Friday, September 30, 2016

Episode 272: Rhymin' Paul Simon

Episode 272: Rhymin' Paul Simon
Pat and Kyle welcome David Wild back to the Co-Host chair to discuss the solo music career of the legendary Paul Simon.
From September 29, 2016

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat, Kyle, and David Wild welcome us to the show. David is fresh off his recent hiking and Tennis excursions to talk about the solo career of Paul Simon. David will actually be interviewing Paul at the Grammy Museum. David has felt so connected to Paul throughout his entire life, from their shared Jewish heritage to David's first memories of music being Simon & Garfunkel songs like "Bridge over Troubled Water" and "Mrs. Robinson." "That would explain my love of MILF porn," suggests David.
00:05:00 David expresses his appreciation for Paul as both a musician and a mentor to other musicians like Lyle Lovett and Billy Joel. When he heard Paul's recent release Stranger to Stranger, he was amazed at how fresh it sounded. "He's never been irrelevant," says David. "Or boring," replies Pat. David remembers hearing Graceland while working at Rolling Stone and flipping out over it, and how Paul was able to reinvent himself as a singer-songwriter.
00:10:00 Pat and David talk about Paul's humor and appearances on Saturday Night Live. David's talked to him a bunch and considers him both very smart and very dry in his wit; one of the two smartest people he's ever interviewed in music (the other being Bowie). To David, his songs are standards in and of themselves.
00:15:00 Is he the greatest American songwriter? Pat thinks so. David thinks of Paul and Bob Dylan as two uncles, one a little crazier than the other. But David has talked with both Bob and Paul and the two are more similar than one would think. And he saw them together at the Hollywood Bowl in 1999 on Dylan's Never Ending Tour. Now, on to the music. This will only be about the SOLO Simon work, as a Simon & Garfunkel episode is coming later in the year.
00:20:00 The first solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook, was recorded and released in the UK in 1965 while Paul was still in Simon & Garfunkel. David plays the track "I Am a Rock". The album was recorded after the first Simon & Garfunkel album came out. When Paul came back from England, he rerecorded a lot of the songs on the solo album for Sounds of Silence, the second Simon & Garfunkel album. David remarks that this is indicative of the Simon & Garfunkel relationship: Paul would sometimes lend his songs to Art's voice; the problem is that that doesn't always work out.
00:25:00 Pat jumps to 1972 and Paul's self-titled solo album, released after Simon & Garfunkel broke up. David notes that there are always tensions between duos where one does more work than the other. Art was a great singer, but Paul sang and wrote the songs. Things just broke down and they parted ways. Pat plays the song "Duncan".
00:30:00 What David finds admirable about Paul is his exploration of other cultures and his ability to put his stamp on them. He remembers going to a Jewish Chinese restaurant named "Ginsburg and Wong's" with his dad when he was a kid and seeing a chicken-and-egg dish on the menu that was called "Mother and Child Reunion". David remarks the contrast between the mournful lyrics and the hopeful reggae lyrics. "Crazily brilliant," describes David.
00:35:00 David surmises that Paul (along with people like Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan) are the last generation of people that didn't grow up with rock and roll dominating the music scene, so there are latin influences and early folk influences abound. We hear the former in David's second pick off the album, "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard". The lyrics are very evocative and allow the listener to form their own images in their head.
00:40:00 Pat and David talk about Paul being an incredible guitar player, better than people realize. He may not be able to pull off a Steve Vai electric guitar solo, but those are two different worlds. We move on to 1973's There Goes Rhymin' Simon and Pat plays the opening song "Kodachrome". Don Draper would be proud of that ad work.
00:45:00 Paul is very much into the art of production, whereas Dylan is all about "less is more." "But it's not a bombastic production," describes Pat, and David concurs. As for the comparison between Paul and Neil Diamond, Pat feels like Neil went the more Vegas-y kitschy route, while Paul did not.
00:50:00 Pat and David talk about the New York education of the Simon & Garfunkel era, as well as David's close NYC connection to Paul, before David plays "American Tune". It's a song that is making a statement about the American experience without falling into the traps of being "rah-rah."
00:55:00 In 1975, Simon & Garfunkel reunited on a song that was on both of their solo records called "My Little Town", found on Paul's Still Crazy After All These Years. Pat recommends these early solo albums because they are quick and easy to listen to with little-to-no filler. Pat's pick off the album is "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover".
