Presley's home is like a pilgrimage for people”.
“It is less typical of South African music than most other tracks. Largely because of the flexibility and collaborative musical gifts of two extraordinary musicians-fretless bass player Baghiti Khumalo and guitarist Ray Phiri. In fact, it almost has the feel of American country music. After the recording session, Ray told me that he'd used a relative minor chord something not often heard in South African music because he said he thought it was more like the chord changes he'd heard in my music. The addition some months later of Demola Adepoju, the pedal steel guitarist with the King Sonny Ade band of Nigeria, also contributes a musical texture that is common to both American country music and West African Music”.
“If it wasn't that "Gumboots" led me into the whole [Graceland] project, I would have dropped "Gum- boots" from the album. Because I think it's the weakest of the South African cuts. But it was that track of "Gumboota" that I heard on an album called Gumboots Accordion Jive Hits, Volume II. That's what led me into the whole project. That's how I found out about Township Jive and from Township Jive I learned about the other South African music. "Boy In The Bubble" is Sotho and "I Know What I Know" is Shangaan. Black Mambazo is a kind of Zulu choral sing- ing. "Gumboots" is what brought me in there. We ex- tended the track and added a sax solo. Otherwise it was the same record as what I heard. I finished that before I went to Africa”.
“The track I first fell in love with, is the term used to describe the type of music favored by miners and railroad workers in South Africa. The term refers to the heavy boots they wear on a job. We added saxophone solos to the original track, using soprano and alto saxes instruments often heard in bands playing "township jive" music”.
“I wrote that for the film "Shampoo" but it never got in. "Still Crazy," also, I tried to get in. Warren [ Beatty ] didn't want to use it. I think have been good for the film. I wrote it in this time signature - the verses are in 7/8 and the chorus in 4/4. But it's played very smoothly because Steve Gadd smoothed it out and gave it that feel. I like that song. It has a nice opening line. That was a funny song, too. It was meant to be funny. Dave Matthews wrote the horn part, which is great. He's a premiere horn writer; he used to do great brass charts for James Brown. The Phil Woods sax solo at the end was either a first or a second take. I think he did two takes and they were both just incredible. He was in and out of the studio in twenty minutes”.
“He Was My Brother was about Andrew Goodman, a college classmate who was killed in Mississippi during the civil rights movement”.
"One and one-half wandering Jews, free to wander wherever they choose...": Well, Carrie Fisher is half-Jewish, so... and wandering Jew is a flower, isn't it?”.
" Twelve days later ", "Sangre De Christo", " The Blood of Christ Mountains" self-explains "Sangre de Christo". "Color and rag weed and bone" : this is the first time "bone" comes in, and I'm sure I must have been aware of that, but this is Yeats, you know. "Foul rag and bone shop", so that was in there but I probably backed away”.
“I think that was one of my best songs. It took a long time to write it and it was very true. It was about things that happened. And I like it, I like the record. It's probably the only track that I really like on that album. I should have put it as the first track, I should never have put "Allergies" as the first track. "Hearts and Bones." I liked it. I was beginning to understand about writing on that album, about lyric writing. Of course, that's a story song and although I never tend to think of it in that way, my story songs tend to be a more natural form for me. Of course, "Graceland" is the continuation of the same story. "Hearts and Bones" and "Graceland" go together. But then, "Graceland" is also a story song and in story songs, I don't know, I think I get very comfortable when I find myself in a story song. I never set out to tell a story. I find the story coming along, characters emerging. But in "Hearts and Bones" the characters are very near to autobiographical”.
“That's one of my best songs. It took a long time to write it and it's very true. I was beginning to understand about writing on that album. How to do it, when to use ordinary language and when to use enriched language. Of course, that's a story song and my story songs tend to be a more natural form for me. It's the companion song to "Graceland", the preceding song. I don't know where the title came from. I don't remember struggling over it. The line "the arc of a love affair" is really what the song is about. And that device in lyric writing, repeating a line that is not the title, shows up all over Graceland. I learned that lyric trick writing the Hearts and Bones album”.
“Artie and I wrote that when we were 15, and it's our 15-year-old imitation of the Everly Brothers, or as close as two guys from Queen can come to two guys from Kentucky. Well, actually, we got pretty close. There was this kid in High School named Steve Moss who was a real eccentric and I used to like to hang around with him. And he said one day, "Did you hear that Little Richard song? It's really weird - sort of ooo-bop-a-lucah-bow, or something like that?", so he came up with that phrase, which stroke Artie's and my adolescent humour, and that's why it was in the song. We were making a demo of this at the studio where you could make demos for five dollars by recording them directly onto the acetate without using tape. The owner of the company, a man named Sid Prosen, heard us and said he wanted to make a record with us, which we didn't really believe. Then he called up our parent and made a deal. And then that record became a hit - a local hit anyway: it was in the top 10 in New York. that was the beginning of our career. We made two or three records, after that and they were typically not hits. And that was the end of that phase. The company gave the name Tom and Jerry to us because it would have been impossible at that point to call a group Simon & Garfunkel - just would have been impossible. Nobody used names that weren't ethnically polished and smoothed off. the funny thing is, people thought Garfunkel was an English name, since I was coming home from England where I'd been living. They thought it was just some strange kind of English name, not terribly different from Clive or Colin or Mick - those names that Americans didn't have”.
“It was co-written with Joseph Shabalala, composer and lead singer of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I've seen Ladysmith on the BBC documentary "Rhythm of Resistance : The Music of South Africa." The ten-member a capella church group take their name from the township of Lady smith, their home near Durban on the Indian Ocean. The are one of their country's best-known and loved groups. Joseph Shabalala and I wrote in English and in Zulu, starting the piece in the middle and working outwards to the beginning and the end. The process began when I sent him a demo of HOMELESS with the melody and words: "We are homeless, homeless/moonlight sleeping on the midnight lake." In my note accompanying the cassette, I suggested ,that he make any changes in harmony or words that he wanted, and told him to feel free to continue the story in Zulu, adding whatever melodic changes he felt appropriate”.
“A month later we met for the first time in London's Abbey Road studios. After hearing Joseph's additions to the song both felt we were on to something and decided to expand the piece. Thinking of a track from one of my favorite Ladysmith albums, I tried writing English Lyrics that would slip into the pre-existing song. This is the "somebody say..." section, and we used it as a bridge from the end of the "homeless..." lyrics to the Zulu part”.
“At this point, we attached a typical Ladysmith ending, one that Joseph had used on many of his songs. A rough translation of these final words comes out a "We would like to announce to the entire nation that we are the best at singing in this style." That concluded day one”.
“On the second day, the group showed me an introduction they'd worked on late into the night. The melody came from a traditional Zulu wedding song, but the new lyrics now told of people living in caves on the side of a mountain, cold and hungry their fists used as pillows. This new introduction fell into the body of the song and completed the collaboration”.
“That was written in Liverpool when I was traveling. What I like about that is that it has a very clear memory of Liverpool station and the streets of Liverpool and the club I played at and me at age 22. It's like a snapshot, a photograph of a long time ago”.
“I remember where I wrote it. I was in Liverpool, actually in a railway station. I'd just played a little folk job. The job of a folk singer in those days was to be Bob Dylan. You had to be a poet. That's what they wanted. And I thought that was a drag. And I wanted to get home to my girlfriend, Kathy, in London. I was 22. And then I thought, Well, that's not a bad song at all for a 22-year-old kid. It's actually quite touching now that I see it”.
“I kind of rediscovered this one recently. It has a nice delicacy to it with Eric Gale playing nylon-string guitar. It's a wonderful solo. He played it on my nylon-string guitar; he doesn't ever play nylon string. And it has an evocative lyric. To me, the lyric on this song does feel like it fits the character of Jonah Levin in the "One-Trick Pony" movie. But the 10/8 time signature probably doesn't. The Belvedere Hotel in the opening was opposite A&R Recording Studios on 48th Street in New York”.
