Paul Simon's 'Graceland'

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There are a lot of people bagging Paul Simon on here, saying things like its good but id like it better without the drums and it was just the singer. thats crap! I think any serious musician or anyone with broad musical knowledge would know that Paul Simon is one of the greatest singer/songwriters there has and ever will be.

The graceleand album whether it is your cup of tea or not is a remarkable album from what I call a genius of a man. He is a phenomenal singer, and I think comments like eddshurts:

Anyway, I don't know--this record annoys me, actually; like many here I like that bass playing. But Paul Simon is a very annoying singer to my ears. Every time I hear this or that awful fucking Ry Cooder Buena Vista Social Club crap, I think back on the Drew Friedman cartoon of Simon and Byrne meetin' up in the jungle, both with their portable tape recorders. Still, Ry Cooder is far more the villain for doing what he did to Cuban music, in my opinion; it's ridiculous, too, that we can't *go* to Cuba easily and find out what's going on there.

Is a bunch of bullcrap ok you dont like it, but he didnt do anything to cuban music its called a striving musician growing and striving for something new and exciting, and succeeding in that too!

Like I said any good musician would have respect for if not love Paul Simon.

shane nancarrow (shane237), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 12:37 (8 years ago) Permalink

Is this the most incomprehensible ILM post ever?

Marcello Carlin (nostudium), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 12:41 (8 years ago) Permalink

I mean good god, I don't even own this record. why the hell am I so angry? this board is fucking dangerous. ok off to drink some water maybe.

ILM: Arguing About Records We Don't Own And May Not Have Even Heard

Edward Bax (EdBax), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 13:37 (8 years ago) Permalink

(M.I.A.'s next cover should definitely be "Boy in the Bubble")

The Blue Aeroplanes onced covered it, but I never found their version particularly engaging. I'm actually not sure if it was an issue with their cover specifically, or just general fatique with the song.

Edward Bax (EdBax), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 13:43 (8 years ago) Permalink

i would like the songs on Graceland if they removed the African beats and kept it to a guy and his guitar

Matter of fact, they would sound dissapointingly weak then, with the exception of "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes" and maybe one or two more. The songs were built around the African beats, and they just don't hold up as pure songs the way the songs on his earlier albums did.

Which I why I like consider "Graceland" one of his weakest albums btw.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 14:53 (8 years ago) Permalink

How is a song "purer" when its arrangements are changed? In other words, how can you separate a song from its performance? Why on earth would you want to hear "I Know What I Know" or "The Boy in the Bubble" as man-and-a-guitar?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 15:02 (8 years ago) Permalink

"Why on earth would you want to hear "I Know What I Know" or "The Boy in the Bubble" as man-and-a-guitar? "

Generally it is a good way to judge whether a song is good or not. Personally I know it would show very well how those songs are not good.

The best songs work perfectly backed by only a guitar or a piano. Always. This also includes Simon's best songs. Most of which were written in 1982-83 or earlier.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 15:21 (8 years ago) Permalink

Btw. When it comes to combining European music with African/Latin rhythms, Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel have done it a lot better than Paul Simon, because they have managed to preserve the melodic and harmonic qualities of European music in a way Simon hasn't.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 15:36 (8 years ago) Permalink

I suppose the subtlety with which Baghiti Khumalo's bass anchors the lovely vocal melody on the title track isn't enough for ya...

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 15:53 (8 years ago) Permalink

Hi Geir, do you speak in quarter-notes? Paul Simon sure doesn't sing that way. Go back to Norway.

gabbneb (gabbneb), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 15:58 (8 years ago) Permalink

Btw. When it comes to combining European music with African/Latin rhythms, Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel have done it a lot better than Paul Simon, because they have managed to preserve the melodic and harmonic qualities of European music in a way Simon hasn't.

Perhaps that's because he's American.

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 16:39 (8 years ago) Permalink

The best songs work perfectly backed by only a guitar or a piano. Always.

-- Geir Hongro (geirhon...), May 17th, 2006.

bernard snow (sixteen sergeants), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 17:13 (8 years ago) Permalink

Perhaps that's because he's American.

Western music is European.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 20:57 (8 years ago) Permalink


Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 21:03 (8 years ago) Permalink

I see, so if America = Western music = European tradition, then Lil Jon = European tradition.

gabbneb (gabbneb), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 21:30 (8 years ago) Permalink

you fuckers just made me put this record on. upthread was right: fretless bass. I am pretty sure this record was influential at a young age to rip the frets out of my chinese p-bass fake and smear it with boat lacquer. who did i think i was

neustile (neustile), Wednesday, 17 May 2006 22:01 (8 years ago) Permalink

4 months pass...
I was raised on this album and I think it's fantastic. It inspired me to buy straight township jive records are even better.

