PAUL SI­MON

Mojo (UK) - - Contents -

How his vis­its to Bri­tain be­tween 1963 and 1965 are more sig­nif­i­cant than pre­vi­ously thought. Rev­e­la­tions cour­tesy of Robert Hilburn’s re­mark­able new bi­og­ra­phy.

A prophet with­out hon­our at home, New York boy PAUL SI­MON found sup­port, ac­claim, and ro­mance, in mid-’60s Bri­tain. From ex­ten­sive orig­i­nal in­ter­views with the star and his peers, ROBERT HILBURN re­veals – in this ex­tract from his new bi­og­ra­phy – how Si­mon re­built his con­fi­dence in Blighty and how his first great songs flour­ished in its sod: “It was like love at first sight.”

IN 1963, AGED 21, PAUL SI­MON WAS al­ready a vet­eran of the New York mu­sic busi­ness. Not only a teen pop-rock record­ing artist – as a duo with school­mate Art Gar­funkel (as Tom & Jerry); solo, as Jerry Lan­dis and True Tay­lor; and briefly, in early 1960, in a white Brook­lyn vo­cal group called The Mys­tics – but also a pro­ducer, demo singer and song plug­ger, all the while jug­gling classes at Queens Col­lege. Yet, since a 1958 split with Gar­funkel which would prove a fer­tile source of fu­ture ac­ri­mony, hits had proven elu­sive. Si­mon was not the early ’60s’ idea of a nat­u­ral pop star. “There was al­ways some­thing about me, about my face and my ex­pres­sions,” Si­mon told me in 2015. “When I was nine or 10, peo­ple would ask me all the time, ‘What’s wrong?’ Even my mother once asked me, ‘What hap­pened? You used to be so happy, and now you look sad.’ All I know is that this feel­ing of melan­choly en­tered into my per­son­al­ity some­where in ado­les­cence. Ar­tie says I was an­gry about height, but I wasn’t an­gry. I was melan­choly.” Si­mon’s stature had been at the root of his re­jec­tion by The Mys­tics in early 1960 (“We were tough guys, and here was this nerdy lit­tle guy from Queens,” said Mys­tics bass singer Al Contrera). But by ’63 mu­sic was chang­ing in Si­mon’s favour. He warmed to the acous­tic flavours of the new folk boom, led by Joan Baez and Bob Dy­lan, pop stars of a new stripe, and had be­gun to write songs in a “softer” and “deeper” style. Si­mon got on-stage at a few open-mike hoo­te­nanny nights in Green­wich Vil­lage, where he ran into an­other im­age prob­lem. To come from Queens and try to get a gig at a Vil­lage club was much more dif­fi­cult than if you blew into town from Ok­la­homa, like Tom Pax­ton, or the Mid­west like Bob Dy­lan, who made up the story that he’d rid­den the rails as a hobo. Ea­ger for new ex­pe­ri­ences, Si­mon had joined the thou­sands of young peo­ple who hitch­hiked across the coun­try in the sum­mer of 1962, in­spired par­tially by Jack Ker­ouac’s On The Road. He planned to con­tinue the fol­low­ing sum­mer with a trip to Europe, both to see the sights and, specif­i­cally, to check out the mu­sic scene, prompted no doubt by the ref­er­ence in Nat Hentoff ’s lin­er­notes for Free­wheel­inÕ to Dy­lan’s hav­ing per­formed briefly in Lon­don and Rome. The so­journ was to prove the first of sev­eral over 1963-65, and enor­mously sig­nif­i­cant in Si­mon’s devel­op­ment as a writer and per­former.