42. I AM A ROCK
“This is unquestionally my most neurotic song. I finished it and I thought, oh man, I can't be this sick”.
“I wrote that in England and that´s an adolescent song, or eally, a post-adolescent song”.
“The music for I KNOW WHAT I KNOW comes from an album by General M.D. Shirinda and the Gaza Sisters, a Shangaan group from Gazankulu, a small town near Petersburg in northern South Africa. As more and more Shangaan people have migrated to Johannesburg, their music has grown increasingly popular, and several Shangaan records have recently become hits. An unusual style of guitar playing and the distinctive sound of the women's voices were what attracted me to this group in the first place”.
“Those words don't fit with that melody. That's a Brazilian type of melody and it's about kind of a folk singer. That melody, it should have been a love song of some kind. It was a too sophisticated way of describing the subject.
I think the music is very interesting. I wish I'd written other words to it. It's interesting harmonically. I was pleased with the melody. It wrapped itself up in a nice tidy way. And the lyrics were okay, [ laughs ] they just shouldn't have been the lyrics to that melody”.
“I always thought this music would have been better for a love song. Well, it is a love song, in a way, about a love of music. I wrote it for the movie ["One-Trick Pony"] and I like it quite a lot but I don't know if that's the kind of melody or music that that character, Jonah Levin, would have made. But I think it's a really good song and I think it stands up independently. I think the music is interesting harmonically. I was pleased with the melody. It wraps itself up nicely. It's a Brazilian type of melody. And it's a nice track with tasty percussion by Ralph McDonald”.
“I started to write a song called Going Home. I was singing the melody, and then I decided, No, it's too trite and idea, the but sound of Going Home fit those notes perfectly. So I just let my mind slip into similar sounds. And one of them was Kodachrome. Also, I had that first line, the true one: "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school / It's a wonder I can think at all." It was a good first line for a pop song”.
“This song is about the distortion or reality. Because in photographs they used to make the colors brighter than they were. It started out with a different title. It was "Coming Home" but I changed it to "Kodachrome" to make it more interesting. We recorded it in Muscle Shoals. Muscle Shoals had a famous rhythm section. They'd done some Aretha Franklin and some Staple Singers records. I don't think they'd cut any white acts down there; I was one of the first. It clicked for me very easily there. I cut a lot of tracks: "St Judy's Comet," "Take Me to the Mardi Gras," "Loves Me Like A Rock." That same rhythm section also played on "Still Crazy." I didn't think that much about using a brand name but [Kodak] did. They made me put their copyright symbol on everything, which started driving me crazy”.
“'The Late Great Johnny Ace' is a song about violence in America, and I start off by talking about Johnny Ace because it's an early memory, listening on the radio and hearing Alan Freed say that Johnny Ace had killed himself playing Russian Roulette. And it's the first time that I can remember any kind of violence like that. That was in the middle in the 1950's. By the early 1960's, John Kennedy was assassinated and then all the rest of the history, everybody knows. And by the time, John Lennon was killed, and as shocking as it was, it almost didn't have the impact that it had on me the first time that I heard that Johnny Ace was dead. It is not really about a nostalgic view of the 50's, I'm only using Johnny Ace as a metaphor for all of the three Johnny Ace's( Johnny Ace, John Kennedy and John Lennon )”.
“I had the idea to do a song called "The Late Great Johnny Ace" for a long time, and I wrote part of it revolving around those two opening chords, which I liked. And I had that fragment of a song for a long time when John Lennon was killed. I connected the final verse about Lennon with the beginning section by writing the bridge. And the bridge was about the time in my life right before Simon And Garfunkel, in 1964. [The Bridge] was really about JFK, the other late great Johnny Ace. The ending orchestral section is by Philip Glass”.
“The horn part was written by Dave Grusin. It's a famous as the song. Maybe more famous than the song. And I thought it was a great horn part. It always sounded like kind of mariachi thing in the middle of a track that had a "Mystery Train" kind of groove to it. When I first heard it, it said, "It's great! But it's not what the song's supposed to be." But it was so great that I said, "I guess it is what the song is going to be."
“When I was on the Dylan tour I started doing that sort of thing (nonesense syllabes) while singing The Boy In The Bubble. I was struck by how much pleasure there is in a nonsense sound and how much that is a part of the history of the songs: “Hey-Nanny-Nanny” or “Fiddlededee”. It´s a cool hook because we´ve known about this forever. We´ve been singing nonsense sounds since we made up songs….There´s a certain linguistic communication that we all understand from babies on up. The parents gurgle at the baby, and the baby gurgles at them. Nonsense sounds can be a pleasure if it´s appropiate to use them”.
“The track existed before the song existed: a swaying, lush sound in C-minor, which was a very melancholy sound to it. Then it changes from C-minor to C-major, and it goes from a straight blues to a varaiation on it, and it shiftsntone from acoustic guitar to electric guitar. So the colorings were already interesting when I began to write the melody and the words. When I started with a song called Love my reaction was that it was such a cliché that it´s a good title, and the question now is what are you going to say about it? The song is about how much we crave love, but it took on power and dimension when you think about what happens when we don´t have love anymore: master races, chosen peoples, destruction, evil. It became a love song with a point”.
“I did Loves Me with a Gospel quartet. I was traveling around, playing music I really liked. I went to Alabama to play with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. I was the first white pop artist to play with them. Until then, they'd cut all R&B with black artists”.
“I wrote this song after "Bridge Over Troubled Water" when I started to immerse myself in gospel. It came directly out of listening to gospel quartets. I definitely wanted to do something with the Dixie Hummingbirds, who were one of my favorite gospel groups. I also wanted very much to work with the Swan Silvertones but the Swans had disbanded bt then. I recorded it in New York with me playing guitar and the Dixie Hummingbirds singing live. And then the bass and the drums were all overdubbed at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. [ The title ] probably came from "My Rock" by the Dixie Hummingbirds. The presidential verse was about Nixon. I thought that was funny. I don't knew if people knew I was joking. There's the general perception that I'm a very serious guy. Well, I am a very serious guy. I just like to be funny. I think that was always there. A lot of songs have little jokes in them”.
51. ME AND JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD
“Something sexual is what I imagine, but when I say "something," I never bothered to figure out what it was. Didn't make any difference to me. First of all, I think it's funny to sing--"Me and Julio." It's very funny to me. And when I started to sing "Me and Julio," I started to laugh, and that's when I decided to make the song called "Me and Julio"; otherwise I wouldn't have made it that. I like the line about the radical priest. I think that's funny to have in a song. "Peace Like a River" is a serious song. It's a serious song, although it's not as down as you think. The last verse is sort of nothing; it sort of puts the thing back up in the air, which is where it should be. You end up, you think about these things that are something to do with a riot, or something in my mind in the city”.
“I really liked the idea of getting the name 'Julio' into a pop song, and as for the rest of it, it was just a fantasy song. I'm not sure that it meant anything, although there was a sort of a famous interpretation of it here by Truman Capote that said it was all about homosexual experience in the schoolyard”.
“There are no drums on that song, just percussion. We used a solid-body electric guitar miked but unamplified to get that little ringy sound you hear. It had a simple but hooky guitar intro”.
52. A MOST PECULIAR MAN
“I can recall reading in the paper once a short little piece about a man who had committed suicide, it was about four lines long, and I thought it was a rather bad elogy to someone who is obviously so oppressed with life that he flung it away. So it prompted me to write this song, (I) hope it's a better elogy than the four lines in the paper”.
“I lived for a long time in London. And when I was there I wrote this next song called A Most Peculiar Man. I wrote it after I read an article in a newspaper about a man who had committed suicide. And thinking that it was a rather bad eulogy to go out with, three lines in a newspaper, I felt that I should write something”.
