Paul Simon: Genius or Wanker?

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Paul Simon: Genius or Wanker?

Genius.
35
64%
Wanker.
20
36%
 
Total votes: 55

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Postby RcL » 04 Jul 2007, 00:14

count machuki wrote:
schlump, zhlub, schnook, schmendrick, schmo, nayfish...whaddaya want here?


I think those guys all still post only at Mojo. Hang on, maybe I have seen Schmo on the Football forum once or twice. And i think Nayfish made it to the second round of the BCB Plate.

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Postby Velvis » 04 Jul 2007, 00:20

Ray K. wrote:
Velvis wrote:
Sir John Coan wrote:
Look at Springsteen. Man, artist - one and the same. If he turned out to be a Bush-supporting weed who always really wanted to work in a library, we'd be shocked and disappointed. And his record sales would plummet.

Face facts.


Kinda stingy toward his band members, ain't he? Still great records.


I'd wager he's a card carring GOP member... after a certain income I think it just comes naturally - even if you keep it in the closet. He knows who is buttering his bread.


I would never go so far as to suggest Bruce is a Republican.

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Postby Ray K. » 04 Jul 2007, 00:24

Velvis wrote:
Ray K. wrote:
Velvis wrote:
Sir John Coan wrote:
Look at Springsteen. Man, artist - one and the same. If he turned out to be a Bush-supporting weed who always really wanted to work in a library, we'd be shocked and disappointed. And his record sales would plummet.

Face facts.


Kinda stingy toward his band members, ain't he? Still great records.


I'd wager he's a card carring GOP member... after a certain income I think it just comes naturally - even if you keep it in the closet. He knows who is buttering his bread.


I would never go so far as to suggest Bruce is a Republican.


Let's just say his tax returns probably reflect a certain tendency or two and he's not living near section 8 housing. Not that he's a Republican of course... :wink:

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Postby Guy E » 04 Jul 2007, 00:27

Velvis wrote:
Sir John Coan wrote:
Look at Springsteen. Man, artist - one and the same. If he turned out to be a Bush-supporting weed who always really wanted to work in a library, we'd be shocked and disappointed. And his record sales would plummet.

Face facts.


Kinda stingy toward his band members, ain't he? Still great records.


Actually, I think he's quite generous. He gave all the members of the E Street Band a cut of recording royalties in perpetuity 12 or 15 years ago... none of their names were on the Columbia Records contract.

I hear what you're saying... God forbid I ever meet Van Morrison or something. But the fact is the vast majority of musicians I had the pleasure of interacting with during my years at Maxwell's were really great people... at the very least they were civil. When you meet somebody you feel like slapping it's pretty hard to enjoy their music afterwards (cue: Ry Cooder anecdote).

For the record, I'm sure Paul and Shelly just walked into CB's and asked if they could get a table and since we got some free brewski's out of the deal there's no hard feelings. OK, Paul?

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Postby take5_d_shorterer » 04 Jul 2007, 00:31

Sir John Coan wrote:
Ken - I read your post again and I missed some of your points. You make a lot of sense, but I still think you're talking about an ideal appreciation of music which many - rightly or wrongly - can't go for, because of 'outside interference'.


Two comments:

1) Yes, in one sense I am talking about an ideal listener. I, myself, would like to be honest enough to admit every time I heard good music by someone I found to be morally repellent that the music was good.

Intellectuals have very bad tendencies to hold grudges in which they refuse to recognize the positive traits of an idea or piece just because they hate the person who made it. And the thing is that because intellectuals are often clever enough with words, they can disguise the real reasons they won't admit in public what they like and don't like.

I try to avoid these traits.

2) No. In another sense, I'm not talking about an ideal listener. I really do think I am talking about the way we all in the bottom of our hearts listen to music. What is a morally repugnant vocal tone? What is a morally righteous instrumental sound? These things really don't exist in any substantial way. Music is pretty amoral, and what grabs us often grabs us for reasons that are totally orthogonal to the morality of the performer who made it.

