Monday, October 21, 2013

Express Train

And with this number, we come to the end of Simon's brief run with Tico and the Triumphs. For now. If we have learned anything at this point, it is that "new" old material seems to keep being discovered!

T & the Ts seem to like vehicles, and we have already had a song about a "Motorcycle." This time, we get the sound effects of a train gathering speed, accompanied by these young men doing their best train whistle and brake: "Woo woo!" and "Tssh!"

Songs about trains are as old as trains themselves, and it is hard to find a genre, from folk and country to soul and hip-hop, that doesn't refer to them. Simon himself would (much) later have a song called "Train in the Distance"... in which he also sings "woo woo!"

Here, the Triumphs sing "Clickety-clack, clickety-clack/ The train comes on the railroad track," and the listener thinks, "OK, but when does the 'love' part show up?" They do not disappoint; the next line is "I'm on my way and coming back to you."

While many train songs are about a ramblin' man who leaves, this is about one who is coming back: "I'm just a rolling stone/ But I've been missin' your sweet kissin'/ Now I'm coming home."

The expression "A rolling stone gathers no moss" is an old one, and it means that if you want to keep from atrophying, you have to keep moving. However, many in the rock-n-roll world take this to the extreme, understanding that staying put at all results in growing mold instantly. Instead of, say, it having a positive connotation like "settling down" or "putting down roots."

Instead, we have the Muddy Waters song "Rollin' Stone," the megastar band The Rolling Stones, the major rock magazine Rolling Stone, and the Bob Dylan epic track "Like a Rolling Stone."

Back in our song, the speaker expresses his urgency at coming home: "I'm on my way/ Taking the express train," meaning a non-stop trip. It costs more, usually, but he is in a hurry to get back to his love: "I'm gonna meet you at the station/ What a celebration!"

And now, we wait for the other shoe to drop. He's a "rolling stone," after all, and will soon be on his restless way again.

Except, instead, not. "I'm gonna give up all my traveling," he vows. "Didn't like it, anyhow," he admits. He closes with another expression of urgency to arrive home: "No more waiting, hesitating/ Nothing stops me now/ I'm on my way." Well, that's refreshing. A song about a ramblin' man who's done ramblin'!

Simon would later write, in a sense, a longer, deeper version of this song: "Homeward Bound." In that song, the singer (for the speaker is one) at a "railroad station" decries his wearisome traipsing about and longs to be taking the train he is waiting for "homeward" instead of yet another gig where he will "sing his songs again."

So many of Simon's songs, in fact, bemoan his loneliness and road-weariness, including some from the One Trick Pony soundtrack. He doesn't really have a song like "On the Road Again," saying that he likes constant touring. Even in "That's Where I Belong," he speaks of longing to be on a "dirt road"... but with a destination in mind.

And yet... he is constantly touring. Simon is in his 70s, and still out promoting his latest album; he was recently in the farthest points of the Far East and down Down Under way.

There is a PhD thesis waiting to be written about singers who leave home to sing songs about wanting to be home. Maybe in Literature... maybe in Psychology.


Next song: Get Up and Do the Wobble





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