Posts Tagged ‘Paul Simon’

‘The Ship That Sailed The Moon . . .’

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

I woke this morning (earlier than I’d have liked, due to feline interference) with “An American Tune” – the Paul Simon song – running through my head:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a fried who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s gonna be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest

Taken from the album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, the track was released as a single in November 1973 and went to No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. I’ve read over the years that the song’s stately, elegant music reflected America’s Shaker tradition, but now I notice that in Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn says Simon based the tune on the German classical piece “Oh Sacred Heart” (originally “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”), credited to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Wikipedia, however, notes that “Oh Sacred Heart” was actually the text of the German hymn, which was later paired with the melody that Simon uses. That melody, “Passion Chorale,” was written by German composer Hans Leo Hassler and was later harmonized by Bach (who used the resulting composition in several of his works, including his St Matthew Passion).

So, Hassler and Bach get credit for the melody, but the words are all Simon’s. Here’s how it sounded on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon:

After I woke with “Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower/We come on the ship that sailed the moon” running through my head,” I did two things: As I fed the cats, I tried to remember any dream I might have been having that could have brought that lyric into my head, but I failed.

And then I checked to see how long it had been since I’d mentioned the song here. It turns out that in more than fourteen years, “An American Tune” has never been mentioned here. Not once. I know I thought about writing about the song at various times in the four years just past and then decided against it; the words were cutting too closely to my heart. But today it seemed to be about time the song got some attention.

So, there it is, and it might be useful to remember that when Simon released the song as a single, in November 1973, the U.S. was hip-deep in Watergate and heading into a recession that would last a year-and-a-half. An uncertain hour, indeed.

Back In ’75

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Here are the top ten albums from the Billboard 200 released on November 22, 1975, forty-two years ago today:

Rock of the Westies by Elton John
Windsong by John Denver
Red Octopus by Jefferson Starship
Prisoner In Disguise by Linda Ronstadt
Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon
Wind On The Water by David Crosby & Graham Nash
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen
The Who By Numbers by the Who
Breakaway by Art Garfunkel

Over the years, seven of those albums ended up in the vinyl stacks; the only three that didn’t were the albums by John Denver, by the Who, and by David Crosby and Graham Nash. (Wind On The Water, however, has a place on the digital shelves while the other two of those three albums do not.) The first two to show up were the Paul Simon and the Art Garfunkel, both of which landed on my shelves about the time I graduated from St. Cloud State in February 1976. The latest acquired was the Linda Ronstadt album in 1994.

So are any of these essential listening right now? (And let’s just put Born To Run in that category without going any further; I’ve likely said all I ever need to say about that album.)

Beyond that, if we look at the current iteration of the iPod’s playlist we find:

Five tracks from Breakaway, with my favorite likely being Garfunkel’s cover of Albert Hammond’s “99 Miles From L.A.”

Two tracks from Still Crazy . . . but that’s a bit misleading: “My Little Town,” the late 1975 single by Simon & Garfunkel, was on both of their solo albums that autumn, and I happened to pull it into the iPod from Garfunkel’s album.

Two tracks from Red Octopus. One, for long-time readers, is obvious: “Miracles.” The other surprises me a little, but then, the current iPod stock was the result of fast and instinctive clicking, and during that whirlwind, I also pulled in “Play On Love.”

Just one track, “Love Is A Rose,” from Ronstadt’s Prisoner In Disguise. As I rebuild the iPod’s playlist in a couple of days – it’s part of the process of getting my tunes saved on two new three-terabyte external drives – I’ll likely add “The Tracks Of My Tears.”

And one track from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here is currently in the iPod: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” I imagine the title track will be pulled into the iPod during the next rebuild.

And, of course, all eight tracks from Born To Run are in the iPod. But excluding that album, which of the other albums on the Top Ten from forty-two years ago today do I see as essential listening? I guess I’d say Still Crazy After All These Years. And I recall hearing “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” on a snowy weekend evening in December 1975, as I took home the young woman who would become the Other Half. We were sure we’d never need any of those fifty ways.