Squirrel_Police (Squirrel_Police), Thursday, 5 October 2006 21:19 (7 years ago) Permalink

Does anyone know anything about a supposed 2CD version of Graceland that I've seen being advertised?

Legit. pre-release version of a forthcoming release; rare Japanese import; bootleg; or figment of someone's imagination?

Stewart Osborne (Stewart Osborne), Friday, 6 October 2006 12:16 (7 years ago) Permalink

French erstwhile NY no-waver Lizzy Mercier-Descloux beat Simon to the punch by working with township jive musicians in 1984 on Mais où sont passées les gazelles? I've been listening to this a lot lately, and while its not as varied as the Simon album, it has much, much, more charm.

35 Hertz (35 Hertz), Friday, 6 October 2006 15:07 (7 years ago) Permalink

I was raised on it too. It remindes me of long hot car journeys through France with my parents.

chap who would dare to contain two ingredients. Tea and bags. (chap), Friday, 6 October 2006 15:51 (7 years ago) Permalink

interview with Paul in this months mojo briefly tackles the controv. - apparently the UN thing was about performance, not recording.

i have to admit i hated the record at the time (flat mate at the time played the fragger to death and killed it for me)

mark e (mark e), Friday, 6 October 2006 16:01 (7 years ago) Permalink

Interestingly, it is an extremely popular album amongst Kenyans and Tanzanians.

chap who would dare to contain two ingredients. Tea and bags. (chap), Friday, 6 October 2006 16:08 (7 years ago) Permalink

this might be my least favorite album of all time

mango selassie (teenagequiet), Friday, 6 October 2006 16:12 (7 years ago) Permalink

I was raised on it too. It remindes me of long hot car journeys through France with my parents.

ha, me too! still love love love this album.

toby (tsg20), Saturday, 7 October 2006 08:43 (7 years ago) Permalink

Anyone ever try listening to "Rhythm of the Saints" in the alternate track order? Makes for a pretty different listen, legitimacy of the alt. order aside.

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Saturday, 7 October 2006 11:17 (7 years ago) Permalink

Interesting album, and of course very innovative. I still find myself preffering "Hearts And Bones" and his earlier material, feeling that Simon lost some of his songwriting touch when he started collaborating with those African and, later, Brazilian musicians. And as for the "World Music mixed with Western music"-thing, Peter Gabriel has always been better at it.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Saturday, 7 October 2006 15:15 (7 years ago) Permalink

Good album, but some of the production is a little too 80's for my liking.

Never been a fan of the "Canned orchestra" effect

Erock Lazron (Erock Zombie), Saturday, 7 October 2006 16:15 (7 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

Rhymin' Simon: Not Welcome in East L.A.

Jambase via Stereogum ran an interview with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, recounting his band's experience with Mr. Edie Brickell in the studio for the Graceland sessions. It may not be an exact ever a doppelganger to the Don McLean/Andy Breckman experience, but needless to say "American Pie" and "Boy in the Bubble" both will cause some accelerated reflux in this particular throat from hereon:

JAMBASE: Speaking of doing a lot of different records and working with a lot of amazing songwriters, I own a ton of the records that you've done over the years. One, in particular, I'd like to ask you about is Paul Simon's Graceland. I obsessed over that thing when I was young. Do you have anyrecollections of working on it?

STEVE BERLIN: Oh, I have plenty of recollections of working on that one.I don't know if you heard the stories, but it was not a pleasant deal for us. I mean he (Simon) quite literally -- and in no way do I exaggerate whenI say -- he stole the songs from us....And you know, going into it, I had an enormous amount of respect for the guy. The early records were amazing, I loved his solo records, and I truly thought he was one of the greatest gifts to American music that there was.

At the time, we were high on the musical food chain. Paul had just come off One Trick Pony and was kind of floundering. People forget, before Graceland, he was viewed as a colossal failure. He was low. So when we were approached to do it, I was a way bigger fan than anybody else in the band. We got approached by Lenny Waronker and Mo Ostin who ran our record company [Warner Bros.], and this is the way these guys would talk -- "It would mean a lot to the family if you guys would do this for us." And we thought, "Ok well, it's for the family, so we'll do it." It sounds so unbelievably naïve and ridiculous that that would be enough of a reason to go to the studio with him.

