THE RI­VALS

How Bob Dy­lan up­set Paul Si­mon and what hap­pened next.

Mojo (UK) - - The Mojo Interview -

THOUGH BOB DY­LAN and Paul Si­mon would even­tu­ally forge a warm, re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship and even tour to­gether, there was an early, un­der­ly­ing strain be­tween them dat­ing back at least to the night Si­mon and Gar­funkel played Gerde’s Folk City in March 1964. The word around Columbia Records was that Dy­lan of­fended Si­mon with loud talk and laugh­ter dur­ing Paul and Art’s set, though it ap­pears to have been a mis­un­der­stand­ing. Dy­lan was there, ac­com­pa­nied by Robert Shel­ton, the New York Times critic. In his 1986 bi­og­ra­phy No Di­rec­tion Home: The Life And Mu­sic Of Bob Dy­lan, Shel­ton wrote that he and Dy­lan had been do­ing quite a bit of drink­ing that night and started gig­gling over noth­ing dur­ing Si­mon and Gar­funkel’s set. “We weren’t laugh­ing at the per­for­mance, but Si­mon was fu­ri­ous,” Shel­ton wrote. Years later, Si­mon dis­agreed with the as­sess­ment. “I wasn’t fu­ri­ous,” he said. “But I was hurt. Here was some­one laugh­ing dur­ing my per­for­mance – es­pe­cially some­one I ad­mired.” Yet Si­mon cer­tainly seemed to be tak­ing a shot at Dy­lan in a song that he recorded on the Paul Si­mon Song­book al­bum that Shel­ton called a “vi­cious bur­lesque” of Dy­lan, com­plete with “har­mon­ica play­ing and shouts for ‘Al­bert’ [Gross­man, Dy­lan’s man­ager].” The song, A Sim­ple De­sul­tory Philip­pic (Or How I Was Robert McNa­mara’d Into Sub­mis­sion), namechecked the then-cur­rent US Sec­re­tary Of De­fence and was clearly a hu­mor­ous jab at Dy­lan’s some­times scat­ter­shot rhymes and his mish­mash­ing of cul­tural im­ages. Si­mon even barks some of the lyrics à la Dy­lan, adding to the track’s mer­ri­ment. Years later, Si­mon said, not to­tally con­vinc­ingly, that he was mostly chan­nelling Lenny Bruce. “I was hav­ing fun,” he said. “I thought it would be funny to use those un­usual words, ‘de­sul­tory’ and ‘philip­pic’, in a song ti­tle, and I also wanted to sneak in some Lenny Bruce, who was my favourite comedian. That line, ‘How I was Robert McNa­mara’d into sub­mis­sion,’ is pure Lenny.”

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