Paul Simon's 'Graceland'

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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 (eleven 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 (eleven years ago) Permalink

this might be my least favorite album of all time

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

one 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 (nine 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 (nine years ago) Permalink

^^^^Not more Vampire Weekend dross?

Fer Ark, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 23:40 (nine 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 (nine 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


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

still a great album, credit is overrated

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

one 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 (eight years ago) Permalink

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

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

three 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight years ago) Permalink

sounds like it was co-written with this guy

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

talkin about puerto rican doo wop, i'm sure

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

("puerto rican doo wop" being the name of a sweet strain of cocaine in the late 70s)

tylerw, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 22:38 (eight years ago) Permalink

one month passes...

okay, cheeseball me got a little choked up randomly hearing this "Father and Daughter" song off of "Surprise" while swimming with my daughter

Sleep Causes Cancer (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 8 July 2009 22:50 (eight years ago) Permalink

It's a good song!

My name is Kenny! (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 8 July 2009 22:52 (eight years ago) Permalink

His singing especially: it's self-mocking yet totally sincere.

My name is Kenny! (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Wednesday, 8 July 2009 22:53 (eight years ago) Permalink

I had never heard it before but yeah struck me as pretty vintage Simon right off the bat

Sleep Causes Cancer (Shakey Mo Collier), Wednesday, 8 July 2009 22:57 (eight years ago) Permalink

liked this song except for the cartoony backing vocals ...

tylerw, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 22:58 (eight years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

This fucking album wow.

Bay-L.A. Bar Talk (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 13 October 2009 05:59 (eight years ago) Permalink


iatee, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:02 (eight years ago) Permalink


ice cr?m, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:02 (eight years ago) Permalink

first cd ever owned and I think I want it to be last thing I listen to before I die

Bay-L.A. Bar Talk (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 13 October 2009 06:11 (eight years ago) Permalink

It was my soundtrack to this last summer. I kept putting on the song "Graceland" just to hear it alone, and then listening to the whole album anyway. And then I'd listen again.

Euler, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 07:48 (eight years ago) Permalink

it has been the soundtrack to so many of my summers

just sayin, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 08:03 (eight years ago) Permalink

I remember seeing the Graceland concert film this comes from in Music class back in Kindergarten onward whenever it was time to study "World Music." IIRC we never got to sing any of the songs.

Roomful of Moogs (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 14 October 2009 00:28 (eight years ago) Permalink

My soundtrack to family car journeys in England. So many good memories.

sam500, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 00:31 (eight years ago) Permalink

x post.

growing up, it was such a part of my family holidays in the car. I now have a copy just to repeat the experience with my family.

its a best of Paul Simon CD but 40% of it is Gracelend so I don't feel I'm missing out.

my opinionation (Hamildan), Wednesday, 14 October 2009 19:22 (eight years ago) Permalink

growing up, it was such a part of my family holidays in the car.

Same for me. It always gives me flashbacks to the smell of hire cars and the South of France.

chap, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 19:24 (eight years ago) Permalink

growing up, it was such a part of my family holidays in the car. I now have a copy just to repeat the experience with my family.

ha, me too! I had no idea this was a universal

Ismael Klata, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 19:28 (eight years ago) Permalink

I didn't grow up with it, but it was the last "family record" we had, coming out just as we stopped being able to do things as a unit. So it's nostalgic, but in a bittersweet sort of way.

from alcoholism to fleshly concerns (contenderizer), Wednesday, 14 October 2009 19:28 (eight years ago) Permalink

Since it was the first CD my family owned (and I think the ONLY pop/rock CD for some time) it was a family experience for me as well - I was still young enough that I would listen to the music my parents liked, and it was an album the whole family seemed to really like.

Bay-L.A. Bar Talk (Hurting 2), Wednesday, 14 October 2009 20:06 (eight years ago) Permalink

def universally approved of in my family too

ice cr?m, Thursday, 15 October 2009 05:58 (eight years ago) Permalink

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