“…this is a song that I wrote when I was living in London, and the seeds of the song were planted one day when I read an article in a paper about a man who had committed suicide, four lines in a paper, a little black box, and I thought that was a very bad eulogy, so, this is called 'A Most Peculiar Man'”.
“I got that by making a mistake. Because "Why Don't You Write Me?" was supposed to sound like that, but it came out a bad imitation. So I said, "I'm not going to get it out of the regular guys. I gotta get it out of the guys who know it." And I gotta go down there willing to change for them. I started to play with them. I started to show them the song and play, and we started to work it out, and they were playing, and I would play, but I couldn't play with it. Couldn't fit”.
“So I sat down and said, "You play it. Play what you want." That's the key thing. Let them play whatever they want, and then you change. You go their way. That's how you get that”.
“When I went to Kingston, I went down to cut that as a Ska record, and the musicians there said 'No, Ska is out, it's Reggae', that's the first time I heard of the term 'Reggae".
“…I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called "Mother and Child Reunion." It's chicken and eggs. And I said, "Oh, I love that title. I gotta use that one."
“…we had a dog that was run over and killed, and we loved this dog. It was the first death I had ever experienced personally. Nobody in my family died that I felt that. But I felt this loss--one minute there, next minute gone, and then my first thought was, "Oh, man, what if that was Peggy? What if somebody like that died? Death, what is it, I can't get it." And there were lyrics straight out forward like that. "I can't for the life of me remember a sadder day. I just can't believe it's so." Those are the lyrics. The chorus for "Mother and Child Reunion"--well, that's out of the title. Somehow there was a connection between this death and Peggy, and it was like heaven, I don't know what the connection was. Some emotional connection. It didn't matter to me what it was. I just knew it was there”.
“Mother and Child Reunion was the first time that I went somewhere to record a certain sound. There was a track on the last Simon & Garfunkel album called Why Don't You Write Me that was supposed to be a ska track, but it didn't really come out right. When I was working on my first solo album, everything got more free and loose, because there wasn't a partnership anymore - I didn't have to ask anybody what they thought. So I decided to got to Jamaica with Roy Halee to record a version of this ska tune I had written. And when I got there, they said. No, we don't play ska anymore, we play reggae now. So I said, So what does that sound like ? So that's how that session began down there in that studio that you see in the Jimmy Cliff film. The Harder They Come. A lot of the guys on this session ended up in Toots & The Maytals. It was a good band - a lot of ganja smoked. The Mother and Child Reunion idea came from a chicken and egg dish in a Chinese restaurant”.
I think I'm the first person to use "Jesus" in a non-religious song, in Mrs. Robinson. I was sitting around writing it but I was singing "Mrs. Roosevelt." I sang "Mrs. Robinson," too. Artie said to Mike Nichols "Paul's writing a song called Mrs. Robinson."He said "You're writing a song called Mrs. Robinson and you didn't tell me?" I said "Well, I don't know if it's Mrs. Robinson or Mrs. Roosevelt." He said "Don't be ridiculous! We're making a movie here! It's Mrs. Robinson!"
“And at one point I considered calling it "Mrs. Roosevelt." I used to sing sometimes "Mrs. Roos- evelt" and sometimes "Mrs. Robinson." And I was working on it and it was Artie who said to Mike Nichols that I had this song called "Mrs. Robin- son." And (Nichols) said, "You've written a song called 'Mrs. Robinson' and you never told me?" So I sang sort of just the chorus for him; I didn't have the verses. And in the movie, it's only the chorus. It's only after we made the record that it became a big hit and that was after the movie came out. The Joe DiMaggio line was written right away in the beginning. And I don't know why or where it came from. It seems so strange, like it didn't belong in that song and then, I don't know, it was so interesting to us that we just kept it. So it's one of the most well-known lines that I've ever written”.
“The degree to which the song touched on the mood of the movie (The Graduate), without being specific about the movie was conscious. I remember the recording of it in California. I think it's all my guitars - a regular six-string that plays the lick, a 12-string. And a lot of congas. When I go back through those early records, I am struck again and again by how often the sounds which are on the Rhythm of The Saints album are there - conga, conga again, bongos, squeaker, shakers,moaning sounds from a conga, where you wet your finger and rub it against the grain of the conga. That's in Mrs Robinson all the time - those are Caribbean sounds”.
“It isn't auto- biographical in any sense. The song is about someone who hates the town he grew up in. Somebody happy to get out. I don't know where the idea came from”.
"It was originally a song I was writing for Artie. I was gonna write a song for his new album, and I told him it would be a nasty song, because he was singing too many sweet songs. It seemed like a good concept for him”.
"As I was teaching it to him," Simon recollects, rubbing his razor-neat moustache, "we would be, aaah, harmonizing. So he said, 'Hey, why don't you do this song with me on the record?' So I said, 'Yeaah, sure, why not.'
"I think it was Artie's idea to put the song on both of our albums. He felt it wouldn't be fair to put it on one. We figured there would be a certain amount of commotion about our not having sung together in the studio for five years: we decided if people wanted to buy Simon and Garfunkel, they should not have to buy one album as opposed to the other album."
“I wrote My Little Town specifically for Art Garfunkel. It came back to become a Simon & Garfunkel record. I wanted to write Art a song with a kind of nasty lyric because he was singing so many sweet songs. I thought it was time for him to sing a really nasty, biting lyric. That began with a sentence. I'd say to people, "How would you finish this: 'In my little town I used to be known as ...'?" I was always asking people. And I actually was picturing a town. I was thinking about Gloucester, Massachusetts. A friend of mine comes from Glouchester and he used to talk about what it was like to grow up there. I grew up in Queens so I never had that feeling. That song was entirely an act of imagination, as opposed to autobiography. There's no element of me in there at all. It was one of the first songs where I used half diminished chords as a way of going down the scale chromatically”.
"That song is about ritual death, like in Roman times when they used to send people out into the arena to fight to the death, fighting animals and so forth, and it would have this cathartic effect upon the crowd. Well, today in our stadiums, people don't get killed, but they fight, and there's a winner and a loser. They're the descendants of those arenas, those games. So that's really what the song's about death: ritual death."
“I've only written one song on the piano, it's a song called 'Nobody' on the 'One Trick Pony'. Otherwise they're all written on the guitar.”
“I don't know that the "cross in the ballpark" line can bear the weight of too much scrutiny. I've explained what I thought it was about. I have my doubts now about using it twice but I think I was taken by the image when I wrote it. It was a really strong and vivid image, so I returned to it, which was the style I was working in then -- reca- pitulation of some early thought in the later part of the song. But when I reviewed it recently, I thought I should have used it just once and then there would have been less fuss about it. But it is a nice image, a very modern, Papal kind of image -- Jimmy Swaggart or Billy Graham or the Prince's Trust, all of those mass quasi-religious or genuinely religious gatherings that are held in pagan places, stadiums. The Christians have now permanently defeated the lion and the ballpark is theirs”.
“It was like a festival atmosphere. Probably 100 people or more, you know, hanging around and we had an 8 track machine that we brought up from Rio that was like sitting in the basement of one of the buildings near the square and we were hanging the microphones from telephone wires - it was a real adventure. And I was thinking what a trip this is. So in order to record the OLODUM - by the way OLODUM takes their name from the Yuruba name for God, for the didi, Olodumare. And it wasn't like I recorded just those drums. So they played for about 45 minutes, OLODUM. What I was mostly thinking was the incredible power of the sound, 14 drummers - you know the way it was bouncing off the cobblestones and bouncing off the buildings and the Churches in the square. In other words a kinda natural echo and people were yelling and dancing. And OLODUM is also a political entity. This is the musical arm of this larger group which is an Afrocentric non violent community oriented political force in the old section of Salvador”.
“The leader of the group who makes up these rhythms - his name is Nogeenia Dosamba, .. and he would stand in front of the group and conduct it and you know indicate when they would change rhythms and they just sort of moved effortlessly through this 45 minutes”.
