Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Paul Simon

"Train in the Distance"-- Paul Simon (Hearts and Bones, 1983)

She was beautiful as southern skies
The night he met her
She was married to someone
He was doggedly determined that he would get her
He was old, he was young
From time to time he'd tip his heart
But each time she withdrew
Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance
Everybody thinks its true
Well eventually the boy and the girl get married
Sure enough they have a son
And though they both were occupied
With the child she carried
Disagreements had begun
And in a while they fell apart
It wasn't hard to do
Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance
Everybody thinks its true
Two disappointed believers
Two people playing the game
Negotiations and love songs
Are often mistaken for one and the same
Now the man and the woman
Remain in contact
Let us say its for the child
With disagreements about the meaning
Of a marriage contract
Conversations hard and wild
But from time to time
He makes her laugh
She cooks a meal or two
Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance
Everybody thinks its true
Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance
Everybody thinks its true
What is the point of this story?
What information pertains?
The thought that life could be better
Is woven indelibly
Into our hearts
And our brains
When I was a young girl, I learned to operate my Dad's somewhat involved stereo system at about 6 years of age. It wasn't long before I was designated the only person Dad would HAPPILY allow to use his equipment. Mom and Dad didn't have a huge record collection, Dad had far more open reel tapes. What albums they did have, my sisters and I would play incessantly. So it was, that I learned all the words to the songs on Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water album probably before I could say the entire pledge of allegiance. Paul Simon has been part of my life forever. In the mid 80's, just as I finished my B.S., he released Graceland which I now consider to be one of the very best pop albums of all time, right up there with Carole King's Tapestry.
What I love about Paul Simon most is his incredible lyrics. He is pure genius in his ability to create a moment, to really grasp the pure essence of it. The man knows the reality of adult love in its fullness, how human foibles change its nature. His music is solid, good quality pop. He's a skilled guitarist and his voice lives in my consciousness in the same way that James Taylor and Billy Joel do. Although I've loved Billy Joel very much, I don't find his subject matter to be as timeless as Simon or Taylor. I rarely play any of Joel's music with the exception of "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" or "Until the Night".
I've given a lot of thought to the origin of emotional power in this song. I find it to be somewhat mournful although the key isn't particularly blue. I think it also implies a lot of longing by virtue of the train-ish rhthym; no to mention the backing OOOOhs which create some tension. Next I think there are a couple of literary constructs that really deliver. First, the phrase "everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance, everybody thinks its true"---builds on the churning audio effect by introducing the kind of romance that running away on a train is associate with. And there's this idea that what will save you, be the answer to your happiness, is only as far away as that train---just inside earshot, but traveling somewhere---to you ? away from you? With your love or desired one on board?
And then there's what I think is a very provocative statement about negotiations and lovesongs being one and the same....there's really a lot to build on there and I really wish he'd have given us another stanza on it. Becuase its one of those one-liners from songs that I have always held on to and pondered. I just love it---we all do it really----"if you agree to love me, to be my only one, I'll.... "
Gosh. It makes for a good song doesn't it? Tell me you love it!


Donna said...

Gotta tell you I love it. I have never been too analyzing about things, I take everything pretty much at face value. Don't try to get too much out of it or read too much into it. It is good to hear your point of view on so many things. Mostly I agree I have just never thought about it myself. Just call me Shallow Gal instead of Hal. I hope Rob is feeling better. LYFE

Kathy said...

Well, I think mostly that Pop music is intended to be taken at face value. I think that's why I love Paul Simon so much--that despite hearing it over so many years, I still find interesting aspects to engage me---ergo I keep listening. I don't think Madonna or Michael Jackson's tunes have that kind of staying power.

I love you too! Rob is having his epidural cortisone tomorrow; his pain has been fairly well managed recently and shame on me for not having given an update. I'm happy he's been more comfy. The poor boy.