I here admit that I have no ability at all to determine the morality of a performer based on what they sound like. Furthermore, I challenge anyone who thinks they can to explain how they do it.


***

By the way, on the fantasy of Springsteen being a Bush supporter, these things are not as fantastic as you might imagine.

In 1984, Neil Young said that he supported Ronald Reagan. There are two important lessons I learned from that. The first is it's kind of dumb to try to get an idea of what politics you should have from musical performers. There's no shortcut to sitting down with the tables and charts and working it out for yourself. Don't use Springsteen or Neil Young to do your thinking for you.

Second, with the exception of some people who are deeply indoctrinated into some ideology (this includes a lot of politicians and intellectuals), I think most people have the capacity to rethink and alter their positions.

Neil Young supported Reagan in 1984. 21 years later, he's peddling a song asking to impeach GWB.Who knows what he'll think next?

Of course, I don't need Neil Young to form my own opinions about GWB. You shouldn't either.

The role of art and music is to introduce us to things and emotions we would never have quite thought of on our own. They are no substitute, though, for following news events closely and forming your own analysis.

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Postby The Write Profile » 04 Jul 2007, 00:34

Ray K. wrote:
Velvis wrote:
Sir John Coan wrote:
Look at Springsteen. Man, artist - one and the same. If he turned out to be a Bush-supporting weed who always really wanted to work in a library, we'd be shocked and disappointed. And his record sales would plummet.

Face facts.


Kinda stingy toward his band members, ain't he? Still great records.


I'd wager he's a card carring GOP member... after a certain income I think it just comes naturally - even if you keep it in the closet. He knows who is buttering his bread.


You'd think so, but that wouldn't explain why he played all those 'vote for Kerry' concerts in 2004 and wrote about his reasons in the Guardian. And the way he dealt with the whole "Born in the USA" fracas as well testifies that his intentions are normally good.

In the case of Springsteen though, his (perceived) personality is almost inextricably intertwined with his music, whereas as both Leg of Lamb and Ken have eloquently reiterated, someone, like, say Miles Davis makes music that exists on a different plane to whatever his true personality was. Even something as hard, dense and downright nasty as On the Corner suggests that it's more travellogue than actual mindset, to say nothing of the unfathomable calmness of the last passage of It's A Silent Way

But I'm not denying that Coan's opinion has an element of truth to it, but really it depends how strong you feel about the merits of their work and whether it can overtake your misgivings towards their personalities- and the other factors dealt with above.

As for Paul Simon, I wouldn't call him a genuis as such, though I think Bookends is an astonishing record- the only Simon & Garfunkel one I can totally get behind. Everything about it just seems to fall right into place- the woozy, faintly offkilter (yet strangely reassuring) production, the conciseness of the melodies and the winding narratives of the lyrics...it's all of a piece. And to be fair, there are some quite beautiful moments on the two records immediately before it (Sound sof Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme)

But I think there's a fussy, overwritten side to Paul Simon's work that I find rather galling at times- it's even apparent on Bookends where he finishes with the heavy-handed and shockingly glib "At the Zoo" which sounds less like a song than a written project. Really, it's a terrible lyric, it doesn't scan, the ultimate message is obvious and the melody is pretty thin too, to say the least. But it's a minor blight on a pretty wonderful and surprising release.

That fussiness certainly spilled over into his solo work and even Graceland at times. As for the accusations of cultural imperialism, well, I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. How other listeners approached the work is not his fault. Personally, I don't think the 'world music' excursions are any more offensive than those on Talking Heads' Remain in Light or David Byrne & Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (though, to be honest, I prefer both of those records to Graceland)
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Postby take5_d_shorterer » 04 Jul 2007, 00:36

Ray K. wrote:
Velvis wrote:
Sir John Coan wrote:
Look at Springsteen. Man, artist - one and the same. If he turned out to be a Bush-supporting weed who always really wanted to work in a library, we'd be shocked and disappointed. And his record sales would plummet.

Face facts.