“It has the ambience of the night and the square. Why deny the obvious is what the song is about. It's like I've been round long enough to know that a lie is not just a lie. Don't tell me that a lie is harmless when I know that a lie can be lethal. It's kinda of a reality song for my generation”.
“That guitar part came first and it sounded like Buddy Holly and that´s why I started to sing about Peggy Sue. That was the jump-off point. The first line is so important in a song”.
“Old is me saying “Look what´s old anyway when the human race is so young”.
“All those voices in the background. That's my favorite one on that whole album, actually. The first time those background voices come in.
Artie was off in Mexico making Catch-22. I was writing. One of the songs was about his going away to act in that film : The Only Living Boy in New York. "Tom, get your plane right on time" was a reference to Tom and Jerry. "Fly down to Mexico. Here I am / The Only living boy in New York." I was alone”.
“I like that record, and I like the song, too. That was written about Artie's going off to make Catch 22 in Mexico. I liked the "aaahhhs," the voices singing "aaah." That was the best I think that we ever did it. It was quite a lot of voices we put on, maybe twelve or fifteen voices. We sang it in the echo-chamber, I remember that, too”.
“The vocal backgrounds on that are really good. Artie and I did it in the echo chamber. But I remember he was breathing differently than I was. He was, like, holding notes longer across the breathing lines. There was a difference in the rhythm of our breathing, and how long he was holding the notes. Anyway, that sound for some reason's really the best of that type of thing. I have a lot of records that have vocal groups in them that are my voice or my voice and somebody else's voice. They're all about imitating doo-wop sounds which have falsettos in them”.
“It's about two people in a relationship that's over, but every time they're about to leave, they realize that there's really no place else to go : Overs”.
62. PAPA HOBO
“It opens light because it's stylised. It's an obviously constructed line. It's not a cry of anguish. It's too thought out. It's carbon monoxide and the old Detroit perfume. It's satirical. The "basketball town" line. It's got a little bit of bitterness, but it's also, it's in it's own way, an element of humor and a putdown of a place, a basketball town. It reminds me of a Midwest thing. The "Gatorade" line . . That word doesn't belong in a song. It comes out, and there it is. It's the whole thing. It's where that guy came from”.
“It's not a very well known song. It was on my first solo album, and it comes from a congo drum rhythm. I guess it was like the last time that I was really sharp as an acoustic guitar player, because somewhere after that I hurt my hand and it never really healed again”.
“Peace Like a River is a serious song. It's a serious song, although it's not as down as you think. The last verse is sort of nothing; it sort of puts the thing back up in the air, which is where it should be. You end up, you think about these things that are something to do with a riot or something in my mind in the city”.
“I´m not sure if the death penalty is a good or bad idea. But if you´re going to have a death penalty make sure you kill the right person”.
65. PUNKY'S DILEMMA
“A song of social insignificance”.
“Quiet, or death or . . . quiet? One of the two but again, when I finished I thought "Really? Do you mean that? Is that what you mean? That's interesting ó are you going to go away now and are you going to try and do that?"
67. RENE AND GEORGETTE MAGRITTE WITH THEIR
“That was a caption of a photograph in a book I was reading, and I thought, That's an interesting title for a song. That came from a caption under a photo. The actual caption was "Georgette & Rene Magritte with their dog during the war," but I transposed it. It must have had more rhythm this way.
Returned to their hotel suite and they unlocked the door. It doesn't actually make sense, but why should a song about Magritte make sense? His paintings didn't make sense, but they hinted at something subterranean that did. The song was true to him and it touched something emotional, and it made it a good song. That's why I think that song is an okay piece of work”.
“Easily losing their evening clothes: That's just he way that it sings -- the EEE-OOO-EEE-OOO sound: e-sily loo-sing e-v'ning clo. There's a dreaminess to that sound. And the words are also evocative. I know it works because the sound is right and the picture is interesting. Where are we going from here?”.
“They danced by the light of the moon: Here comes the leap. "To the Penguins, the Moonglows, the Orioles, the Five Satins." I didn't think people would know the groups I picked. Unless they're as old as I am. But the names of those groups have a surreal quality to them. You don't even know if they're groups, but the sounds are right. And penguins and moonglows and orioles could all be in a Magritte painting”.
“The deep forbidden music they'd been longing: Well, that's rock & roll, and the early feeling rock & roll touched in you, because it was real. I'm sure that's what I was thinking or feeling. Back then it was forbidden and "longing for" set it back up for my rhyme: "Rene and Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war." Then I begin again”.
“Rene & Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war / Were strolling down Christopher Street when they stopped in a men's store: Well that's a joke. What else is there going to be on Christopher Street? It's the center of the gay community in the U.S. I though it was as interesting as any other place for them to be”.
“With all of the mannequins dressed in the style that brought tears to their immigrant eyes: I don't know how that came about. A lot of the time the words just come. "Just like the Penguins, the Moonglows, the Orioles, and the Five Satins. The easy" -- there's that EE sound again -- "stream of music flowing through the air." Then I must have thought, where's my rhyme? Oh, I have a good joke. I'll go to the French. "Rene and Georgette Magritte with their dog après la guerre." So that's nice and tidy and brings in their language and has a joke and turns things around and everything is nicely muddled up and can go anywhere. Now I change key. I think it's written in F. I take the bridge up a whole step to G. I've done that a few times. I'll jump a tone on a bridge just to change it, to keep it fresh. You jump a tone and things feel nice, alive. Then you just have to figure out how to come back. It's easy to go from F to G, you just go there. If you want to go back from G to F, it takes a little maneuvering”.
“Side by side they fell asleep / Decades gliding by like Indians, time is cheap: Again, I don't really know how it happened. "Gliding by like Indians" seemed a nice phrase. I thought of it when I was running in Central Park. Some people didn't know which Indians I was talking about! Of course I was thinking of American Indians”.
“When they wake up they will find / All their personal belongings have: I didn't really like that. The thought was right but "intertwined" wasn't colloquial enough for the song. It's a little bit forced, but I couldn't think of anything better. In most songs there's going to be a certain percentage of the lines that aren't going to be perfect. It's very unusual to score a ten on a song. It's not that every line should be a show-stopper; the function of some lines is to set up the line that's meant to have an impact. But the lines that are meant to pave the way should be smooth enough to flow by without notice. If a line's going to call attention to itself by an unusual word or a jerky rhythm -- if the listener is going to be forced to pay attention -- they you should have something to say in that line”.
“Woo, woo, woo: The sound from those '50s groups. Then I had to get back to the key of F. In the key of G, I started putting the third of the chord in the root. That helped me get back. I think I went to a G minor 6th. That would be one solution. If you jump up a tone in a major key and want to get back to the original key, you make that a minor chord. Then it becomes a 2 minor, which serves the same function as a dominant 5 chord and you can go back to the prior key. So if I went to a G minor 7th, that's really no different from a C9. And a C9 or a C7 will take you back to the key of F. So now I'm back in the key of F.
Rene and Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war / Were dining with the power elite when they looked in their bedroom drawer: There's something a little dark about that. I was thinking that one of the greatest invasions of privacy is to look in a drawer in someone's bedroom. So there's something about this that's a little unsavory. Then I realized, well, time has passed and now they're with the power elite. This is about loss of innocence”.
“What do you think they have hidden away in the cabinet cold of their heart: Something about "cabinet cold" is kind of gray. That sound of metallic filing cabinet seems very cold. it was a different image for coldness in the heart. And you've got alliteration so rhythm is forced by the two C's: "cabinet cold." Then I went back to "The Penguins, the Moonglows, the Orioles and the Five Satins." But I changed the chords. I wasn't in major chords anymore, I was in minors”.
