Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Wish You Could Be Here

This song was co-written with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers, and performed by that Australian group. It was written in the short hiatus between the letdown of the first proper S&G album, "Wednesday Morning" and their follow-up, "Silence." (Woodley also co-wrote "Cloudy.")

While it does not seem to have been recorded by S&G, it is included in the songbook "Songs by Paul Simon" (Charing Cross Music, 1967), which largely contains S&G material.

Thematically, the song prefigures "Kathy's Song." The opening imagery, however, is of snow, not rain, as in "I Am a Rock": "Lookin' from my window at the freshly fallen snow/ That sparkles as it tumbles upon the street below."

The song does not discuss the internal angst of the speaker, as "Kathy's Song" does. It simply speaks of the speaker's longing for his absent love, describes the ambiance of the room, as in "Dangling Conversation," and discusses what the speaker does with his "lot of empty time to kill"-- There is a fire in the fireplace; "the room is warm and sleepy." He listens to "some records," and tries to "read the paper."

But, while he doesn't use these words, his mind is distracted and diffused. The words in the paper "aren't very clear," and his "thoughts return to you/ And I know there's somethin' missin', I wish you could be here."

While he aches for her return, he does not expect it. "I keep list'nin' for your footsteps or your key turned in the door/ I sure could use your company, but we've been through that before."

This last line is the only one that provides any context for the relationship. This is not just "I miss you," but "I miss you since we broke up."

Somewhat like "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" is a rock remake of "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M." "I Wish You Could Be Here" is a pop remake of "Kathy's Song." It is roughly the same song, with simpler words and concepts substituted for the others' collegiate and poetic sensibilities.

Also, in "Kathy's Song," the couple is geographically apart but still together. More importantly, here the singer is upset but still "has it together," while in "Kathy's Song" he has a major crisis: "I have come to doubt all that I once held as true."

What makes this song interesting is that it shows that Simon is capable of presenting the same material in two different ways-- as a simple folk-pop ditty, or as a highly philosophical and emotional poem.

Next Song: "Someday, One Day."


  1. First of all, I greatly admire your blog. Amazing work.

    I'd like to point out that what seems to be the earliest/original version of the song had the line "but I've said all that before" instead of "we've been through that before."


    I like it better like that. :P

  2. Dear R.A.-- Thank you for the compliments. As for which line I like better, I think the one that hints at their past is a stronger one, but that's just my opinion.