Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Paul’s Simon’s music was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. Between 1972 & 1974, my family spent the summers at a bungalow colony in Monroe, New York, which was about 2 hours drive from our house but seemed to be a million miles from home. When I think back to those summers (ages 6-8), two songs immediately come to mind: Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ In The Years” and Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.” It’s fitting that both songs have nostalgic themes, as they will always be associated with some of my earliest memories.
Over the next several years, Paul Simon’s songs were everywhere: “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard,” “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” “Mother And Child Reunion,” “Slip Slidin’ Away,” “Still Crazy After All These Years,” and many others. Of course, I haven’t even mentioned his hits as part of Simon & Garfunkel (whose catalog I will revisit in the future), so his name, his voice, his songs have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. During my pre-teen years, I recall his many appearances on Saturday Night Live, most notably in November 1976 when he sang part of “Still Crazy…” while wearing a turkey costume. He also made a memorable appearance in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall, one of my favorite comedies.
For many years, the only Paul Simon record I owned was Greatest Hits, Etc. (1977), which collects 14 of his truly “greatest” songs up to that point. Like many other people, I also purchased his “comeback” album Graceland when it was released in 1986, but I didn’t own most of his individual albums until about 10-15 years ago. Although I’ve listened to each of them numerous times, I tend to recall the hit songs and forget the album tracks. I don’t think that’s because the quality of the songs isn’t as good, it’s just that the hits have been so ubiquitous that they tend to overpower the lesser-known songs. By revisiting his catalog in the coming weeks, I hope to get better acquainted with these while also possibly uncovering some new and interesting facts about the hits.
I own all of his albums (other than some compilations), and in looking at his catalog now before revisiting it, I believe his strongest material appeared on the earlier albums for Columbia Records, followed by a downturn in the late-70s & early ‘80s, a resurgence with Graceland, and then hit-and-miss since then. I do remember really enjoying his critically reviled Songs From The Capeman, and his latest, So Beautiful Or So What, has been growing on me since I bought it a few months ago. I’m always curious to see if my initial impressions hold up, or if my opinions change when listening to the albums in succession. A friend who’s a big Paul Simon fan recently told me that 2006’s Surprise is one of the best things he’s done, so it’ll be interesting to see if I have the same reaction.
I’ll return next week with my thoughts on his first few albums, released just after the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel. I know there are a lot of Paul Simon fans out there, so as always I invite you to share your thoughts in the Comments sections as my re-appraisal of his catalog progresses.
As I mentioned over on the ICE boards, I’ve been off and on as a Paul Simon fan over the years. I guess it was those many appearances on Saturday Night Live that turned me off of Paul Simon for awhile. This was in the 80s and I was at the height of my new wave phase, so I guess it just bugged me that Simon was on SNL every time one turned around instead of, say, Blancmange. Anyway, I’ve matured a little since then and I now realize that Simon is indeed a great artist. I only have a few of his albums but I’ve heard them all through Rhythm of the Saints, so I’m curious to see what you have to say about his work.
Hi Glenn. It’s funny how we go through phases where musicians we like get on our nerves, but we eventually come back around to them. As much as I liked “Graceland,” I agree that he seemed to appear on SNL way too often in the mid- to late-80s. I got “Rhythm Of The Saints” when it was released but it never made much of an impact on me, which is why I’m looking forward to visiting it with fresh ears. Which albums of his do you own? Do you have any favorites, or do you tend to just like the hits?
I currently only have Rhymin Simon, Still Crazy and Graceland, but I like both hits and non-hits from those albums. If and when I can fill in the holes in my collection, I’d concentrate on the pre-Graceland stuff first, as I’ve heard it all and I know it’s good. Except for a promo CD I picked up with one track from Surprises, I’ve heard almost nothing of his more recent material, so I’m looking forward to your assessment.
All of his albums through “Still Crazy…” are essential, and I can say that even before spending quality time with them in the next week. I’m interested to see how “One Trick Pony” and “Hearts & Bones” hold up. I remember loving the song “Allergies” (from the latter album), but that was because of the great guitar work of Al DiMeola. I’m sure you remember how he was almost a forgotten artist when “Graceland” came out. That really re-established him, and he’s been revered ever since.