IN PARIS, SI­MON BUSKED FOR SPARE change at tourist spots and slept, at least for one night, on the con­crete em­bank­ment of the Pont Neuf. While there, he met Dave McCaus­land, a young English­man who gave him an open in­vi­ta­tion to sing at a Sun­day evening folk show he ran above a pub across from the rail­way sta­tion in Brent­wood, Es­sex. McCaus­land also ar­ranged for Si­mon to play an­other nearby club, the White Swan in Rom­ford. Re­turn­ing home, McCaus­land told some of his Brent­wood Folk Club reg­u­lars that a won­der­ful young Amer­i­can folk singer who played a prized Mar­tin Dread­nought gui­tar would be

com­ing to the club. One of those reg­u­lars was so in­ter­ested – es­pe­cially in that gui­tar – that he went to the White Swan show, where Si­mon sang He Was My Brother and at least three songs that had been recorded by Joan Baez: What Have They Done To The Rain, The Lily Of The West, and Ge­ordie. Af­ter the show, a cou­ple of fans took Si­mon to cen­tral Lon­don in search of some late-night folk clubs where Si­mon sang Man Of Con­stant Sor­row, and, sur­pris­ingly, the Lit­tle Wil­lie John hit Fever. At each stop, the re­ac­tion was en­thu­si­as­tic. Af­ter stay­ing in Lon­don that night, Si­mon showed up the next day at the McCaus­lands’ in Brent­wood, where he would do a brief set on Sun­day at Dave’s club. “Paul got along great with my fa­ther – with all of us, in fact,” re­called Jonty McCaus­land, Dave’s younger brother. “He played a few songs on the gui­tar and said he hoped to come back to Eng­land soon and do some more shows.” Buoyed by what was at that point rare ac­claim, Si­mon re­turned to New York to ac­cept a plug­ging job at Ed­ward B Marks Mu­sic Com­pany, one of the world’s largest mu­sic pub­lish­ers, although any ex­cite­ment was dashed when he dis­cov­ered the com­pany’s vast mu­si­cal cat­a­logue was se­verely dated. “They wanted me to pitch songs like The Peanut Ven­dor, and no­body was ever go­ing to record them,” said Si­mon. “To make things worse, I wasn’t a good sales­man.” Feel­ing guilty about not be­ing able to place the ma­te­rial, Si­mon gave the com­pany the pub­lish­ing rights to some of his new songs, in­clud­ing He Was My Brother and an­other folk song, Car­los Dominguez. Ap­par­ently ea­ger to get ac­tive in the con­tem­po­rary mar­ket, Marks ar­ranged for the two songs to be re­leased as a sin­gle in Au­gust 1963 by a tiny la­bel called Tribute. To dif­fer­en­ti­ate from Si­mon’s Jerry Lan­dis sides, the record was re­leased un­der the pseu­do­nym Paul Kane. It dis­ap­peared quickly. But in the fall of 1963, Si­mon had an­other song brew­ing, one that drew on his en­thu­si­asm for his col­lege lit­er­a­ture classes, of which he would later say “it feels like there’s Ca­mus in there”. The Sound Of Si­lence hadn’t come eas­ily, even though Si­mon was work­ing with new pur­pose and am­bi­tion. Paul played an early ver­sion of the song for his jazz bas­sist fa­ther Lou and brother Ed­die in his up­stairs bed­room, and he was thrilled when his fa­ther re­sponded with, “You wrote this, Paul? It’s ver y good!” He wasn’t fin­ished with the song when he re­turned to Eng­land on his Christ­mas break, but he played what he had for the McCaus­lands, and Jonty McCaus­land re­mem­bered his dad telling Paul how much he liked the song. Si­mon’s bond with the McCaus­lands was spe­cial. “It was like we adopted him and he adopted us,” said Jonty’s older sis­ter, Lynne. Later, when he was do­ing shows in other towns, Si­mon would of­ten re­turn to the McCaus­lands’ well af­ter mid­night, around the time Lynne’s dad was get­ting home from work, and they would sit and talk for hours. Even­tu­ally, Mr McCaus­land be­gan call­ing Si­mon his fifth son. When the McCaus­lands needed $3,500 in 1967 for the de­posit on a pub, Paul gave them the money. “It wasn’t a loan,” Lynne said. “It was a gift.” This sec­ond ex­po­sure to the British folk scene made a strong im­pres­sion on Si­mon. Af­ter years of re­jec­tion in New York folk cir­cles, he was em­braced. “I re­mem­ber be­ing in­tro­duced as Paul Si­mon from New York, and peo­ple ac­tu­ally cheered,” Si­mon said. “We were still close enough to the war that peo­ple re­ally liked Amer­i­cans.” In New York, things were look­ing up, too. There’d been a rap­proche­ment with Gar­funkel, and Si­mon’s plug­ging role had brought his songs to the at­ten­tion of Tom Wil­son, Dy­lan’s pro­ducer at Columbia. The re­con­sti­tuted duo signed for the la­bel on Fe­bru­ary 10, 1964, and be­tween March 10 and 31 the pair recorded the ma­te­rial for their de­but al­bum with Wil­son and en­gi­neer Roy Halee, in­clud­ing five Si­mon originals – no­tably The Sound Of Si­lence and what was to prove the al­bum’s ti­tle track, Wed­nes­day Morn­ing, 3 A.M. In­di­cat­ing a mea­sure of am­biva­lence on Columbia’s part, its re­lease date was set for Oc­to­ber. On July 10 Si­mon re­turned to Eng­land, where he would meet the first love of his life.

