More from year 1973
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Nov 23, 1966 • From Punch Magazine
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Paul McCartney reviews Paul Simon
So, there I was, back in the hills, putting the finishing touches to my chicken coop when the postman arrives, carrying, amongst other things, an invitation from Punch to write about Paul Simon’s new Song Book which was recently published by Michael Joseph for £2.95.
Well. Me being asked to write for Punch! That would be something, I thought. Quite an honour really. I immediately flashed back to the Prefects’ Library of the Liverpool Institute, where I’d often scanned Punch’s pages at my sixth form leisure. What if the other spotty young men lounging about had known that one day an article by me would appear there? Sixth form scoffing no doubt, particularly as my entries for the school magazine were never accepted. Not even a deep poem, which I rather fancied, that began…
“The worm chain drags slowly…” and ended “… the trouble with living is nobody dying”.
It didn’t get in.
So, the very thought of being in Punch well, let’s just say that I know how Paul Simon feels to be in print and this brings me neatly to his Song Book.
Now I remember songbooks, sheet music and like as the stuff to be found under piano stools in certain musical houses where an elder sister or an Auntie played selections from Carousel or Rose Marie… to be found among books of carols, hymns, marches and smelling slightly musty.
Anyway, this particular book is firstly a heavy one in the weight sense not the type that opens easily onto the little wooden ledge that comes from inside an upright piano and swings down neatly and ready to please. It is a fine book for people who like Paul Simon’s music in that it contains many photos (I liked the old ones of Simon and Garfunkel when they were Tom and Jerry playing at some Jewish hop in their white sports coats and slicked-back “Tony Curtis” cuts).
Paul Simon himself writes the intro which gives an insight into. how he writes his songs. And, besides the words and music of the songs, this “body of work”. as the Publishers call it, has. other typical touches. Like the little scraps of paper that songs. or lyrics rather, tend to get written on i.e. scribbles on a Western Airlines scrap pad, hotel note paper which reminds one that the songs were actually written somewhere real. Many a great song has been written on an Airline sick bag and “bog” paper does, of course, add something to the final feel of the song.
Music publishers from the old days don’t like song lyrics to appear on a record cover because “it harms sheet music sales” and this type of book is the epitome of what they’re talking about, being, for someone like Paul who is smart enough to own his own publishing rights or so the story goes jolly lucrative. And jolly good luck to him, because, really, some of his things have been very good Bridge over Troubled Water, Sound of Silence, Mrs Robinson, The 59th Street Bridge Song, and Homeward Bound… to name but a few personal “faves”; and that’s what it’s all about.
If you appreciate the man’s music, then you’ll like the book, or yule give it to a similar minded pal this Christmas. Remember America from Book Ends? they’re all here.
“His bow tie is really a camera”. Classic line. All good stuff. Splitting hairs, I would say that the book is slightly too heavy for reading on the toilet although on the whole it makes it. Of course, I happen to know that, as a songwriter, the real reason for these books is so that the writer himself can have a fat volume of his work to leave out on the coffee table and impress his friends.
As a final word, I’d like to mention the fact that this book costs £2.95 which is 45p dearer than my latest LP. I suggest buying my record and saving 45p.
Mind you, I did win a Coronation essay prize once! Out of 200 entries from the City of Liverpool. I was the triumphant winner who walked wobbly-kneed to accept his prize from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool himself. The prize was two books about the Queen, which are treasured to this day.
Paul McCartney 1973
Punch, or The London Charivari was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and wood-engraver Ebenezer Landells. Historically, it was most influential in the 1840s and 1850s, when it helped to coin the term “cartoon” in its modern sense as a humorous illustration. From 1850, John Tenniel was the chief cartoon artist at the magazine for over 50 years.
After the 1940s, when its circulation peaked, it went into a long decline, closing in 1992. It was revived in 1996, but closed again in 2002.
Last updated on August 5, 2023