“For now and ever after as it was before:: I don't know. By then the songs was off on its own. It was already alive and pulsing. You could say anything, really. It was alive enough so that it could mean a lot of things. It could mean different things to different people. That's good. That means the song is alive and can be approached from a lot of different directions, and I think that makes for an interesting song”.
“'Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War' is a song that I like a lot. Personally, I think it's one of my best songs, but to be realistic about it, the people that have heard about Magritte haven't heard about the Penguins, and the Moonglows and The Orioles, and The Five Satins. People who have heard of the Five Satins and the Penguins and the Moonglows probably haven't a clue about who Magritte is, so it's a very small audience that I'm addressing. I'm writing about a surrealist painter, so it's really not a great leap of the imagination to write a surrealist song, the only sort of leap that was erroneous is there, it's to assume that anybody is gonna know what I'm talking about.”
“I wrote all of "Magritte" in my head when I was driving through Montana. I had the title because it was the caption of a photograph in a book on Magritte. And I was just playing with that title in my mind and the melody came to me. It's one of the only times that I've ever written a whole melody away from an instrument. It's a story and it's also a surreal picture, a surrealistic lyric. I consciously came up with the part about "all their personal belongings" becoming intertwined. But the line in the bridge, "decades gliding by like Indians", just emerged from nowhere while I was running in Central Park”.
68. RICHARD CORY
“This is a song which is an adaptation of an Edwin Arlington Robinson poem”.
69. RUN THAT BODY DOWN
“I don't mean it to be any less serious by the fact that I feel that there's humor in it. I think that that's a delicate combination. If you can get humor and seriousness at the same time, you've created a special little thing, and that's what I'm looking for, because if you get pompous, you lose everything. If I should write a preachy song about "for God's sake, take care of your health" it would sound like a Nichols and May bit: "My God, your mother and I ate sick with worry." You can't do it in a song”.
“Run That Body Down" Musically it derives from a Bach prelude I was playing, and lyrically it makes it for me because I like the idea of a song about taking care of your health. I was reading a lot of Adelle Davis at the time”.
70. ST. JUDY'S COMET
“I wrote it as a lullaby for my son Harper. But I don't think it ever helped him to fall asleep. There's no real St.Judy's comet. I took the title from the drummer for Clifton Chenier whose name was Robert St.Judy. We also recorded this in Muscle Shoals. There are no drums on this one, just a room sound of percussion - shakers leaking into microphones. I had second thoughts about keeping that line in about "your famous daddy." I didn't want to sound pretentious. But I left it in, because it seemed funny”.
“That was a record that we used the Moog syn- thesizer on. That had some interesting sounds for when it was made because it was made in 1967 or so. And some of those sounds sound contemporary, the distortion and all. As a song, I didn't really pull it off. It was a nice idea but I didn't really understand the idea. I was dealing with surrealism and I didn't really have my skill down yet. It's a song about a kid who's standing on a roof and people are screaming and running and he flies away at the end. So something about its subject matter is limited. It's not a very inventive surrealistic sketch”.
“I learned that from Martin Carthy. "Scarborough Fair" is like- 300 years old. Martin Carthy had a beautiful arrangement of it and my arrangement was like my memory of his arrangement. He was a wonderful guitarist and singer. Very popular and still playing. He's the guy who taught me "Angie."
“Silent Eyes is about the Jews, but it wasn't about religion. But religion did come into my songs a lot. Now I try to keep it out. A lot of born-agains were offended. First they thought I was a really religious person and when they discovered I wasn't, that I was using it in a different way, they didn't like that. They though it was sacrilegious or I was making fun. And I though, I don't really want to offend. It's not that important to me that I stay with this religious imagery. I'll find another way of doing it without getting into that world”.
“It's too long. It doesn't have another section. It's just Verse-Chorus. And that Verse-Chorus thing, it numbs me. I can't keep hearing Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus because I know what's going to happen. the last verse is a powerful one. but the chorus, it keeps coming back to the chorus. you know what that chorus is going to say. I always felt it should be shorter, but I didn't know which verses to take out. Either the last verse or the father/child verse. But they all seemed like they had to be in there, so I left it. But I always felt that the record and the song stayed on a plateau. It didn't build”.
“I wrote it very quickly. It took an hour to write the entire song. It was unusual to have it come so fast, probably the fastest I ever wrote anything. I wrote it originally for "One-Trick Pony" but didn't use it in the film. The Oak Ridge Boys sang on that. They were a gospel group at the time. They were just beginning to make the cross-over from pure gospel to country-pop. On this they're singing a white gospel part, the type of sound similar to the Jordanaires on early Elvis Presley records. I always felt it had one too many verses. It has the man, the woman and the child. Then it has the "God only knows" verse. If I had the courage, I would have edited that verse out. If I had found a more interesting way of arriving at that so that it felt like you were coming back to a place instead of feeling like you were on a long plateau, it would have been better. I didn't originate that title. It came from that Little Richard song "Slippin' and Slidin'."
“That's essentially why I wrote So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright. For most people, it was about Frank Lloyd Wright. Even Artie didn't know what I was talking about. But it was directly about us: "So long, Frank Lloyd Wright." Artie had been an architecture student. "I can't believe your song is gone so soon / I barely learned the tune ... So long. So long." It was direct”.
“I don't know how I wrote that because I didn't know those chords then. It was really before I was familiar with Brazilian music. I've heard some Brazilian covers of that song, too, which is nice”.
76. SOFT PARACHUTES
did you write some of those songs as the character of Jonah Levin?
Paul Simon : “Yeah, "Soft Parachutes" was. Yeah, I was writing it as like what was in his mind”.
“Phil Ramone , who I was working with as an engineer and co-producer, introduced me to Quincy Jones who did the arrangement on this. I wrote the song in Pennsylvannia, where I was living in the country at the time, and it started out another lyric that turned into this. Quincy Jones made it a very sophisticated ballad, gave it a really well-written, polished, sophisticated arrangement. He made it a kind of city love song with jazz overtones. To me, it's evocative of good musicians, good charts. It's one of the few times I've done anything where it was all live, everyone had their parts - the kind of sessions that Sinatra probably had. A big band, everyone plays it right, it's not overdubbed and layered. And it's sung well. What I was saying was honest and appropriate to where I was at the time. I wasn't in a character. A lot of my songs, I'm writing the song and I'm singing it, but I'm not actually me. Mother And Child Reunion would be an example of that - Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, Loves Me Like A Rock: I'm not the person. I just feel like making a records that's like that. But Something So Right sounds like my real voice, there's not stylised phrasing or pronunciation - it's just sounds like me talking in song. It feels comfortable. Had simon & Garfunkel continued - which they wouldn't have, but since people speculated - I'm sure this would have been a very big Simon & Garfunkell ballad, just like I think Still Crazy After All These Years would have ...”
“I thought that this was a nice straight-ahead love song. I wrote the melody first. I had a complete set of other lyrics. Different title, different subject matter. The original lyrics was not a love song, it was kind of a gospel lyrics. I don't know when I came to the conclusion that it should be a love song . But I felt that this was not about a third-person experience. It was going to be a personal song. Quincy Jones did all the orchestration. It's a really tasty bit of writing. I was working with Phil Ramone and he was introducing me to musicians that he had worked with such as Quincy as well as the other guys on that : Bobby Scott on piano and Grady Tate on drums. That was a big session. There's an acoustic bass and electric bass on it, plus vibes, and three guitars”.
I was playing the chords to it. What I was really doing was playing an old Sam Cooke song, Bring It On Home to Me. And I was singing it and altering the chords, making substitutions. Instead of making them simpler, I was making them more complex, just for the fun of it. This is one way that people write
The first song I wrote for this new album was Song About the Moon. I was playing that melody, and I didn't have any words. I was playing the chords to it. What I was really doing was playing an old Sam Cooke song, Bring It On Home to Me. And I was singing it and altering the chords, making substitutions. Instead of making them simpler, I was making them more complex, just for the fun of it. This is one way that people write.
