Paul Simon – The Late Great Johnny Ace ——— Songs that reference The Beatles

I was living in London, With the girl from the summer before, It was the year of the Beatles, It was the year of the Stones 

On a cold December evening, I was walking through the Christmas tide, When a stranger came up and asked me If I’d heard John Lennon had died 

This song referenced both Johnny Ace the R&B Artist who supposedly have shot himself in a game of Russian roulette in 1954, JFK and John Lennon who was killed on December 8, 1980.

I remember the song on the Simon & Garfunkel reunion concert in Central Park video. When Paul started the part about Lennon a man rushed the stage, shocking Paul especially since it was under a year since Lennon’s murder.

“The Late Great Johnny Ace” is a song by Paul Simon, which is on the 1983 Hearts and Bones album.

The Late Great Johnny Ace

I was reading a magazine 
And thinking of a rock and roll song 
The year was 1954 
And I hadn’t been playing that long 
When a man came on the radio 
And this is what he said 
He said I hate to break it 
To his fans 
But Johnny Ace is dead 
Well, I really wasn’t 
Such a Johnny Ace fan 
But I felt bad all the same 
So I sent away for his photograph 
And I waited till it came 
It came all the way from Texas 
With a sad and simple face 
And they signed it on the bottom 
From the Late Great Johnny Ace 
It was the year of the Beatles 
It was the year of the Stones 
It was 1964 
I was living in London 
With the girl from the summer before 
It was the year of the Beatles 
It was the year of the Stones 
A year after J.F.K. 
We were staying up all night 
And giving the days away 
And the music was flowing 
Amazing 
And blowing my way 
On a cold December evening 
I was walking through the Christmas tide 
When a stranger came up and asked me 
If I’d heard John Lennon had died 
And the two of us 
Went to this bar 
And we stayed to close the place 
And every song we played 
Was for the Late Great Johnny Ace

Simon & Garfunkel – I Am A Rock

I first found this song on Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits. At times everyone could relate to this song. Beautiful melody along with lyrics about someone shutting themselves from life. The verse I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate, I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain, I am a rock, I am an island… says it all.

The song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100, #6 in Canada, #2  in New Zealand, and #17 in the Uk in 1966.

In the UK, this was released three times in a one year span: first as the original Paul Simon single in 1965, then in the summer of 1966, it was released as an EP and again as a single. The song was very popular there in 1966, but the chart position suffered because the sales of the single were diluted by multiple releases.

From Songfacts

This song is about a recluse locking himself away from the world. When he says, “I am a rock, I am an island,” he means away from everything and everyone. It’s far from autobiographical, as Paul Simon was doing his best to write a hit song with this effort, and didn’t write it for himself. The use of the word “rock” is interesting in that Simon considered himself a folk singer, and didn’t associate himself with rock music. In the vast majority of songs with the word “rock” in the lyrics, it is used to imply music or lifestyle, but for Simon, it was just a piece of stone. He did the same thing in 1973 for his song “Loves Me Like A Rock.”

This song has one of more perplexing histories of recordings and releases. Written by Paul Simon before he hit it big as a musician, the song was offered to the duo Chad and Jeremy, who turned it down. Simon then recorded it himself for his UK solo album (released in America 1981) The Paul Simon Songbook, which was released in the UK in August 1965. The single was issued in September but didn’t chart despite a performance by Simon on the show Ready, Steady. Go!

Simon was going solo at this time because the Simon & Garfunkel 1964 debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. had stiffed, and the duo split up. Late in 1965, the producer Tom Wilson overdubbed and remixed a track from that album, “The Sound Of Silence,” and it became a huge hit. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were summoned back to the studio, where they recorded the singles “I Am A Rock” and “Homeward Bound,” which were included on their Sound of Silence album. These songs were recorded with producer Bob Johnston at one of the Columbia Records studios in New York City, and now released with a more contemporary sound, “I Am A Rock” became a hit for the duo.

The guitarist on the Simon & Garfunkel hit version of this song was Ralph Casale, who was a top session player in the ’60s. He remembers organist Al Kooper and drummer Bobby Gregg – both associated with Bob Dylan – also performing on the song. Describing the sessions, Ralph told us: “The band was booked from 7:00 p.m. into the wee hours of the morning. I was given a lead sheet for ‘I Am A Rock’ with just chords and asked to play the electric twelve string guitar. The producer wanted a sound similar to the Byrds. It was important that session players became familiar with the current hits because many times producers describe the style they want by referring to well known groups. Paul Simon sang the figure he wanted me to play between verses and asked me to play it in thirds. The rest was left to me. ‘Homeward Bound’ was on that same date.”

I Am A Rock

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark
December
I am alone
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t talk of love
But I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died
If I never loved I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

Paul Simon – Mother and Child Reunion

One of my favorite Paul Simon songs. The lyrics, melody, and the reggae feel make this song a classic. Paul’s songwriting is world class…the structure to his songs are great as well as is his guitar playing. The song peaked at #4 in the Billboard 100 and #5 in the UK in 1972.