SI­MON RE­CALLED FIRST SEE­ING KATHY Chitty tak­ing tick­ets on the steps of the Brent­wood Folk Club in 1963 but they didn’t meet for­mally un­til April 1964, in­tro­duced at the White Swan by Dave McCaus­land. The singer had dated a rea­son­able amount in New York, but this was dif­fer­ent. “It was like love at first sight,” he said years later. “I had never felt that. It was just chem­istry.” “We were all ex­cited be­cause ev­ery­one liked them both,” Lynne McCaus­land said. “Kathy was lovely, very gen­tle, very shy and quiet. Paul also had his quiet and shy side, so they fit each other per­fectly.” Mean­while, Si­mon was con­tin­u­ing to build an au­di­ence. Wally Why­ton had heard about the Amer­i­can even be­fore they shared a bill one night at the Brent­wood Folk Club but was still sur­prised at the ex­cite­ment dur­ing Si­mon’s set. “It was a phe­nom­e­non that I had never seen any­where,” he re­called. “Paul was singing I Am A Rock, and girls were scream­ing, and old ladies were jump­ing up and down. It was re­ally quite stag­ger­ing.” In July Si­mon trav­elled from Lon­don to Paris, ac­com­pa­nied by English folk singer Redd Sul­li­van. Si­mon, who had bought a Sun­beam Alpine sports car, which he even­tu­ally took back to the States, spent time busk­ing in the street, but it was as much for fun as for money. His good spir­its made it all the more jar­ring when he heard of the mur­der of his ex­class­mate, ac­tivist An­drew Good­man – along with two Congress Of Racial Equal­ity col­leagues James Chaney and Michael Sch­w­erner – in Mis­sis­sippi on June 21. As soon as he heard about Good­man’s death, Si­mon went to the Amer­i­can Ex­press of­fice in Paris to get more in­for­ma­tion, but he had to go back out­side be­cause he was so shaken he was afraid he was go­ing to throw up. Soon af­ter Si­mon re­turned to Lon­don, Art Gar­funkel, who was on va­ca­tion in Europe, vis­ited him and ac­com­pa­nied him on some club gigs. But they didn’t re­vive Si­mon & Gar­funkel; Si­mon was still a solo act in Eng­land. On their last night in town be­fore re­turn­ing to Amer­ica, Si­mon played a few of his songs, in­clud­ing The Sound Of Si­lence and Leaves That Are Green, at the Flamingo Club. Then he brought Gar­funkel on-stage to sing Wed­nes­day Morn­ingÉ’s Bene­dic­tus with him. Af­ter­wards, Si­mon was ap­proached by Ju­dith Piepe – later a key booster for Cat Stevens, Sandy Denny, and Al Stewart – who said she loved his songs and wanted to in­tro­duce him to some of her con­tacts at BBC Ra­dio. Si­mon thanked her but said he had to get back to New York. The Si­mon & Gar­funkel al­bum was fi­nally com­ing out, and he planned to en­roll in Brook­lyn Law School, af­ter an ap­ti­tude test, which he’d taken largely be­cause some friends were sit­ting for it, sug­gested law would be a good field for him.