“The main thing about playing the guitar, though, was that I was able to sit by myself and play and dream. And I was always happy doing that. I used to go off in the bathroom, because the bathroom had tiles, so it was a slight echo chamber. I'd turn on the faucet so that water would run - I like that sound, it's very soothing to me - and I'd play. In the dark. "Hello darkness, my old friend / I've come to talk with you again". Well, that's the first line. Then it drifts off into some other things. I've always believed that you need a truthful first line to kick you off into a song. You have to say something emotionally true before you can let your imagination wander”.
“A societal view of the lack of communication”.
“The lyrics burst forth practically writing themselves”.
Writen after hearing about President Kennedy´s assassination in November 1963,…it was finnally finished on February 19th 1964.
“Amongst my many neuroses, there was a time when I couldn't bear the thought of digging yourself, I thought that was the worst thing. To dig yourself, to think that you were good because if you did dig yourself you never did anything naturally and you're always worried about 'Was I cool, wasn't I cool?' You know what I mean type scenes. A tendency to look into imaginary mirrors to see how you're coming out of every situation. So, during the depths of this neurosis, I'm like shaving with my eyes closed, you know. See myself. One day I walked down Broadway in New York and where Broadway crosses 52nd street there's a drugstore that has a black, plate glass window. Very clearly you can see your reflection in it, if you are of the nature to seek out your reflection in drug store windows. So, anyway I look and Pow! there I am, so I was shocked, I hadn't seen myself in about a year. So I was you know, truth be told, I was digging myself for about 45 seconds, an intense dig. When this bird that was perched overhead, like total disregard for me, just, he defecated on me. I don't know if this has ever happened to you but if it has, you know that it is virtually impossible to maintain your cool under those circumstances. Right? And all I can think of, you know how thoughts raise through your mind in moments of crisis, all I can think of is "there goes a happy bird". And then I'm fantasizing, saying : 'can you imagine this bird, sort of floating above the city of New York for a week , looking for a place to land, like saving up. Don't dig yourself”.
“Spirit Voices is really based on event that happened to me on a trip into the Amazon. We went to see a bruho. It's like a witch doctor, a spiritualist doctor. A witch doctor has the wrong connotation. His function was that he was a doctor, but he was treating people with herbs and prayers and chants - he wasn't saying take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning. It was traditional Indian medicine. We were on a boat and one of the engineers on the boat knew a little Indian village and knew a bruho maybe half a mile into the jungle or something. First he sang. He sand for a long time, chanted over different patients and he sang these beautiful melodies. They were amazon river melodies which I tried to remember but I couldn’t remember them. Ah - and then they made up this brew called iawasco made out of roots and herbs which you drank and they said the anaconda will appear to you, know like a boa constrictor, and you will see that in a vision - don’t be alarmed it’s a vision and then you will be able to see into yourself and recognise whatever the illness is and so will the doctor. Then he asked my friend was there something that was ailing her, and she said that she had this problem, and he said he had a solution for the problem, and then, this is all through an interpreter, then he said was there something that was bothering me. But actually there wasn’t really anything that was bothering me except like my elbow was bothering me, so I said my elbow is really bothering me and he said that’s nothing”.
“The song is just a recollection of the events of the night as best as I could. The drum track is a bumba, traditional Puerto Rican rhythm, and it was played by Puerto Rican drummers, and the guitar part is a traditional Guyanan melody high-life melody. That really combined a lot of cultures. I means a Guyanan guitar melody played by a Camaroonian guitarist over a Puerto Rican bomba, with Milton Nascimento singing the middle, and singing it in Portuguese, against my English language recollection of a trip to the jungle. That song is really swirling with different influences”.
“I was staying in a Manhattan hotel. I had left my marriage. I had a 16-month-old son. I was pretty depressed, just sitting and looking out the window. That's all I used to do. Just sit and look out the window: "Now I sit by my window and I watch the cars..."
“In "Still Crazy After All These Years," that [title phrase] came to me first. And it didn't come with melody, either. It just came as a line. And then I had to create a story”.
“That song has some unusual chord, I was studying with a bass player and composer named Chuck Israels at the time so I was doing more interesting changes. I was studying harmony with him”.
“It was something that I noticed in Antonio Jobim's music. In fact, I once men- tioned that to him and he said that he wasn't aware of it at all. [Laughs] It was kind of an exercise that I did, which was to try and get every note from a twelve-tone scale into the song. So what would happen is that I would cover most of thee notes in the song and there would be maybe three notes that you couldn't get into the scale of the key you were using. And those three notes were really the key to the bridge. Usually it would be a tritone away from whatever key you were using. If you were in the key of C, the farthest away you can go is F#. That's the key that's the least related to C”.
“Instead of using a minor chord I use a major chord and go up a step. It is hard to get an interesting key change. I also like to write a bridge and just jump a whole- tone up. "Still Crazy" has that”.
“It's a title about which I've often thought - did I make that up? It seems like it's such a familiar phrase. We've seen it in so many permutations - still this after all these years, still that after all these years. Like 50 ways to do this, or bridge over that. So that came as a phrase and the melody at the same time. The song is a bit darker than people think. Because the chorus and the phrase are so suggestive of a long time passing, it has a touch of the Auld Land Syne to it. I don't think people pay attention to the lyrics of the song, which makes me feel I probably wrote the wrong lyric to it. The lyrics wasn't about the title, or only in a typically oblique, obscured fashion. It's almost like that thing that happened to Bruce Springsteen with Born In The USA, which became some patriotic, punch your fist in the air song when it was actually the complete opposite. But whatever, the song had interesting chord changes and Bob James's arrangement was extraordinary. The saxophone solo became famous. Michael Brecker, who's just a jazz guy, always begins the solo on tour the way he did on the original version, and he came through one day and he said, Look I hope you don't think that I can't think of anything. I can think of a lot of things, but I think it's such a well-known solo that I always think I have to start off by quoting it and then going wherever I want to go. There was a nice recording of this recently by Ray Charles. In fact, I just saw him sing it at the Apollo Theatre for a television show”.
“It was written on the guitar but the record is a piano song, just like 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was written on the guitar but it's a piano. I've only written one song on the piano, it's a song called 'Nobody' on the 'One Trick Pony'. Otherwise they're all written on the guitar”.
“But I play the guitar in a pianistic style. When I'm writing those kinds of ballads I'm not just kind of just strumming a G chord. It may be important that I have the third in the bass or the fifth in the bass, and I'm writing the bass line and the moving tones at the same time that I'm making up the melody. I'm shaping the harmony, so the harmony is a little bit more complex than it would be in 3 or 4-chord rhythm song”.
“It's probably the most famous ballad that I wrote after Simon And Garfunkel. The title came to me when I was stepping into a shower. And I wasn't very happy about it. I didn't say, "Oh, that's clever, that's a good one, I can use that." It was at the time an assessment of where I was at in my life. And I wasn't very happy that that was my assessment. But I soon turned it into a song and that's what you do with those things. In a way it's amazing that it appears I originated that. I seem so idiomatic but I don't think there was any "still crazy after all these years" before that. The title has the kind of catchiness that country music titles have. You get the whole story in the title. People relate to their own lives immediately just from the title. There are very few other of my titles that are catchy in that way”.
“The basic track to that was recorded in Muscle Shoals, but we wanted to put this Louisiana Band on, this New Orleans Band on, but there was no studio in Louisiana that at that point had a 16 track so we met in the middle in a studio in Jackson Mississippi called Malico Sound.. They were famous for recording Mr Big Stuff. So we drove down to Jackson Mississippi and they drove up from New Orleans to Jackson - that record also has Reverend Claude Jeter on it who was the lead from the Swan Silvertones. He singing that falsetto part”.
