PaulSimon-Front#20 – Paul Simon – “Mother and Child Reunion” – (1972)

This song, which hit #4 in the U.S., has a weird reggae element to it and Paul Simon has said that the title comes from a chicken and egg dish on a restaurant menu. Which is a little disturbing, but darkly hilarious. This was Simon’s second solo album and this is one of two amazing songs from it. That reggae bit, though, gives this one the edge.

There_Goes_Rhymin'_Simon#3 – Paul Simon – “Kodachrome” – (1973)

Paul Simon is responsible for some catchy songs – this among the finest (nothing beats “You Can Call Me Al”). Sadly, many people who are being introduced to this song for the first time don’t even know what Kodachrome is or that Kodak required it to be trademarked on the album’s song list. This song hit #2 on the Hot 100.

USA for Africa – “We are the World” – (1985)

Charity singles. The U.K. goes crazy for them and has them all the time. It doesn’t work so well here in the U.S. Perhaps it’s because this track. I’m not sure. It’s definitely cheesy and a part of 1980s culture. This was a group of singers who came together to perform a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and sell it to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The whole thing was inspired by Band Aid (from the U.K.). It ended up raising $100 million and selling over 20 million copies (impressive). Annoyingly, USA for Africa stands for “United Support of Artists for Africa” and that’s because a few of the artists weren’t American. Here’s everyone other than Jackson and Richie who were involved: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof (who was responsible for Band Aid), both Hall and Oates, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson (the one from the Jackson 5… not the one from American Idol), Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News (the whole band), Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, all three Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder. Yeah, pretty impressive. Look at how many of those people are respectable and/or legendary (many of them) and think about how that would play out today. Do we really need Bieber and Kesha and company coming together for charity? That’s the exact reason charity singles don’t work in the U.S. anymore. The current crop of North American are trash. Also: not how hilariously out of place Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan sound here.

Paul Simon – “Graceland” – (1986)

Another song here that doesn’t really make sense. But this was the song I was listening to when one of the most surreal experiences of my life occurred. I was riding a TGV at full speed – 186 mph – through France as the sun was setting. The sky was orange and pink and blue and then we just went blasting through an expansive field of sunflowers – as far as the eye could see for what seemed like forever but must’ve really been about 30 seconds. Paul Simon singing about going to Graceland to this awesome beat and me with my head sideways on the headrest staring out the window as the sunflowers wilted in the breeze of the train. It was incredible.

#4 – Paul Simon – “You Can Call Me Al” – (1986)

This stands as one of – if not the – catchiest song I have ever heard. Name another song with such a prominent trumpet and pennywhistle. Yeah, didn’t think so. Somehow, Paul Simon had bigger solo hits than this as “You Can Call Me Al” only went to #23. The entire Graceland album is brilliant, incorporating sounds of South Africa (and you can hear a little of it on this track). The hook is impossible to get out of your head once it’s there, and for some reason, I don’t mind it one bit. The video is hard to turn off, with Chevy Chase lip-synching and him and Paul Simon playing instruments and dancing. Trivia: the title of Collective Soul’s 1993 album Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid is taken from this song. You have no idea how proud I was of myself the day I figured that out my own. The lyrics can be interpreted as a man having a mid-life crisis, and because I love it, here they are, in their entirety:

 

A man walks down the street

He says why am I soft in the middle now

Why am I soft in the middle

The rest of my life is so hard

I need a photo opportunity

I want a shot at redemption

Don’t want to end up a cartoon

In a cartoon graveyard

Bonedigger bonedigger

Dogs in the moonlight

Far away my well-lit door

Mr. Beerbelly Beerbelly

Get these mutts away from me

You know I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore

 

If you’ll be my bodyguard

I can be your long lost pal

I can call you Betty

And Betty when you call me

You can call me Al

 

A man walks down the street

He says why am I short of attention

Got a short little span of attention

And wo my nights are so long

Where’s my wife and family

What if I die here

Who’ll be my role model

Now that my role model is

Gone gone

He ducked back down the alley

With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl

All along along

There were incidents and accidents

There were hints and allegations

 

If you’ll be my bodyguard

I can be your long lost pal

I can call you Betty

And Betty when you call me

You can call me Al

Call me Al

 

A man walks down the street

It’s a street in a strange world

Maybe it’s the Third World

Maybe it’s his first time around

Doesn’t speak the language

He holds no currency

He is a foreign man

He is surrounded by the sound

The sound

Cattle in the marketplace

Scatterlings and orphanages

He looks around, around

He sees angels in the architecture

Spinning in infinity

He says Amen! and Hallelujah!

 

If you’ll be my bodyguard

I can be your long lost pal

I can call you Betty

And Betty when you call me

You can call me Al

Call me Al