When Simon and Garfunkel hit the radio back in the day, my crowd thought them a bit too effeminate for consumption. It was not so much that the music wasn't well thought-out and even magical at times; it must have been those choir boy vocals that made real men uncomfortable and wonder if they were sitting just a little too close together in the front seat of that Studebaker. It was the mid-1960's when the Sounds of Silence thrust this duo into everyone's car radio. It was several years later before I ever really understood how good Paul Simon really was.
He ditched the neutered Garfunkel in 1970, after they both made a fortune on their previous efforts, and put out his first solo album in 1972. It was just called Paul Simon. This is most likely a better album than was There Goes Rhymin' Simon. It had Mother and Child Reunion, one of my favorite Simon songs: A song which I always thought was a treatise on the contemplation of suicide. I might have been a bit angsty when I harbored those thoughts. I've not heard it lately, but I am fairly sure I still think that's what it's about. It had Everything Put Together Falls Apart, which is something I think of more and more as time goes along. This song was aptly followed immediately by "Run That Body Down." Same subject; different treatment. He was a bit young at the time to be thinking about life style changes such as this. You've got to hand it to him for forward thinking. It had the overplayed single, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, which would be a much better song if I hadn't heard it so many times. And it ended with a wonderful little piece of bitterness called Congratulations. "Congratulations. Oh, seems like you've done it again. And I ain't had such misery, since I don't know when." I can't tell you how many times I've sang that little verse over in my head after some relationship disaster befell me.
There Goes Rhymin' Simon came out just about a year and a half later, in 1973. I was ready for him now. I understood that he was a genius by this time, and it had been a long wait for a new release. I was not disappointed. One of the first things that caught my attention was that he had come to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to record this one. That's only about an hour's drive from where I grew up, and I knew about those famous session dudes over there who were mostly overlooked in the mainstream. Pete Carr, who does a lot of the guitar work on Rhymin' Simon, had actually been in a little band with some of my best friends in my home town as a kid. But when you've got Quincy Jones arranging the strings and Allen Toussaint arranging the horns on an album, there's not much that could really go bad wrong. Barry Beckett did most of the keyboard work, and the backing vocals had the diversity of the Dixie Hummingbirds as well as the Roche sisters. You should understand that this is an example of looking for talent in very, very different places.
This is an unusual example of the opening song on the album being probably the best song. That doesn't normally happen, you know. They usually try to hide the "hit" somewhere around the third song. I'm sure there's some marketing rationale behind that. I've never understood what it was.
When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school,
It's a wonder
I can think at all.
No you don't have to lie to me;
Just give me some tenderness
Beneath your honesty.
Take Me to the Mardi Gras
Not one of my favorite numbers on here: A bit too playful with not much underneath. Everybody loves The Big Easy. No need to get maudlin about it.
"Something So Right"
They've got a wall in China.
It's a thousand miles long.
To keep out the foreigners, they made it strong.
And I've got a wall around me
That you can't even see.
It took a little time
To get next to me.
I know it sounds a little maudlin as well, but you'd just have to hear how sincere he is when he sings it. He continues with, "When something goes wrong, I'm the first to admit it. (But) when something goes right, it's likely to lose me. It's apt to confuse me. Because it's such an unusual sight." Tell me you don't feel like that some times.
One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor
Another one I'm not too fond of. The title says it all. It's sort of like those nodes where all you need to read is the title, isn't it?
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower.
We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune.
Oh, and it's alright, it's alright, it's alright;
You can't be forever blessed.
- This is the masterpiece. No, you can't expect to be forever blessed. But, as he continues, "Tomorrow's going to be another working day, and I'm just trying to get some rest." Aren't we all? Aren't we all. No one songwriter has ever penned more masterpieces about his own country than this guy. (User Kurin tell me that "the melody for American Tune is a very famous one
and is known sometimes as the 'Passion Chorale' because so many chorales about the Crucifixion have been set to it.")
"Was A Sunny Day"
A wonderful little love song that you'll not soon forget, about a sailor that young Lorelei calls "Speedo." It takes place back in Newport News in a happier time.
"Learn How To Fall"
Another tossaway with platitudes. All you need, again, is the title to know the rest.
"St. Judy's Comet"
Well I sang it once and I sang it twice,
I'm going to sing it three times more.
I'm going to stay 'til your resistance
'Cause if I can't sing my boy to sleep
Well, it makes your famous daddy look so dumb.
A marvelous little song with pristine guitar work which will make any parent misty.
- "Loves Me Like A Rock"
The gospel tune which ends the album is one which I loathe. This is not his bailiwick, and he should avoid this genre at all costs.
Simon would go on in later years to do at least three more masterpieces. Still Crazy After All These Years came out in 1975. Hearts and Bones came out in 1983. And then Graceland came out in 1986. It would be worth your time to check out all of these records, but I would not overlook There Goes Rhymin' Simon while you're checking out those last three. It will tell you a whole lot about how he got where he was going.