Kinda stingy toward his band members, ain't he? Still great records.


I'd wager he's a card carring GOP member... after a certain income I think it just comes naturally - even if you keep it in the closet. He knows who is buttering his bread.


Wasn't it a fairly well-known fact that Springsteen actively campaigned AGAINST Bush and the GOP during the 2004 election. He went so far as to set up concerts for fundraising for John Kerry.

This was, by Springsteen's own standards of political involvement, unprecedented.

He explained his decision to endorse a particular candidate as being one that was made because he was pretty concerned what would happen if GWB got elected again.

***

By the way, we were supposed to be talking about Paul Simon, right?

I used to like "Rene and Georgette Margritte with Their Dog After the War" but I don't like it as much any more.

I prefer Hearts and Bones to Graceland.

I don't particularly like Simon's vocals, and I don't think he's ever figured out what to do with them.

As far as his songwriting and his guitarplaying, I think that in seven decades or so, his output will be consumed by Nick Drake's.

Everyone thinks of Simon wishing and wishing and wishing that he were Bob Dylan, but that's not what I think. What I think is Simon wishing and wishing and wishing that he were Nick Drake, but he isn't; he isn't even close.

Of course, I'm not either.
Last edited by take5_d_shorterer on 04 Jul 2007, 00:43, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Quaco » 04 Jul 2007, 00:38

Paul Simon unquestionably is -- or at least was, if we consider that these things can fade over time -- a songwriting genius. Or at least such a craftsman as to be indistinguishable from it. Looking at his canon is like looking at McCartney's: he could do an entire concert of nothing but million-sellers and massively influential tracks.

The other question, what we expect from musicians in terms of their personal lives and how sometimes it affects us and sometimes it doesn't, is more interesting. Lots of interesting posts on this so far. The one thing I want to add has to do with Velvis's idea that we relate more to present-day musicians than to those from 100 years ago or more. This certainly is true. The fact that Wagner was an anti-Semite doesn't really even register for me, to be honest. But I think there is also something different about popular music than about other types of music. Not only is it the music of today and therefore more relevant in that way (relating to Velvis's comment), but also it is inherently personal, and so we expect singers to mean at least something of what they are singing, much more so than say in the Broadway musical tradition. I assume this came from the blues and folk influence, where individual singers were actually singing about what they felt about things. There are of course all kinds of exceptions -- pop music is infinitely malleable and can support all sorts of approaches -- but overall, there is a feeling that the singers should basically be one with the image they put forth. If they don't say anything, then we expect it less, but if they make a statement, we assume that they mean it.
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Postby Bungo the Mungo » 04 Jul 2007, 00:41

What about your perceptions of an artist's character (even their political viewpoints) gleaned from listening to their music and words? surely these are very influential on your appreciation, regardless of how little they might be based on truth.

I find it very difficult to listen to music (with vocals) and not have some sort of semi-conscious picture and 'feel' of the singer at the same time. These images, however nebulous, can be powerful. It's rarely, if ever, 'just the music'. Not for me, anyway.

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Postby take5_d_shorterer » 04 Jul 2007, 00:55

Quac O. wrote:Paul Simon unquestionably is -- or at least was, if we consider that these things can fade over time -- a songwriting genius. Or at least such a craftsman as to be indistinguishable from it.


I think what this may illustrate is that we have different ideas about how close to genius craft can get.

Simon clearly has craft. His meter scans well when it's supposed to, and his melodies are well-constructed, but I don't find myself thinking, "whoah, what the hell was that?"




Looking at his canon is like looking at McCartney's: he could do an entire concert of nothing but million-sellers and massively influential tracks.


See, for me, McCartney is much greater performer and songwriter. "Can You Take Me Back?" suggests whole other levels of meaning I've never seen in Simon's work; "Maybe I'm Amazed" (especially the guitar playing) is grittier than anything Simon would be capable of even in his dreams.