Simon wrote this in response to the Jimmy Cliff song “Vietnam,” where a mother receives a letter about her son’s death on the battlefield. Simon recorded “Mother and Child Reunion” in Jamaica using Cliff’s musicians, hence the very authentic sound. Simon said of the song that it “became the first reggae hit by a non-Jamaican white guy outside Jamaica.”

From Songfacts

Simon came up with the title after seeing a chicken and egg dish called “Mother and Child Reunion” on the menu at 456 Restaurant in Chinatown, New York. 

This was Simon’s first single as a solo artist.

Paul Simon was ahead of the trend when he released this reggae-infused song: Johnny Nash went to #1 US later in 1972 with “I Can See Clearly Now,” and Eric Clapton topped the chart with “I Shot The Sheriff” (a Bob Marley cover) in 1974.

Mother and Child Reunion

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine

I can’t for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don’t work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine

I just can’t believe it’s so
Though it seems strange to say
I never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

But I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
When the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a moment away

Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a moment away

Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a moment away

Paul Simon – Kodachrome

As a kid, I learned what Kodachrome meant by this song. Paul Simon was working on a song with the title “Coming Home” when the word “Kodachrome” came to him. He had no idea what it meant, but knew it would make for a much more interesting song than “Coming Home.” The song became an appreciation of the things in life that color our world.

Kodachrome is a registered trademark of the Kodak company. It is a method of color transparency, but more commonly known as a type of color film the company started marketing in 1935. The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100 and Canada.

From Songfacts.

This was not a hit in England, partly because UK radio stations rarely played it. The BBC had very strict rules about commercial endorsements, and they would not allow stations to play songs that seemed to push products. It’s the same reason The Kinks had to re-record part of “Lola.” The lyrics were, “We drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola,” But Ray Davies had to redo them as “…Just like cherry cola” so the song could get airplay in Great Britain.

Paul Simon recorded this at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama with the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. He sought out the musicians when he found out they played on “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers, and was surprised to learn that they were not Jamaican musicians, but four white guys from the South. Simon went to Muscle Shoals to record just one song: “Take Me To The Mardi Gras,” but when they finished that one much sooner than he expected, he also recorded “Kodachrome” and “Loves Me Like A Rock.” Simon was the first big rock artist to record at the studios – Bob Seger and The Rolling Stones were some of the others who recorded there in the ’70s.

David Hood, the bass player in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, told us this story: “When Paul Simon walked into our studio, he thought, God, what a funky place. Because it was. He was used to working at A&R and Columbia Studios in New York, and studios in England and different places. And when he came and saw our little place, he probably thought, man, this is a rat trap.

It just so happened that the roof leaked in our studio right over the recording console, and as a short term fix, we taped sanitary pads across the ceiling just to absorb the water so it wouldn’t drop down on the recording console. So we had Paul Simon, who’s got hit record after hit record walking in and seeing this place with Kotex on the ceiling. He must have thought, what in the world have I gotten myself into? But we cut this track for him in two takes, and I think he thought, wow, well these guys know what they’re doing. It doesn’t really matter.” (Here’s more on the history of the Muscle Shoals sound.)

Simon sometimes sings the line “Everything looks worse in black and white” as “Everything looks better in black and white.” He changes it a lot, and claims he can’t remember which way he wrote it.

On June 22, 2009, Kodak officially retired Kodachrome color film after 74 years. Photographers had turned to more recent Kodak products and digital technologies, which led to Kodachrome’s decline.

Kodachrome

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

If you took all the girls I knew
When I was single
And brought them all together for one night
I know they’d never match
My sweet imagination
Everything looks worse in black and white

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
Leave your boy so far from home
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome
Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away

My Favorite Songwriters

This one was the most fun to do. These are the songwriters that I have listened to and admired the most.

 

1… Bob Dylan – There was no one else I could remotely place as number 1.

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2… Lennon – McCartney – As a team…it was quantity and quality. Their music will live long after we are gone.

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3…Chuck Berry – He wrote the blueprint for future rockers.

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4…Jagger – Richards – For blues rock it doesn’t get much better than these two.

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5…Paul Simon – One of the best craftsman of pop songs there is…

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6…Bruce Springsteen – One of the best writers of his generation.

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7…Goffin and King – Wrote some of the best known and successful songs of the sixties.

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8…Smokey Robinson – Bob Dylan said of Robinson…”America’s greatest living poet”

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9…Pete Townshend – Took the “Rock Opera” to new levels.

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10…Hank Williams – The country poet.

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Honorable Mention

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ray Davis, Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, Leiber and Stoller, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Robbie Robertson, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Tom Petty, Curtis Mayfield, John Prine, George Harrison, Steve Wonder, Warren Zevon, Brian Wilson