“I RE­MEM­BER BE­ING IN­TRO­DUCED AS PAUL SI­MON FROM NEW YORK, AND PEO­PLE AC­TU­ALLY CHEERED.” Paul Si­mon

“PAUL WAS SINGING I AM A ROCK, AND GIRLS WERE SCREAM­ING, AND OLD LADIES WERE JUMP­ING UP AND DOWN.” Wally Why­ton

THAT DE­CI­SION WAS TO LOOK ES­PE­CIALLY WISE when Wed­nes­day Morn­ing, 3 A.M. emerged, fi­nally, in Novem­ber, to lit­tle fan­fare. Gar­funkel re­turned to his stud­ies at Columbia Uni­ver­sity but Si­mon was not so eas­ily de­terred; he quit law school af­ter one se­mes­ter. In con­trast to his la­bel’s pro­mo­tional ef­forts, Si­mon re­turned to Eng­land in Jan­uary 1965 to find that Piepe had been work­ing over­time on his be­half. He’d recorded a BBC ses­sion on her prompt­ing, and the songs found a home on the Light Pro­gramme’s daily re­li­gious show, Five To Ten. As it turned out, the slot was bet­ter than it sounded be­cause it was in be­tween two mas­sively pop­u­lar shows, one of which, Housewives’ Choice, had about eight-and-a-half mil­lion lis­ten­ers. The pro­grammes, each fea­tur­ing one Si­mon song, aired on four con­sec­u­tive days in March. To the net­work’s amaze­ment, the re­sponse to the songs was enor­mous. Peo­ple all over Eng­land called the BBC ask­ing who this fel­low Paul Si­mon was and where they could buy his records, all of which prompted the BBC to air four more Si­mon episodes in May. Sens­ing an open­ing, Piepe talked CBS Records in Lon­don into mak­ing an al­bum with Si­mon. Tom Wil­son flew in from New York to sort out le­gal de­tails. Regi­nald War­bur­ton and Stan­ley West were cred­ited as pro­duc­ers, but what was there to pro­duce? Si­mon went into Levy’s Record­ing Stu­dio on New Bond Street with an acous­tic gui­tar on Thurs­day, June 17, and sang into a sin­gle mi­cro­phone. Un­like the Si­mon & Gar­funkel al­bum, these were all Si­mon songs – no cov­ers and cer­tainly no Dy­lan. When the solo al­bum and a sin­gle (I Am A Rock) were re­leased in Eng­land that sum­mer, nei­ther sold much, which is sur­pris­ing given all the re­sponse to the BBC show. The joke was that maybe Piepe made all those calls to the sta­tion her­self. On the pos­i­tive side, the record­ings helped build Si­mon’s rep­u­ta­tion among folk club op­er­a­tors. Un­like most of the per­form­ers bid­ding for time on the club scene, he ac­tu­ally had an al­bum in stores. Si­mon played more than 60 dates in four months on that UK visit. In some ways, he was a stu­dent again – learn­ing about per­form­ing and ad­just­ing to the life of a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian. At a folk gath­er­ing around this time, Si­mon of­fered this play­ful sketch of him­self for the event pro­gramme: “I am Paul Si­mon. I’m sure of that. It is prob­a­bly the only thing I am sure of. I was born in Ne­wark, New Jer­sey, in 1941 and a piece of less rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion I can’t con­ceive. I started writ­ing at the age of 19 – per­haps I should say my birth­day was 1960. There’s noth­ing I did be­fore that year that means a hell of a lot. I write not so much as a means of com­mu­ni­cat­ing my thoughts to oth­ers, but rather be­cause I might die of in­ter­nal poi­son­ing if I didn’t re­lease the words that spawn in my brain. Oh, man, that does sound dra­matic.” Ac­cord­ing to most who knew him in Eng­land, Si­mon was viewed warmly, not sim­ply for his man­ner but also his open-heart­ed­ness. “Paul was a very lov­able per­son,” said Joan Bata – a friend of Piepe’s – re­call­ing how Si­mon of­ten came in at four in the morn­ing with a bag of dough­nuts to share with ev­ery­one. But not ev­ery­one was so en­am­oured of him. “Paul man­aged to rub some peo­ple the wrong way,” said one vet­eran of the British club scene. “He was para­dox­i­cal: charm­ing, cour­te­ous, shy, ar­ro­gant, self-as­sured, ruth­lessly de­ter­mined. He was ea­ger to learn, to soak things up, open to ex­pe­ri­ences, yet very opin­ion­ated and driven. If you ex­pressed an opin­ion he dis­agreed with or in­for­ma­tion that would be of no use to him, he’d shut down – the eye­lids would come down. This led some peo­ple to think he was on a mis­sion on be­half of him­self, which, of course, he was.”