We go into the studio, and he had quite literally nothing. I mean, he had no ideas, no concepts, and said, "Well, let's just jam." We said, "We don't really do that." ... Not by accident, not even at soundcheck. We would always just play a song.

... Paul was a very strange guy. Paul's engineer was even stranger than Paul, and he just seemed to have no clue -- no focus, no design, no real nothing. He had just done a few of the African songs that hadn't become songs yet. Those were literally jams. Or what the world came to know and I don't think really got exposed enough, is that those are actually songs by a lot of those artists that he just approved of. So that's kind of what he was doing. It was very patrician, material sort of viewpoint. Like, because I'm gonna put my stamp on it, they're now my songs. But that's literally how he approached this stuff.

I remember he played me the one he did by John Hart, and I know John Hart, the last song on the record. He goes, "Yeah, I did this in Louisiana with this zy decko guy." And he kept saying it over and over. And I remember having to tell him, "Paul, it's pronounced zydeco. It's not zy decko, it's zydeco." I mean that's how incredibly dilettante he was about this stuff. The guy was clueless.

It was ridiculous. I think David starts playing "The Myth of the Fingerprints," or whatever he ended up calling it. That was one of our songs. That year, that was a song we started working on By Light of The Moon. So that was like an existing Lobos sketch of an idea that we had already started doing. I don't think there were any recordings of it, but we had messed around with it. We knew we were gonna do it. It was gonna turn
into a song. Paul goes, "Hey, what's that?" We start playing what we have of it, and it is exactly what you hear on the record. So we're like, "Oh, ok. We'll share this song."

JAMBASE: Good way to get out of the studio, though...

STEVE BERLIN: Yeah. But it was very clear to us, at the moment, we're thinking he's doing one of our songs. It would be like if he did "Will the Wolf Survive?" Literally. A few months later, the record comes out and says "Words and Music by Paul Simon." We were like, "What the fuck is this?" We tried calling him, and we can't find him. Weeks go by and our managers can't find him. We finally track him down and ask him about oursong, and he goes, "Sue me. See what happens."

JAMBASE: What?! Come on...

STEVE BERLIN: That's what he said. He said, "You don't like it? Sue me. You'll see what happens." We were floored. We had no idea. The record comes out, and he's a big hit. Retroactively, he had to give songwriting credit to all the African guys he stole from that were working on it and everyone seemed to forget. But that's the kind of person he is. He's the world's biggest prick, basically.

So we go back to Lenny and say, "Hey listen, you stuck us in the studio with this fucking idiot for two days. We tried to get out of it, you made us stay in there, and then he steals our song?! What the hell?!" And Lenny's always a politician. He made us forget about it long enough that it went away. But to this day, I do not believe we have gotten paid for it. We certainly didn't get songwriting credit for it. And it remains an enormous bone that sticks in our craw. Had he even given us a millionth of what the song and the record became, I think we would have been - if nothing else - much richer, but much happier about the whole thing.

JAMBASE: Have you guys seen him since then?

STEVE BERLIN: No. Never run into him. I'll tell you, if the guys ever did run into him, I wouldn't want to be him, that's for sure.

Elvis Telecom, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 23:31 (6 years ago) Permalink

when I saw this thread revived I knew it was about that! they ahve been telling that story since the album came out but it seems to have gotten more traction lately. I doubt anyone is surprised to find out Paul Simon is a prick

akm, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 23:37 (6 years ago) Permalink

^^^^Not more Vampire Weekend dross?

Fer Ark, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 23:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

this thread is hilarious.

Ah yes, that was during the 1986-87 "accordion" craze, when that most ridiculed of musical instruments was suddenly and briefly "hip". People like Simon, J.C. Mellencamp, Los Lobos, Buckwheat Zydeco and others were selling many records and winning Grammys for accordion-drenched LPs. It didn't last long, but it was a fairly interesting development at the time. I never owned "Graceland" but heard it a lot from roommates when I was in school, and still like about half of the uptempo songs, mostly for the amazing fretless bass playing and, yes, the accordion.
-- Myonga Von Bontee (Myonga Von Bontee), Monday, June 7, 2004 3:16 PM (3 years ago) Bookmark Link

um, yeah. "accordion" "craze." all those grammys. even zydeco bands were getting into "accordions" at the time!

andrew m., Wednesday, 16 April 2008 15:01 (6 years ago) Permalink

and this:

i would like the songs on Graceland if they removed the African beats and kept it to a guy and his guitar.I apologise if this offends anyone because it's meant to be rascist.
-- chevy chase, Tuesday, February 8, 2005 10:16 AM (3 years ago) Bookmark Link

classic

andrew m., Wednesday, 16 April 2008 15:03 (6 years ago) Permalink

still a great album, credit is overrated

Dr Morbius, Thursday, 17 April 2008 19:43 (6 years ago) Permalink

Definitely good. Definitely overrated.

