Monday, November 19, 2012


"Summer leaves and my birthday's here/ And all my friends stand up and cheer/ And say, 'Man, you're old!'" Now, Simon's birthday is in October, and when he released this album, he was 59 (he was born in 1941, and the You're the One came out in 2000.)

Since this accusation has been leveled "down the decades, every year," Simon finally decides to "stand up" in response. He's not "old," he says... relatively speaking..!

He begins his argument with the assertion that you can trace his age though comparison to some of the landmarks in rock'n'roll. "The first time I heard "Peggy Sue" I was 12 years old," he says, and "First time I heard "Satisfaction," I was young and unemployed." 

But he may have overstated his case. Simon turned 12 in 1953; "Peggy Sue" was not released until 1957, when he was 16. At least he is less specific about the Stones' hit, which came out in 1965, when Simon would have been 24. Simon and Garfunkel has released their first album the year before, but it was not successful; Simon recorded his solo Songbook in 1965, so this is more accurate. It would be one year more before "Sound of Silence" and he would never have to worry about employment again.

What about his other historical milestone, "Russians up in rocket ships" during the Cold War (when "the war was cold")? Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space in 1961. So Simon was 20 by then, not "12." But Sputnik, the Russian (and first) satellite, was launched in the same year as "Peggy Sue"-- 1957. 

OK, enough fact-checking. Four or even 14 years here or there is nothing to whine about. He's 59, give him a break. The point is, he's not "old." You want old? He'll give you old!

How about Jesus' birthday, Christmas? That's 2,000 years ago... now you're talking old! And... Buddha! That's 6,000 years ago! Even Mohammed's time was 1,500 years ago.

Notably absent from this list of religious figures is Moses. Which is surprising, given the fact that Simon himself is Jewish. He readily acknowledges this fact in songs like "Hearts and Bones." Then, here, he does mention "The Bible" and "The Koran" has being "old." And maybe you could argue that "The Bible" covers both Judaism and Christianity, but still. Of the three "Western" religions, Judaism is oldest-- twice as old as Christianity. So his point about relative ages would have been strengthened by mentioning Abraham, say.

(Simon then adds his advice to the question of fights and wars that have dogged the Christian-Jewish, Muslim-Jewish, and Christian-Muslim relationships for millennia: "Disagreements?/ Work 'em out." Oh! Of course! Why didn't anyone think of that?!)

But Simon is not here to broker peace treaties. He is too busy racing backward through history... Humanity "has walked the earth for 2.7 million (years)," he says. I am not sure what standard of "humans" he is using, but fine. Then he goes back to the Big Bang, "13-14 billion" years ago. 

OK, now the closer: "Consider that The Lord was there before Creation." So, what does "old" mean to Simon? "We're not old/ God is old." 

As for himself? Well, the whole human race has not changed noticeably since it showed up in the first place. "Take your clothes off," he says, and you'll see "Adam and Eve." Everything human from "war" and "genocide" to "Buddy Holly" continues as well. 

Simon's Bookends album came out in 1968, when he was 27; on that album, he recorded the song "Old Friends," in which he set the bar for what he considered "old": "How terribly strange to be 70." If you know Simon, don't remind him. In 2012, he turned 71.

(Paul McCartney, meanwhile, has long since passed the mark of "When I'm 64"; that song came out in 1967. And McCartney is only a year younger than Simon.) 

Musical Note:
Steve Gadd, Simon's longtime musical collaborator, is the drummer on this album.

Next Song: You're the One

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