Sunday, October 09, 2016


Things have not gone well for Paul Simon lately.

There was that odd "domestic violence" incident, where the diminutive singer-songwriter was accused of attacking his willowy wife, Edie Brickell. (Edie refused to press charges, and then went off to co-write a Broadway musical with Steve Martin).

Paul's newest album got the same reviews as always: "Not as good as the last one." A charity appearance (was it at the tribute to Joan Baez or at the convention nominating Hillary Clinton?) had critics moaning that his singing was off.

He then declared that he was most likely retiring from the road, because at 74, he simply was sick and tired of it.

And now? A new bio threatens to close the book on him.

How's THIS for a headline?

At least this news seems a little more important than Matt Damon grumbling about Trump, or some media whore posing in her bra.

I have not read the book.

I will not DIGNIFY it by buying it.

I will, however, download it when it becomes available on a torrent.

Not that I expect much. This guy Carlin is a hack, and a shitty writer. From the "juicy" quotes the newspapers have printed so far, this guy seems like even more of a presumptuous prat than Paul could ever be. How about this:

"On a darker day Paul would examine his friend from afar and feel a pulse of bile. Why had Artie gotten to be so blessed, with his height, his voice, his hair? And why did Paul have to be so dependent on him?"

Or this:

"For fuck sake! He'd known Artie since they were eleven: Artie with braces, Artie with zits, Artie with a Yarmulke on his head surrounded by all the bearded Jews hoisting the Torah around the synagogue in Queens."

Yeah? Where was Carlin? Not even born yet? It's a bit too easy to come up with this kind of psycho-babble, and to accentuate the rivalry that did and still does exist between the two. It's also easy to cut and paste from the many articles that have touched on Paul not giving credit where it's due.

The stories about Simon being sulky or nasty or arrogantly grabbing somebody else's work are not new.

Rolling Stone ran a piece several years ago about how Paul ripped off Los Lobos, and pretty much said "Sue me," to the bewildered band members. Then there's the question of the mysterious "Red Rubber Ball" which was a Bruce Woodley co-write. Or did Bruce write the whole thing, and "Cloudy," too?

There's no question that Paul IS a genius and DID write most of his own stuff. But just as Dylan has been plagued with a few plagiarism rumors, Paul's been under the microscope from time to time. There's also the question of just how "fair" it is to do what so many performers do...have someone come in and do "editorial" work for a straight cash fee, add some lyrics or chord changes, and NOT get a co-write credit.

I've heard rumors, but I'll leave it at that.

The book no doubt also will offer a few stories that will indicate Paul is a prick. Would this come as any surprise? It's the "ordinary temperament of genius," as Mr. Poe once phrased it. It's possible to be warm, have a sense of humor, be very sensitive...and also be a perfectionist, selfish, and sometimes loutish.

Below? Well, below is an example of the songwriter at work, and proof that Paul has done what all great songwriters have something to make it better. Bob Dylan was and is notorious for re-writing lyrics even as he records them, and once famously scrapped an album at the last minute ("Blood on the Tracks") to re-do most of it with a new band and in some cases, revised lyrics.

This Simon "first audio draft" has the famous "Zoo" melody, but the lyrics are different.

Just as Paul McCartney mumbled "Scrambled Eggs" before he arrived at "Yesterday," Paul Simon had some similar breakfast problems, before taking his words to the zoo instead:

"Something tells me things have changed since I've been gone.
My bowl of Rice Krispies ain't what it used to be!"
His lady friend isn't what she used to be, either:
"Your eyes are filled with icicles, your touch is bitter cold.
And I know I have been on the road too long..."
Hear what happens when you're so alienated, your bowl of Rice Krispies gives you the silent treatment.



Brian Prebble said...

The Bruce Woodley/Seekers/Paul Simon connection is a strange one where facts appear to be hazy as there was another song "I Wish You Could Be Here" he and Simon co-wrote which was a 1967 single for The Cyrkle and a late 1966 album track for The Seekers who also covered "Cloudy" on the album after that. The Seekers also had a hit in March/April 1966 with "Someday One Day" - there exists a video of them at that time (London Palladium, earliest existing UK colour videotape recording) performing the song live and in their intro state that they had met Paul Simon backstage at a gig and that Paul had written it himself. I've not seen or heard any recording of that song by Paul. So that's a handful of songs connected with Simon and Woodley which I'm guessing were written in late 1965 during Paul's famous era slumming it playing the folkie clubs across the UK just before Simon and Garfunkel broke big.