I remember at the time, Rhythm of the Saints got a very good response, but for some reason nobody talks about it now. I also think it's a much better record than Graceland.

I always liked that first single from Rhythm Of The Saints -- The Obvious Child -- way better than anything on Graceland.

Daniel, Esq., Thursday, 17 April 2008 20:03 (6 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

(M.I.A.'s next cover should definitely be "Boy in the Bubble")

Absolutely not. "I Know What I Know" is the only choice for a M.I.A cover. Besides, "Boy in the Bubble" might touch some sensitive family nerves.

bachmann boehner overdrive (kenan), Saturday, 2 May 2009 13:50 (5 years ago) Permalink

Actually, it's just a bad idea all the way around.

bachmann boehner overdrive (kenan), Saturday, 2 May 2009 13:55 (5 years ago) Permalink

3 weeks pass...

there's no general Paul Simon thread, so maybe this is as good a place as any to post... a coworker inexplicably gave me a copy of Paul Simon's "Songs from the Capeman" awhile back, just got around to listening to it now. In the first song he gets off some really clumsy lyrics but also drops "nigger" and a rather forceful "fucking" in a rather disconcerting manner... not sure why this was such a commercial/critical failure, maybe cuz the subject matter is really kinda dark and bleak and not some happy-go-lucky cheery world music fusion thing that's easy for people to grasp on a surface level (don't get me wrong I know there's dark undercurrents to all his material including Graceland and, I assume, Rhythm of the Saints, but its fairly easy to ignore unless you pay unusually close attention to lyrics).

Wrinkles, I'll See You On the Other Side (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:05 (5 years ago) Permalink

it is fairly amazing that this guy's voice has basically not changed AT ALL in 40 years

Wrinkles, I'll See You On the Other Side (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:05 (5 years ago) Permalink

this is kinda good actually - some really beautiful doowop singing on here

Wrinkles, I'll See You On the Other Side (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:11 (5 years ago) Permalink

yeah this is the only Paul Simon album I've never heard, I think! I should give it a listen.

tylerw, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:12 (5 years ago) Permalink

I love that opening song "Adios Hermanos." It's so thick with storytelling. Main problem with that album/musical was collaborating with Derek Walcott on the rest of the lyrics.

Eazy, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:13 (5 years ago) Permalink

I know this is a "musical" so maybe I should forgive some of the "speaking in character" stuff he lapses into (rolling his r's, etc. although it is kinda funny to hear him spit out "motherfuckers")

Wrinkles, I'll See You On the Other Side (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:13 (5 years ago) Permalink

should I be blaming Walcott...? There are definitely some decidedly un-subtle, non-Simonish lyrical things going on here.

Wrinkles, I'll See You On the Other Side (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:14 (5 years ago) Permalink

I haven't gotten into the rest of the album (other than the closer "Trailways Bus" kinda), but I love love how "Adios Hermanos" starts out with those super-long lines like "Gumboots" has, except in character and in a specific time and place, and how it builds into the super-long drawn-out single syllables by the end, and how it's all a cappella.

Eazy, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:17 (5 years ago) Permalink

It's pretty much on par with "Nebraska" as far as songs in which the singer ends up strapped into an electric chair.

Eazy, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:20 (5 years ago) Permalink

this is a totally ugly album (sounds really pretty tho) no wonder his audience didn't bite

sample chorus: "fucking puerto rican dope-dealing punk / get your shit-brown ass outta here"

Wrinkles, I'll See You On the Other Side (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:21 (5 years ago) Permalink

sounds like it was co-written with this guy

tylerw, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:29 (5 years ago) Permalink

It's pretty much on par with "Nebraska" as far as songs in which the singer ends up strapped into an electric chair.

just behind 'ride the lightning' though

Ømår Littel (Jordan), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:30 (5 years ago) Permalink

lolz great pic of him and Lou

Wrinkles, I'll See You On the Other Side (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:31 (5 years ago) Permalink

talkin about puerto rican doo wop, i'm sure

tylerw, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:37 (5 years ago) Permalink


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