SI­MON FLUKED A TV SLOT ON READY STEADY GO!’S JULY 23 pro­gramme. He’d been booked for the less pop­u­lar folk pro­gramme, Heart­song, but that se­ries was can­celled be­fore his date. Since Si­mon had al­ready been paid, the pro­duc­tion com­pany, which han­dled both, switched him to the pop show. “When Si­mon showed up at re­hearsal that af­ter­noon, we were sort of snotty to­ward him be­cause we didn’t re­ally want him on the show,” di­rec­tor Michael Lind­say-Hogg said years later. “He was folk. He wasn’t rock. He didn’t fit.” Be­cause Si­mon was a last-minute ad­di­tion to an al­ready crowded show, Lind­say-Hogg told him he needed to drop a verse from his only num­ber, I Am a Rock. When the di­rec­tor passed by the makeup area a few min­utes later, he found Si­mon sit­ting in a chair, lean­ing on a ta­ble, his head in his arms. He seemed beaten down. “You don’t un­der­stand,” Si­mon told him. “I Am a Rock is a story, and if you cut a verse out of it, you’ve ru­ined the story.” Lind­say-Hogg, who per­son­ally liked the song, apol­o­gised, but the verse had to be cut. Paul and Kathy were still see­ing a lot of each other. She would take the train to town to visit him at Piepe’s, where Joan Bata no­ticed an early dan­ger sign in their re­la­tion­ship. “Kathy used to get a bit sulky

be­cause she felt that Paul was ne­glect­ing her,” she said. “He was ne­glect­ing her in a way that wasn’t de­lib­er­ately be­ing hurt­ful. It was just that his mind was to­tally oc­cu­pied with some­thing else.” Still, there was no ques­tion Paul was in love with Kathy, which was why he missed her so deeply dur­ing a nine-date tour late that sum­mer in the north-west. It was the trip that in­spired his sec­ond great song. Later, in in­ter­views, Si­mon would of­ten say Home­ward Bound grew out of the north­ern Eng­land tour, even spec­i­fy­ing the time he sat in a rail­way sta­tion in Widnes. Res­i­dents would place a plaque out­side the sta­tion to mark the spot where they be­lieved Si­mon wrote the song. Af­ter the first two plaques were stolen, a third was set up in­side the sta­tion, where some­one could keep an eye on it. Ge­off Speed ran the Wind­sor Folk Club in Widnes, where, on Septem­ber 13, 1965, Si­mon sang for maybe an hour – mostly his own songs – which was un­usual on the folk club cir­cuit be­cause most per­form­ers sang old English bal­lads. Speed’s wife, Pam, was struck by some­thing else. Most per­form­ers closed their eyes when they sang, but Si­mon looked right at the au­di­ence. “He made you feel like he was singing just to you,” she said. “He was so sin­cere. Right away, I thought, He’s got it.” The fi­nal word on Home­ward Bound be­longs to Speed, be­cause he was the one who drove Si­mon to the Widnes train sta­tion the day he was sup­posed to have writ­ten the song. “It has al­ways been a sweet story, but there’s no way he could have writ­ten the song at the sta­tion,” Speed said. “The thing I re­mem­ber most about that morn­ing was that we got to the sta­tion just as the train pulled in, and Paul had to run to make it. He didn’t have time to sit down, much less write a song.”