01:00:00 David remembers being oddly afraid of this song when he was a lad. Perhaps it was the word "lover" or the fact that it came out when his parents were divorcing, but he had this uncomfortable feeling whenever he heard the song. It's all about the timing of when a song hits you, he surmises. After releasing Still Crazy, Paul puts out a greatest hits album called Greatest Hits, Etc. with a song called "Slip Slidin' Away".
01:05:00 David compliments the song for being a profound life lesson, all the while Paul is only 36. He remembers interviewing Paul's son Harper Simon about his first album, which was being released when Harper was 37. So Paul had done all of Simon & Garfunkel and all those big early solo albums at the age before Harper even released his first album. Pat cannot fathom how the sons of famous rock stars--Jakob Dylan, Julian Lennon, etc.--can even think of getting out of the shadows of their fathers. David commends Jakob for naming his band The Wallflowers and not banking on the name Dylan.
01:10:00 The next Paul Simon album on the docket is One-Trick Pony, the soundtrack to Paul's film of the same name. It's not Pat's favorite Paul album. David remembers seeing the movie on a date and it's not that bad. The film is about Paul's character being a 60s folk star who hasn't had a hit in ten years and is trying to record a new album. Pat plays the big hit off the album, "Late in the Evening". The problem with Pat is that there is nothing on the album that comes close to that song.
01:15:00 David plays the 60s hit that Paul's character had in the film called "Soft Parachutes". Then he plays a song called "That's Why God Made the Movies". Pat's gonna make sure that he re-listens to this album. But an album that he won't have to re-listen to because he listens to it a lot is 1983's Hearts and Bones, which Pat and David agree is their favorite Paul Simon album. Pat plays the opening track "Allergies".
01:20:00 Hearts and Bones was supposed to be a reunion album for Simon & Garfunkel, but Garfunkel was ultimately stripped from the record. David guesses that Art's voice ultimately didn't fit with the songs that Paul was writing, especially since Paul's marriage with Carrie Fisher was collapsing. David also talks about a cultural discomfort at the time of having two guys working side-by-side, expressing their feelings. Pat says Hall & Oates' album covers did not help matters. But it's a generational thing.
01:25:00 For David's first song from Hearts and Bones, he picks a song called "Train in the Distance". David calls the song not just witty, but poetically true: "Everybody loves a train in the distance." Everybody is searching for something true.
01:30:00 Paul can write about big things, but he doesn't come across as hokey. Pat's second pick from the album is "When Numbers Get Serious". David's second pick is "Think Too Much (a)", one of two versions of the same song on the album. Despite critical success, the album was a commercial failure. Maybe he was considered a square, maybe he wasn't "hip" with the MTV crowd.
01:35:00 David plays one more track from Hearts and Bones, the title track "Heart and Bones". It features what David considers the greatest Jewish reference, "one and one-half wandering Jews." Pat guesses that if the album cover said "Simon & Garfunkel," the album would have been a hit. David was listening to the Concert in Central Park reunion album and brings up the Everly Brothers. He considers them the most overlooked group in rock and roll history because of their influence on so many bands.
01:40:00 David has spent his entire working life heralding the Everly Brothers. "They're the untold great story of everything I love in music," he says. Going back to Paul, he bounces back from Hearts and Bones in a MASSIVE way with 1986's Graceland. "Oh Billy Billy Billy, this is the big one, Billy," as Judge Smails would say. David calls it one of the heights of recording music, along with Earth, Wind & Fire and those mid-70s Stevie Wonder albums. Pat's pick off Graceland is the closing song "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints".
01:45:00 David loves how Paul finds the common ground in music with different cultures. He plays "I Know What I Know". African music infused with American pop. That's the key to the album. Oh, and a shitload of hits. That helps too. The follow up album, The Rhythm of the Saints, tries to capture a lot of the same spirit as Graceland. David plays the opening track "The Obvious Child". Pat feels a little bummed out because the song set him up for Graceland 2, but the album didn't live up to it. "But nothing can live up to Graceland," replies David.