Either way, Paul slagged The Seekers off in an interview in 1967 when he expressed disbelief that The Bachelors had scored a big hit (and not him and Artie) in the UK with "Sounds Of Silence" and at the same time grumbled that The Seekers also doing his songs were the sort of acts he didn't like - too middle of the road for him and appealing to the wrong audience! Bet he still cashed the royalty checks though! It is also fair to argue that as happened with The Beatles, MOR acts covering those songs helped give them more exposure and increased their fanbase for as we know, Simon and Garfunkel appealed to people of all ages. I'm sure John and Paul squirmed at the sight and sound of elder singers covering some of their songs (Bing's version of "Hey Jude" still takes some beating) but hey, they never turned their noses up at the additional revenue (nor Dick James, but that's another story!)

As for Paul's alleged "stealing", who didn't and doesn't "steal" to this day? This new book simply over-amplifies and dramatises guff we've known about for decades. Sure many of our heroes can be pricks as people (arise Sir McCartney!) but that still doesn't stop them from writing great songs or our enjoyment of them.

Ill Folks said...

It's interesting how something simple gets shaded by time and vanity.

Paul once was quoted as saying "Red Rubber Ball" was written "to get a £100 advance from The Seekers." What? The Seekers were famous, he wasn't, so he thought he'd write a tune for them? And Woodley then demanded a co-credit?

According to Woodley, "I had the melody completed virtually and he wrote probably 80 per cent of the lyrics on that. I got shafted on Red Rubber Ball, the way the contract was framed out of England, and for years I only got 25 per cent instead of 50.
I continually wrote to him and said: ' This is not right, this is totally unfair.'
It was only six or seven years ago that that I finally got him to agree to give me 50 per cent of the song I wrote with him. It was like getting blood out of a stone."

Infamously, "Cloudy" in America (on the "Parsley Sage" S&G album) only credits Paul Simon. Unlike the other two songs with Woodley, "Cloudy" is controlled worldwide by Simon's own Charing Cross publishing company.

The Cyrkle opened for S&G and supposedly Paul generously offered them "Red Rubber Ball" and "I Wish You Could Be Here." Both were credited as Simon-Woodley compositions on The Cyrkle releases.

It took a LONG time for "The Paul Simon Songbook" album to be released in America. It finally turned up on CD. An irony is that now several companies have issued "Jerry Landis" and "Tom and Jerry" singles, which apparently are now in public domain. Yet Paul hasn't cared to issue an "official bootleg" on that stuff.

"Someday One Day" is officially credited as written by Paul Simon by himself (even if it was covered by Woodley's group The Seekers).

Supposedly Simon and Garfunkel made demos of "I Wish You Could Be Here" and something called "Bad News Feeling." What's Paul got against "Someday One Day?"

Brian Prebble said...

Thanks for the additional info... had often wondered about the credits of those songs and didn't know that Woodley finally won through on the credit of "Red Rubber Ball" - I'd forgotten The Seekers did a version of that song on the same album "Wish" appeared on.

Woodley certainly made no claims to "Someday One Day" - as the 1966 TV intro proved, they stated it was written by Paul Simon (this was March 66, so S+G were only just starting to get noticed) whereas I think later on, he would proudly introduce "Wish" and say he'd written it with Paul by which time S+G were outselling The Seekers! Strange that Paul seems dismissive of "Someday" - wasn't a bad song at all, certainly well suited for The Seekers and better than a couple on the S+G albums... Philippic springs immediately to mind!

A pity those S+G demos haven't surfaced assuming they were made since I can imagine how they'd have arranged "Wish" - it's funny you mention "The Paul Simon Songbook" as until the CD was released in around 2003, that was a bloody hard album to find despite it being pressed again for a short time in the early 70's... I managed to find one of those and in my then large circle of friends became popular as some came round to visit me just to listen to that album being the one Paul Simon album that had always eluded them. For good measure, I would follow it up by pulling out that Seekers album and play "Wish" - they were always well received. Not bad considering almost 35 years had passed since they were first recorded.

Woodley is a bit of an odd guy. In the early 90's he went into a diatribe about The Seekers being reissued on CD in an edition of Record Collector. His bugbear? CD's were supposed to be digital, therefore they were not digital recordings so he thought that was conning and deceiving the public! Duh! Bet he just lurves streams and downloads...