“What's memorable about this one is that it was the first time, and the only time, that I got to record with the Reverend Claude Jeter. He was the lead singer, the great falsetto voice, of the Swan Silverstones. And the Swans were my favorite of all the Gospel groups. I wrote the song with his voice in mind? It was based on what he does. And we went down and recorded it in the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and overdubbed the Onward Brass Band in Jackson , Mississippi. They came up from New Orleans. That ending with the Onward Brass Band was kind of a worked-out improvisation”.
“I thought this was a nice idea. About people who are brutally honest, you know? And I thought the Dixie Hummingbirds were really great on it. This song has an old-fashioned quality to it. It's a sound that was before my time musically. That was an early 50's sound. I only know that stuff from the record, not from experience. Doo-wop was the secular, urban, street-corner version of gospel. There was something very real and mysterious about that music because it was the first time that black culture entered the mainstream of American [white) culture. Those records have a great vitality to them. They sound very modern. When people fell in love with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, that's what the best of the doo-wop sounded like”.
“My favorite part of that one is "I said, 'Where you going?' " [Laughs] That's the part I like in that. "When I was born, my mother died, she said, 'Bye bye, baby, bye bye,' I said, Where you going ?'
'I'm just born! She said, I'll only be gone for a while...' Which is about how long life is, really. A little while and then [laughs] you'll be dead, too. All this bad news right when the kid just got born. And that's why I'm in fantasy, that's why God made the movies... that's why we have little escapes here, because this bad news is overwhelming, like for some- body who just got here. That wasn't a good record. That was a much better song than a record. That was much too slow. It was too slow and soft and it doesn't get across. That's why nobody knows it. But that was a nice song. It wasn't a good record. That's how I feel. That's why I feel it didn't have any impact”.
“It´s 11 time signature. That came from the percussionists. It´s really a North African time signature.. They said : “This is interesting”. I said: “Lemme hear”. It was intriguing, but for me the question was: How do you write a song in 11? What is 11 anyway? Well one of the things about 11 is, it´s so long before you get back to I that it has a kind of floating, dreamlike quality which means you could probably tell a story over it. That´s what I thought”.
87. THINK TOO MUCH (a) / THINK TOO MUCH (b)
“The first one was the up-tempo, the fast one. And when I finished it I said "Maybe I've treated the subject too lightly." And then I realized that was really funny, 'cause that's exactly what I'm talking about: thinking too much. Something I'm writing along in a song and it's interesting enough, but I'll have no idea why I'm writing these lyrics. Then later I'll say "Oh, it's about this subject!" Rene & Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War is one of the best songs I've written that way. It holds together on the level of surrealistic imagery as a Magritte painting would, because I juxtapose two things that wouldn't normally be within the same frame: the Magritte couple and the rhythm 7 blues groups of the '50s -- "The Penguins, the Moonglows, the Orioles, the Five Satins." That song has a mood about it that seems to be right. It makes me feel something. It's harder to say exactly what it means, but it makes me feel something specifically. I'm thinking back over the lyrics”.
“I had two songs called "Think Too Much" is just a joke. l write one song called "Think Too Much" and I think, "That isn't even the way I should write it. I should write it this way." [Laughs ] It's just an other example of never letting it go and thinking too much. That's why I did two songs”.
“But they are two entirely different songs. One was saying, "I think too much and ha, ha, ha, it's a joke. Look at that. Maybe I think too much." That's the fast song. ["Think Too Much, A"]
“Then I finish and I say, "Well, maybe it isn't a joke. Maybe the point is that you think too much and you're not in touch with what you feel. And the proof of it is that you've written this joke song about a very serious sub- ject." So now I wrote a song that is all about feeling on the same subject. So there were two ways of approaching that subject”.
“It's very factual about my life. What I discovered in writing recently is that facts, stated without color, are just potential energy. you don't know where they're going to go until you give them a direction. The song starts, "She was beautiful as Southern skies / The night he met her. She was married to someone." That's about Peggy, my first wife. And it's all true. Then it goes, "He was doggedly determined that he would get her/ He was old, he was young." That's me. I was, you know, pretending I was sophisticated. I wasn't . "From time to time, he'd tip his heart / But each time she withdrew." True, all true. All those are just facts. Then I add what is, I think, the artist's job : "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance / Everybody thinks it's true." That's not fact anymore. That's comment. I told a story, and then I used the metaphor. And then I thought, I don't think people are going to understand what I mean when I say, "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance / Everybody thinks it's true. " And I don't want to be enigmatic. So I added : "What is the point of this story? What information pertains? / The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains." And what was my writer's point of view. That's we've survived by believing our life is going to get better. And I happened to use the train metaphor because I was sitting in a friend's house near a railway station, and I heard a train. And I said, "Oooh, that's nice." There's something about the sound of a train that's very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful. Anyway, I guess my point is that facts can be turned into art if one is artful enough”.
“The title of the song and the line that keeps recurring is a metaphor. And although I liked the metaphor and I thought it was effective, by the time I got to the end of the song I said, well, look, I don't know if anyone will understand what I'm talking about here. So, in case you didn't get what this metaphor is about, let me just say that this is what it is: everybody thinks it could be better.
And that seems to be a quality that the species has . It's probably how they got out of the caves. They just felt there was a better place to go.
And we still do, I mean, it may be that it'll destroy us. It certainly was our survival instinct for all these thousands and thousands of years but it may be that if we don't recognize that there's danger in how things are going to be better, it may destroy us.
But in either case, it seems to be a human characteristic that people think - unless they're just terribly depressed they'd have to be - most people will believe that things could turn around. I mean, look at what's happening in the world today. It's turned around for people who were characteristically oppressed. And that seems to be what people think. They think a break could come my way, or I could do this, or this ... “
“I first wrote that line, "The thought that life could be better is programmed indelibly." But a few of my friends really didn't like that. They really didn't like the thought that we were programmed. So I changed it because they really didn't like it. But really what I meant was it's programmed into us.
"Woven" is nicer. "Woven" is a better choice. It's easier. Obviously the other word was upsetting. That's why I took it out. It was getting in the way of what I was saying”.
“It's very factual about my life. What I discovered in writing recently is that facts, stated without color, are just potential energy. You don't know where they're going to go until you give them a direction. The song starts, "She was beautiful as Southern skies / The night he met her. She was married to someone." That's about Peggy, my first wife. And it's all true. Then it goes, "He was doggedly determined that he would get her / He was old, he was young." That's me. I was, you know, pretending I was sophisticated. I wasn't. "From time to time, he'd tip his heart / But each time, she withdrew." True, all true. All those are just facts. Then I add what is, I think, the artist's job: "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance / Everybody thinks it's true." That's not fact anymore. That's comment. I told a story, and then I used the metaphor. And then I thought, I don't think people are going to understand what I mean when I say, "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance / Everybody thinks it's true." And I don't want to be enigmatic. So I added: "What is the point of this story? What information pertains? / The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains." And that was my writer's point of view. That we've survived by believing our life is going to get better. And I happened to use the train metaphor because I was sitting in a friend's house, near a railway station, and I heard a train. And I said, "Oooh, that's nice." There's something about the sound of a train that's very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful. Anyway, I guess my point is that facts can be turned into art if one is artful enough”.
“The song starts almost like a joke. Like the structure of a joke cliche: "There's a rabbi, a minister and a priest." "Two Jews walk into a bar..." "A man walks down the street." That's what I was doing there. Because the beginning of a song is one of the hardest parts about songwriting. The first line of a song is very hard. And I always have this image in my mind of a road that goes like this [motions with hands to signify a road that gets wider as it opens out] so that the implication is that the directions are pointing outward.
You Can Call Me Al," which was an example of that kind of writing, starts off very easily with sort of a joke: "Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?" Very easy words. Then it has a chorus that you can't understand. What is he talking about, you can call me Betty, and Betty, you can call me Al? You don't know what I'm talking about. But I don't think it's bothersome. You don't know what I'm talking about but neither do I. At that point.
