For all of his insistence that he is "crazy," the speaker of the lyric seems less unhinged than simply sad.
The song begins with an incident of his running into his "old lover." While she seems happier than he is for the coincidence, he agrees to join her for a drink and some reminiscence. It seems that the "crazy," here, follows the plural of "we" and "ourselves"-- they are both still crazy.
The next verse is not narrative, but confessional. He admits to to being solitary, unsentimental, and somewhat a stick-in-the-mud. Perhaps not someone you'd invite to a dinner party, but still not "crazy," although now he limits that adjective to himself.
So why, in the bridge, is he awake at 4 a.m.? Especially if he is exhausted ("crapped out," on some TV appearances, has been softened to "tapped out").
He seems trapped between two truths. One is that he wishes for things he does not have; he is "longing [his] life away."
On the other hand, is working to get those things worth the trouble, if "it's all gonna fade," and he's just going to die anyway?
He still can't sleep; perhaps it is the same night he met his old flame, but after he said good night to her at the bar. Perhaps meeting her is, for some reason, keeping him up. He doesn't seem to be missing her; we saw in the first verse that he was over her. Perhaps he wishes that he weren't-- that he cared about something in his life.
(The sax solo here is by Michael Brecker, a phenomenal jazz talent who passed away in 2007. His other work, especially with the haunting Electronic Wind Instrument, is definitely worth finding on YouTube.)
In any case, he is "watch[ing] the cars" by his window. He muses that if he ever did anything violent-- which is hardly likely, as that would require either physical motivation or emotional passion, and he seems to affect neither-- he would not be held responsible for his actions, but found not guilty due to his insanity.
In reality, as upset as he is, all he can do is watch traffic. He hardly seems like the type about which the neighbors say to news crews: "Oh, he was so quiet and he kept to himself."
Rather, he seems lethargic, moody, and just generally miserable. Not even clinically depressed, as that level of any emotion would be too extreme and taxing.
It is interesting to contrast this song with "I Am a Rock," also about a miserable loner, but one who is more adamant about insisting (unconvincingly) that he is not upset, but also that he is never going to allow that possibility because he will avoid relationships altogether, so there.
Our man here is upset, admits it, but just shrugs, "Oh well, so what, who cares."
Maybe in a world in which everyone ambitiously pursues happiness, allowing oneself to be noncommittal, solitary, and pessimistic is "crazy" by default.
People seem to react to this song as if they approve of the sentiment that one can still be as spontaneous and wild in middle age as in one's teen and college years. Upon reading the lyrics, that reaction proves unwarranted-- that sentiment is not really to be found.
For instance, many, upon re-meeting an enthusiastic old lover, would try to capitalize on the the opportunity of that enthusiasm, either for brief physical or longer emotional re-connection. Not our man, who has been down that road before and sees no reason to want to revisit its destination.
Neither is the song a longing look backward, as are Springsteen's "Glory Days" or Mellencamp's "Small Town." Our speaker seems to feel that while things aren't great now, they never were, either (see "My Little Town")-- and there is no real reason to expect they ever will be.
So he will continue to "long" and leave it at that, content with his overcast sadness and unwilling to risk his comfortable malaise for true happiness-- which would also mean the possibility of true misery. Maybe what's "crazy" is that he accepts that in his character, too, and doesn't care to change that-- and even takes some pride in his resistance to change.
IMPACT: This was a major hit for Simon. Simon won a Grammy for his vocals on the track, and the whole shebang won Album of the Year.
The album went to #1 in the States, #6 in the UK, and even cracked the Top Ten in Norway and Sweden. In a famous bit on a Saturday Night Live Thanksgiving show, Simon performed the song wearing a turkey costume.
The song and its title have become an idiom, part of common parlance; I saw an ad for a furniture store once that said it was "Still Sale Crazy After All These Years." That the song still elicited such recognition decades after its release is at least as much a compliment as a Grammy.
The song was sampled on a track called "Ninna Nanna" by an Italian band called Colle Der Fomento.
Next Song: I Do It For Your Love