SI­MON WAS BACK IN LON­DON IN PLENTY OF TIME to cel­e­brate his 24th birth­day and work on Home­ward Bound while he hoped for word from New York about a sin­gle ver­sion of The Sound Of Si­lence, elec­tri­fied by pro­ducer Tom Wil­son, on the un­likely chance it ac­tu­ally caught on. Al Stewart had a room next to Si­mon’s at Piepe’s, and he could hear Si­mon work­ing on his songs through the thin walls. Stewart, four years younger than Si­mon, was so im­pressed that he started fol­low­ing Paul around to clubs, even car­ry­ing his gui­tar on oc­ca­sion, try­ing to pick up some point­ers. “One day I heard Paul search­ing for the right word,” Stewart said. “He’d play ‘Sit­ting in a rail­way sta­tion, got a ticket for my…’ And then af­ter a long pause, I’d hear, ‘des­ti­na­tion.’ Af­ter a while, he came out to the com­mu­nal area and played it for who­ever was around.” In New York, Columbia Records’ pro­mo­tion staff were get­ting en­cour­ag­ing re­ports from the field about DJ re­ac­tion to the new The Sound Of Si­lence. The first break­through was when the sin­gle en­tered the Bos­ton air­play chart at Num­ber 21, just eight spots be­hind the week’s hottest new sin­gle, The Supremes’ I Hear A Sym­phony. Still, ev­ery­one at Columbia knew the real test was whether The Sound Of Si­lence would pop up on charts out­side of Bos­ton. As they waited in early Novem­ber, Si­mon left Lon­don on what would be his last sig­nif­i­cant tour of 1965: a se­ries of dates in the Nether­lands, Den­mark, and France. In Den­mark, Si­mon took a ferry from Aarhus to Copen­hagen the week of Novem­ber 21 and went straight to his pub­lisher’s of­fice to see where the sin­gle had gone on the lat­est US chart. As he picked up the new is­sue of Cash Box he was un­der­stand­ably anx­ious. If The Sound Of Si­lence hadn’t leapt into the Top 100, it most likely never would. Try­ing to pro­long the sus­pense, he looked at the bot­tom of the chart to see what Num­ber 100 was, then slowly looked higher on the list – 95, 90, 85, 80 – and his heart be­gan to sink. Just when he was about to give up, he saw it – glo­ri­ously! – at 58. “At that mo­ment,” Si­mon said, “I knew my life was go­ing to change for­ever.” When he re­turned to Lon­don, Gar­funkel was call­ing from New York. Columbia Records wanted Paul to come home im­me­di­ately. Rather than sim­ply re­place the old ver­sion of The Sound Of Si­lence on the Wed­nes­day Morn­ing, 3 A.M. al­bum, the la­bel brass wanted to record a new al­bum, ti­tled Sounds Of Si­lence, and in­clude the new ver­sion. That way they could also re­place the cover songs with some of the new Si­mon tunes. A sec­ondary ben­e­fit was that the new cover photo would take them out of the suits that had made them look square. Sud­denly, ev­ery­thing Si­mon al­ways wanted was wait­ing in the States. Yet he was torn. He went to see the McCaus­lands. “He was ex­cited about what was hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica, but part of him didn’t want to leave Eng­land; didn’t want to leave Kathy,” Lynne McCaus­land said. “He spent a long time talk­ing to my mother about what he should do.” Ul­ti­mately, there was no way Si­mon was go­ing to pass up the op­por­tu­nity, but he didn’t nec­es­sar­ily think the move would be per­ma­nent. He told Kathy he’d go to New York, maybe make some money (he ac­tu­ally men­tioned $25,000), and then re­turn to Eng­land. With that in mind, on Wed­nes­day, De­cem­ber 8, Si­mon stepped onto an Air In­dia flight, home­ward bound. When he ar­rived in New York, The Sound Of Si­lence was Num­ber 26 in Bill­board. By Jan­uar y 1, 1966, it was Num­ber 1, and his life was changed for­ever.

Paul Si­mon: The Life by Robert Hilburn is pub­lished by Si­mon & Schus­ter.

Look sharp: Art Gar­funkel and Paul Si­mon in a Columbia Records pub­lic­ity shoot, 1964.

Notes on an is­land: Si­mon & Gar­funkel loosen up be­fore the ITV cam­eras at Ready Steady Go!, July 8, 1966.

Re­spect is due: Bob Dy­lan and Paul Si­mon, Can­ter­bury Park, Shakopee, Min­nesota, July 2, 1999.

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