01:50:00 Pat's pick off the album is a song called "Proof". Seven years later, Paul writes a Broadway musical called The Capeman and releases an album called Songs from The Capeman. Neither the album nor the musical were successes. David plays a song called "Trailways Bus". David saw the play. It wasn't totally bad, it just didn't coalesce completely. Pat gives Paul credit for not going the easy route and doing a jukebox musical; the guy wrote AN ENTIRE MUSICAL of new songs.
01:55:00 Once again, Paul bounces back with 2000's You're the One. David plays "Old". David considers it on par with his other hit songs, but the generation it connects with aren't the record-buying generation anymore. Pat plays a song called "Darling Lorraine". Not his most well-known album, but still one that earned him a Grammy nomination, making him the first artist to get a Grammy nom for Album of the Year in FIVE CONSECUTIVE DECADES!!!
02:00:00 After another six years, Paul releases Surprise. David plays the song "Outrageous". The song exemplifies why David loves Paul so much, because he sings about being an older rock star and the consequences therein. You don't hear Mick Jagger singing about losing his looks or aging. Kyle notes how the music sounds very Top 40 of the time. That's also why David loves Paul, because he's got soul. He's got a groove to him.
02:05:00 Still on the upswing, Paul releases So Beautiful or So What in 2011. David plays the track "Rewrite". It's a meta song with many levels: A song about writing a song called "Rewrite." Pat plays the opening track "Getting Ready for Christmas Day".
02:10:00 The new album is Stranger to Stranger, which came out this June. To Pat, this doesn't feel like a farewell album. It's just one more great Paul Simon album. David loves that Paul is still making new music. Hell, he loves when ANY older artist makes new music and doesn't just rely on the hits. David plays the song "Cool Papa Bell". A fun song and a rarity: Paul swears!
02:15:00 Thanks once again to David for coming on the show and bringing his wit, wisdom, and life experiences to the show. Nobody has the stories that David has and they are always spectacular to hear. And thanks to Kyle for producing the show while sick. Get some chicken soup, young man. Pat plays his track from Stranger to Stranger, "The Werewolf". Then David takes us out with a track that he feels is so apropos of his life called "Wristband".
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:20:00 I Am a Rock The Paul Simon Songbook Paul Simon David
00:25:00 Duncan Paul Simon Paul Simon Pat
00:30:00 Mother and Child Reunion Paul Simon Paul Simon David
00:35:00 Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard Paul Simon Paul Simon David
00:40:00 Kodachrome There Goes Rhymin’ Simon Paul Simon Pat
00:50:00 American Tune There Goes Rhymin’ Simon Paul Simon David
00:55:00 My Little Town Still Crazy After All These Years Paul Simon David
00:55:00 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover Still Crazy After All These Years Paul Simon feat. The Band Pat
01:00:00 Slip Slidin’ Away Greatest Hits, Etc. Paul Simon David
01:10:00 Late in the Evening One-Trick Pony Paul Simon Pat
01:15:00 Soft Parachutes One-Trick Pony Paul Simon David
01:15:00 That’s Why God Made the Movies One-Trick Pony Paul Simon David
01:15:00 Allergies Hearts and Bones Paul Simon Pat
01:25:00 Train in the Distance Hearts and Bones Paul Simon David
01:30:00 When Numbers Get Serious Hearts and Bones Paul Simon Pat
01:30:00 Think Too Much (a) Hearts and Bones Paul Simon David
01:35:00 Hearts and Bones Hearts and Bones Paul Simon David
01:40:00 All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints Graceland Paul Simon Pat
01:45:00 I Know What I Know Graceland Paul Simon David
01:45:00 The Obvious Child The Rhythm of the Saints Paul Simon David
01:50:00 Proof The Rhythm of the Saints Paul Simon Pat
01:50:00 Trailways Bus Songs from the Capeman Paul Simon David
01:55:00 Old You’re the One Paul Simon Pat
01:55:00 Darling Lorraine You’re the One Paul Simon David
02:00:00 Outrageous Surprise Paul Simon David
02:05:00 Rewrite So Beautiful or So What Paul Simon David
02:05:00 Getting Ready for Christmas Day So Beautiful or So What Paul Simon Pat
02:10:00 Cool Papa Bell Stranger to Stranger Paul Simon David
02:15:00 The Werewolf Stranger to Stranger Paul Simon Pat
02:15:00 Wristband Stranger to Stranger Paul Simon David

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