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Postby Quaco » 04 Jul 2007, 00:56

Sir John Coan wrote:What about your perceptions of an artist's character (even their political viewpoints) gleaned from listening to their music and words? surely these are very influential on your appreciation, regardless of how little they might be based on truth.

I find it very difficult to listen to music (with vocals) and not have some sort of semi-conscious picture and 'feel' of the singer at the same time. These images, however nebulous, can be powerful. It's rarely, if ever, 'just the music'. Not for me, anyway.

I definitely feel this way. To me, popular music is a mulitmedia thing. Everything gets weighed in -- how the artist looks, how the records are made (do they write their own stuff? are the parts played my pros or by their friends?), who the artist is associated with, what the album covers look like, and so on -- and it all plays into whether I like it or not. This is a lot more interesting to me than just listening to music on a blank silver disc with no knowledge of anything.

Stardom -- as opposed to mere popularity -- always implies some identification the fan has for the star. In earlier times, when music was either instrumental or sung largely in choruses, stardom was perhaps not as likely. It almost requires that we are able to be close enough to fall in love with one person. Maybe the invention of the microphone (and for acting, the movie camera) was one of the important things in creating the patterns of stardom. Before that, the audience could rarely feel close enough to really feel like they knew the performer. You had the occasional musician like Caruso who was able to be heard above the din, but when microphones came in (ably assisted by the technique of recording a performance and distributing it), you had hundreds of stars popping up. We were finally able to get close enough to hear the individuality in their voices.
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Postby The Write Profile » 04 Jul 2007, 01:03

Re:Coan's last post.

It's difficult because an artist's persona (as in the music and multimedia side that Quaco mentioned) can either be very different (or very similar) to their actual personality that it's difficult to know where one begins and the other finishes and how much is actually given off in their work. It's always nice to have your suspicions or feelings about an artist confirmed, but I wonder how often it works that way. So yeah, of course 'packaging' is important- it just depends how interlinked it is with the actual artist.
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Postby Quaco » 04 Jul 2007, 01:14

take5_d_shorterer wrote:
Quac O. wrote:Paul Simon unquestionably is -- or at least was, if we consider that these things can fade over time -- a songwriting genius. Or at least such a craftsman as to be indistinguishable from it.

I think what this may illustrate is that we have different ideas about how close to genius craft can get.

Simon clearly has craft. His meter scans well when it's supposed to, and his melodies are well-constructed, but I don't find myself thinking, "whoah, what the hell was that?"

"America" is a song where I'm just in awe of the whole thing. I don't know how much of it is the arrangement (and how much of that Simon had to do with), but it is an awesomely evocative song. Even the parts where he is namechecking things -- a technique which can be obnoxious -- are evocative to me. I can smell the gas station they stopped off at.

Looking at his canon is like looking at McCartney's: he could do an entire concert of nothing but million-sellers and massively influential tracks.

See, for me, McCartney is much greater performer and songwriter. "Can You Take Me Back?" suggests whole other levels of meaning I've never seen in Simon's work; "Maybe I'm Amazed" (especially the guitar playing) is grittier than anything Simon would be capable of even in his dreams.

But Paul Simon is a different kind of artist. He is from the singer-songwriter tradition rather than the rocker tradition. I don't think he ever sweated it out in nightclubs. This surely informed his music. But he has some facets that McCartney doesn't. For one, his lyrics are uniformly well done. Sometimes, they are overdone, but you can sit down to listen to an S&G or Paul Simon record and know that he's made them just as he wants them. Bob Dylan, Bryan Ferry, Leonard Cohen, and John Lennon are all this way too. I never worry that they are going to say something they didn't intend to. McCartney, on the other hand, you have to worry about. When I listen to a new Paul McCartney song, I'm sitting there waiting for him to say something that sound wrong. If he doesn't, I'm overjoyed. There is a tension there. With Paul Simon (who I don't listen much to, so that could have something to do with it too), I never worry. Simon I think also knows what he's doing. He's not going to forget his lyrics onstage because he knows the logic of his songs inside and out. This is what amazes me about people like Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne -- they have so many words to remember, but they never mix up the verses or draw a blank. I think it's because they have the skill of entertaining a crowd all on their own, with just a guitar, and they know the internal logical of their songs. People that came up through rock groups mix things up all the time.

