What I’ve Been Listening To: Paul Simon/Still Crazy After All These Years

My introduction to Paul Simon happened many moons ago with Simon & Garfunkel and their second compilation Greatest Hits from 1972, which my sister owned on vinyl. I loved that record from the very beginning and still do to this day. Not long after I had heard it for the first time, I started taking guitar lessons and eventually got a songbook for that collection. I practiced hard to learn the tunes and soon found out what a formidable acoustic guitarist Paul Simon is. Eventually, I managed to figure out the finger-picking for The Boxer – haven’t tried playing that tune in 20-plus years. Anyway…

While there’s an obvious connection to Simon & Garfunkel, this post is about Paul Simon’s fourth studio album Still Crazy After All These Years, which appeared in October 1975. I would say I know a good deal of Simon’s tunes he recorded as a solo artist, but other than the fantastic Graceland from August 1986, I cannot really make the same claim for his albums. As oftentimes happens, the idea for this post was triggered when my streaming music provider served up the record as a listening suggestion. It didn’t take me long to realize this is a great album with a smooth jazz, blues and soul-influenced sound – my kind of music!

Let’s kick things off with the excellent opener and title track. Like all songs on the record, it was written by Simon, one of my favorite American singer-songwriters. It nicely sets the mood for the album. BTW, the recording features the Muscle Shoals Rhythm SectionBarry Beckett (Fender Rhodes piano), David Hood (bass) and Roger Hawkins (drums). Also, check out that beautiful saxophone solo by Michael Brecker, which starts at around 2:12 minutes.

My Little Town reunited Simon with Art Garfunkel. The tune, which also appeared on Garfunkel’s second solo album Breakaway that was released about 10 days prior to Still Crazy, became the first single credited to the duo since America, a single off their above Greatest Hits compilation. Simon and Garfunkel may have had a complicated relationship, but they surely recorded some great music together and their voices blended perfectly with each other. While perhaps a little bit lush in the second part (hey, it’s the ’70s!), the song has a nice build.

The big hit from the album of course is 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. Yes, I realize it’s perhaps an obvious choice everybody knows, but I just dig that tune way too much to skip it. I love that cool drum part played by Steve Gadd, as well as the song’s bluesy feel and clever lyrics. It became the record’s third single and Simon’s only solo song to top the Billboard Hot 100.

Next up: Gone At Last, another gem on the album with a great soul and gospel vibe. Phoebe Snow and The Jessy Dixon Singers provided dynamite guest vocals. The track also became the album’s lead single in August 1975. According to Wikipedia, Phoebe received a credit on the single. The song charted in the top 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The last track I’d like to highlight is Have A Good Time, which nicely sums up what I feel when listening to this record. This is another great song with a nice bluesy feel. Musically, it’s the slide guitar, as well the alto saxophone played by Phil Woods, which speak to me in particular. Check it out!

Still Crazy After All These Years was co-produced by Simon and South African born recording engineer and producer Philip Ramone. The record won Grammy Awards for Album Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1976. It hit no. 1 on the Billboard 200 and received Gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America, making it one of Simon’s most successful solo albums.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube

8 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Listening To: Paul Simon/Still Crazy After All These Years”

    1. Thanks, wow, I did not know the background story about the recording of the song.

      I still remember that “The Boxer” was one of the highlights when I saw Simon in Germany during the second half of the 80s in the wake of the Graceland album. He was touring with the African musicians who appear on the record.

      The concert was divided in three parts: The African musicians by themselves (absolutely fantastic and already more then worth the price of admission!), Simon playing songs from Graceland with them, and Simon solo.

      “The Boxer” was part of the latter section – just Simon on guitar. I believe it was the encore. So powerful! Now that I think about it, it really reminds me of Neil Young playing all by himself with just his acoustic guitar.

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      1. Never saw the Graceland tour but a number of years ago – and I can’t remember if I mentioned this – we saw Paul at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. Fifteen years ago? For a reason that escapes me the balcony seats were 51 bucks. Total blast, totally joyful show. The balcony was (literally) bouncing and Simon was relating to the audience. (And I can’t be sure of this but I think he may have shot the ‘attaboy’ hand at me.) Then somewhere along the way the venue lost power. So he went off stage, then came back on and played for like, another hour. I think he did a farewell tour that I chose not to go to. I’m sure he’ll do 35 more so we’ll have ample time to see him.

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      2. Yep, you’re right, it appears Simon just wrapped up his official farewell/retiring from touring tour with three gigs in New York.

        For some strange reason, which I can’t quite explain, I wasn’t wild about seeing him, even though I think he’s a terrific singer-songwriter. I will add that what I really dig is his 70s output and the Graceland album. To the extent I’ve listened into it, I’m less impressed impressed with his post-Graceland catalog.

        I had the same sentiment about Elton John’s farewell tour – many great songs, but it all dates back a long time, plus his voice has changed dramatically over the decades.

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      3. Yeah, I really debated Elton John. He’s just become too showbiz for me. But I love his music and think he’s a really cool (and smart) guy. I’m an Elton fan all the way.

        And as we’ve discussed before, I am really and truly on hiatus from concerts. Not saying “never.” But I keep all concert ticket emails in a folder in my email.

        And for the first time in quite a while there’s nothing in it. I also stopped getting newsletters from the various clubs I go to. So, just a break for a while so that I’m jazzed to go again and not the grumpy old man in the audience. That said, I’m still getting TicketBastard and LiveNationRipoff (fees are us!) emails just in case a certain bass player from a certain band from Liverpool returns. I would very much like to take Sonny Boy to see him.

        So I’m afraid you will have to carry the banner for a while. And since you go to two shows/day, 7 nights/week, where’s the problem? 🙂

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      4. Ha! Yes, I suppose I go to many shows comparatively speaking, though I’m also skipping a lot of stuff – wanna make sure to keep my wife and the rest of the family happy! 🙂 While they get music is my passion, they are also quick to complain when they feel it’s getting out of hand!

        And, yes, McCartney is definitely on my list as well. Unfortunately, his last tour didn’t bring him anywhere close enough to N.J., so even for a music nut like me, I simply couldn’t justify going to a gig.

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      5. Same reason I’m not going to see Clapton at Crossroads Festival in Dallas next month. I’d pay a pretty penny to fly out there, stay overnight, sit in the balcony, feel lonely, and say, “Exactly who’s playing down there? I can’t see anything” while everybody goes “whoa-whoa-whoa” all the way through “Cocaine.” (Or whatever.)

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