Paul Simon – The Boy In The Bubble

“The bomb in the baby carriage was wired to the radio”

That lyric got my attention when I first heard the song. The song sounded so different at the time than anything else that was going on.

Paul Simon wrote the lyrics for this song when he returned to America from South Africa When he was there his concern was recording just the music.

The words had to work with the track that Simon’s producer Roy Halee assembled from the reels of tape they returned with. It took Simon a long time to finish the lyrics, working in phrases like “the boy in the bubble and the baby with the baboon heart” in a way that would mesh with the African rhythm.

This song is credited to Simon and Forere Motloheloa.

There was a United Nations cultural boycott in place that was designed to pressure political leaders into giving up their Apartheid policy. The boycott was to keep popular musicians away from places like Sun City where they played to the white ruling class in South Africa. The problem was that any violation of the boycott could undermine the sanctions, and many locals were not happy with Simon’s visit. Some people still complain about him making this album there.

These South African sanctions didn’t just keep outside musicians away from the country, but it also kept their local music from getting out… Simon only heard it because a friend gave him a bootleg cassette tape.

The song peaked at #86 in the Billboard 100 in 1986. The singles off the album didn’t have huge success in Billboard because they didn’t fit easily into the 80’s radio formats.

Paul Simon: “‘The Boy In The Bubble’ devolved down to hope and dread. That’s the way I see the world, a balance between the two, but coming down on the side of hope.”

The Boy In The Bubble

It was a slow day
And the sun was beating
On the soldiers by the side of the road
There was a bright light
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all

The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry, baby, don’t cry
Don’t cry

It was a dry wind
And it swept across the desert
And it curled into the circle of birth
And the dead sand
Falling on the children
The mothers and the fathers
And the automatic earth

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all, oh yeah

The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby, don’t cry
Don’t cry

It’s a turn-around jump shot
It’s everybody jump start
It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
Medicine is magical and magical is art
Think of the boy in the bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart

And I believe
These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires and baby

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all, oh yeah

The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby, don’t cry
Don’t cry, don’t cry