I don't know if it matters whether Paul Simon can do a gritty guitar sound a la "Maybe I'm Amazed" because he does other things. I'm sure that was just an example and what you mean is that Simon rarely surprises you, while McCartney still occasionally does. I guess I still think he's a genius -- perhaps I just define it a bit differently -- and if you were inclined to spend as much time thinking about Paul Simon as you do about Paul McCartney, that is if you liked his music more, you would probably discover strange and deep things there too. A lot of what we see in things has to do with our sight, rather than what's actually there. I guarantee Paul McCartney was not thinking half the things you hear when he was doing "Can You Take Me Back". I bet he was thinking "groovy blues soul tune" and that's it. But it's evocative because your mind caroms off it. My mind bounces around when I hear "America".
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Postby mentalist (slight return) » 04 Jul 2007, 02:14

I think America is one of the greatest songs, and he has written a fair few other gems, so - genius. Of course he's no genius as such. Don't have any interest in his Gracelandy fusiony whatever-you-call-ity jive.
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Postby The Red Heifer » 04 Jul 2007, 02:41

I like You Can Call Me Al :cry:
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Postby king feeb » 04 Jul 2007, 03:11

He might be a genius, he's probably a bit of a wanker, so perhaps he's a "wenius".

________________________________________

Simon wrote and performed a big heaping bowlful of the greatest songs of his era. He wasn't always consistent, but you can't deny that "The Boxer", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Kodachrome", "Mrs. Robinson" and many others aren't little chunks of genius.

But he lost it badly after his first couple of solo albums. There Goes Rhymin' Simon is pretty fucking great... but the quality drops off steeply thereafter. There was always a sense of Tin Pan Alley artifice about his material, but it was balanced out by other factors. After his first two solo albums, artifice takes the wheel and there is more of a sense that Simon had become a good competent craftsman, able to fart out facile, clever bits at will. I always thought he lost his Songwriting Juice at that point, and I suspect it's no coincidence that he started working on the Dreaded Rockstar Film Vehicle at about that time.

____________________________________________

I do not dig Graceland, but I don't buy the "cultural imperialist" argument. Musicians and songwriters hear things they like and rip them off in one form or another. It's what musicians do. And Thank Jah they do, because if there were no cross-pollination between various musical crews, music would be a very arid and staid place.

The thing that bugged me about Graceland was that it was greeted by a certain segment of the population as some sort of pioneering fusion, when in fact Paul was quite late to the party and had already been bested by Talking Heads, Eno, Holger Czukay, Peter Gabriel and many others. There are a couple of well-written tracks on the album (neither of them have the word "Al" in the title), but overall it left me pretty uninspired.
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Does anyone else think "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor" is a really great underrated tune?
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Does anyone else absolutely loathe the smarmy heap of Seventies Sexual-pseudosophistication swinger-rock that is "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover"? I fucking hate it. It is a rancid turd in the swimming pool of rock. And when it shows up on my radio, my hand moves for the tuner dial at the speed of light (it actually appears oblong and extended, like a neutrino).
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Postby Sneelock » 04 Jul 2007, 04:26

I felt that way about the whole of "Still Crazy After All These Years"
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Postby king feeb » 04 Jul 2007, 04:58

I think the turds are getting bigger.

If Paul Simon was a real wanker, he would've called it "50 Ways To Love Your Lever".

Just grease up the pole, Joel
Have a big wank, Hank
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Postby Bungo the Mungo » 04 Jul 2007, 05:13

king feeb wrote:I think the turds are getting bigger.

If Paul Simon was a real wanker, he would've called it "50 Ways To Love Your Lever".

Just grease up the pole, Joel
Have a big wank, Hank


:lol:

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Postby Snarfyguy » 04 Jul 2007, 05:20

Wanker.
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