The second verse is really a recapitulation: A man walks down the street, he says... another thing. You know?
And by the time you get to the third verse, and people have been into the song long enough, now you can start to throw abstract images. Because there's been a structure, and those abstract images, they will come down and fall into one of the slots that the mind has already made up about the structure of the song.
So now you have this guy who's no longer thinking about the mundane thoughts, about whether he's getting too fat, whether he needs a photo opportunity, or whether he's afraid of the dogs in the moonlight and the graveyard, and he's off in, listen to the sound, look what's going on, there's cattle and these sounds are very fantastic and, look at the buildings, there's angels in the architecture...
And that's the end of the song. It goes "Phooon!" and that's the end”.
“It starts with that synthesizer, which is playing what was really a Ray Phiri guitar lick. I tried like hell to get that synthesizer sounding better, but I couldn't. But the lick is immediately recognisable as You Can Call Me Al. It has such a light happy feel to it that I think people tend to think of it as a funny song where in fact it has an interesting development -- the character starts off a totally self-absorbed guy who's worried about how fat he is, and ends up a guy in a strange world looking at angels in the architecture. It evolves through all those tum- bling, jammed up lyrics and falls into that. It took a long time to write, which probably makes sense because there's a lot of words in it. The chorus, the bodyguard part, I always thought was the weakest phrase, but sometimes whatever comes to your mind won't leave and then that's what you have to do. If I could have found another chorus I would have, but I couldn't. But then because it became a kind of a hit with kids, it turned out that kids very much liked the idea of bodyguards, were very familiar with the idea. That's the violence of the world that we live in -- kids know about bodyguards. A lot of times kids will go, Did you do that song, Bodyguard? So, actually it turns out to be a good hook for a chorus”.
“You're Kind is sort of a cruel song. It's an indifferent song: someone treats you really nice and you say "I'm leaving." You could either say it's for an arbitrary reason: "I like to sleep with the window open and you sleep with the window closed." Or you could say it was a metaphor for freedom. It works either way. I was aware of that when I wrote it. I think the fact that it does work either way makes it a better song. There are people who can't stand to be locked in, and there are people who don't give a damn and simply decide "It's better for me, so I'm leaving." I like that song a lot for that. It's not generally the way I treat people but it is an element of my personality which I suppress. It's also true for me because I tend to be claustrophobic very easily, but the other meaning is even more fun”.
"I'm not reaching for any profundities or any kind of spiritual message, and, if anything is coming through on that level, it's just a reflection of what this age is. I don't believe as an artist that my destiny is to be a provocateur or agitator. I'm not a nihilist. I like art that aspires to a certain definition of beauty.
"This record is meant to be really enjoyable on a visceral level; I feel like you don't even have to pay attention to the lyrics if you don't want to. If you do, well I'm talking about various subjects that are of interest to me, but I hope that they're not lectures. I'm just an observer who loves sound and rhythm
He describes the oddly lateral lyrical style he has evolved as akin to his thought process, "bouncing backwards and forwards between different ideas, emotional moments followed by jokes. I think this, then I answer that, then finally say, 'I guess the song is over; what's it all about?' "
"That's a nice thought," laughs Simon, "if you believe that God is watering the flowers. If you don't believe that, then it's a big joke on all of us, because it's not such a happy ending. Both are true as far as I'm concerned."
“The songs are a little bit elusive,” he said. “They have emotions and thoughts swirling through them, but you can’t exactly say what they are. At the same time, there’s a musical dialogue that’s going on: shifting keys, changing rhythms. So those elements are combustible, and when they have a nice little explosion, it’s a good song.”
"Beauty seems to come from symmetry. That seems to be written into the planet earth, maybe the universe. Symmetry is a very powerful force, far more complex than I can understand, but I'm trying to learn about it and use it. It's ironic that the way I'm doing it is in this art form which is so puerile, but that's what I picked when I was 14."
"I have an exceptionally privileged life, and I'm not entitled to any complaints. But then I go on and complain anyway."
“That's a nice thought, if you believe that God is watering the flowers. If you don't believe that, then it's a big joke on all of us, because it's not such a happy ending. Both are true as far as I'm concerned."
"I'm not interested in religion as a path towards God. My interest in religion is that it doesn't annihilate me or my family."
92. FATHER AND DAUGHTER
“I write all my lyrics and melodies while I’m driving the kids to school, or taking a detour, playing the backing tracks loud on the car speakers.” It was during one such session that he came up with Father and Daughter, a song about his 11-year-old only daughter, LouLou. After careful thought he and Edie decided to let their 13-year-old son Adrian (“he’s very musical”) sing backing vocals. “We’re very apprehensive about the kids being in the public eye, but we decided it was okay.”
"We were in the car riding along, and I was working on the song, singing," Simon says. "Adrian started singing along, and it was so good that I thought it would be nice to have the feeling of a child's voice on it -- so I let him sing a couple of different takes to see what he would sing. I liked what he sang. It was a very contemporary kid-pop melody. It's all his melodies. He sang the harmony. He's very pleased to have it on there."
"Father and Daughter" pays homage to what Simon calls "a very special relationship" he has with his 7-year-old girl, Lulu. "In a way, with Adrian singing, it balances it out since it's a song about my daughter. And my youngest, who is 4 1/2 years old, is not -- yet -- concerned with any of it. So everybody's happy. Everybody will get their turn."
"I think that 'Father and Daughter,' in its sound and its straightforwardness, is not unlike the other things that I'm writing (for the album). I like that, it feels right. I'm trying to be as simple as possible and as clear as I can lyrically and keep the rhythm of it very American. It's not coming from any other cultural place."
93. EVERYTHING ABOUT IT IS A LOVE SONG
You look back at the whole thing from some distant place,” he says, “and the Earth looks so beautiful and blue. Then you say, ‘Well, it’s all about love.’ Love that worked out, love that didn’t work out, all the manifestations of love, love that turns to hate and all that.
“If you don’t stay in the big picture and you’re right in the midst of things … well then, you feel it with an intensity that’s not at all mellow. You’re in the throbbing life of the 21st century.
“But if you go back and forth between the two views, it creates a kind of a hum. It makes a kind of a sound. And if you can capture that sound, then you could say, ‘That’s the way I hear things.’ That’s about all you could say. You can’t say, ‘I understand it.’ But you can say, ‘That’s the way I hear it.’
“Everything” introduces the theme of atonement, which recurs on “I Don’t Believe” and “Another Galaxy.”
94. HOW CAN YOU LIVE IN THE NORTHEAST?
On “Nightline,” Simon said, of “Northeast” that “everybody has a reason”; we all arrive in the world “weak as the winter sun,” we all grapple with issues of faith and are infused with out own personal histories.
95. WARTIME PRAYERS
“Wartime Prayers” was written as a guitar piece, before I went into the rhythm part.
I wrote “Wartime Prayers” before the war started, but not before it was obvious there was going to be a war.
Unless your country is invaded or unless you’re going to stop a genocide, I don’t really think when you add up what you get out of wars that they come anywhere near what you lose, in terms of the horrors inflicted for generations and generations.
What you do get out of them, on the positive side, are enormous technological leaps, which eventually get translated into everyday life.
96. SURE DON'T FEEL LIKE LOVE
“Who's that conscience sticking on the soul of my shoe?" This comes from advice that he was given to put overly harsh critical inner voices in perspective. It was suggested that when he starts hearing these inner scripts, he should imagine them coming from something stuck on the sole of his shoe, like a wad of gum speaking in a funny voice, Bugs Bunny or something. "Some chicken and a corn muffin, well that feels more like love." Its lyric about a man who remembers how "once in August 1993 I was wrong/And I could be wrong again” Paul has declared: "That's pretty much me," Simon confessed with a soft chuckle. "You think of it. It's hilariously arrogant."
Simon has also declared this is his favourite song in this album.