Song of the Day #628: ‘Hearts and Bones’ – Paul Simon

Paul Simon’s slump continued with the release of 1983’s Hearts and Bones. This album, though, was undeserving of its tepid commercial and critical reception. It contains some of Simon’s very best work, in my estimation.

It also contains ‘Cars are Cars,’ which could well be his very worst work, but let’s not hold that against him. I think one ‘Train in the Distance’ is worth a handful of ‘Cars are Cars,’ no question.

Hearts and Bones also features two songs called ‘Think Too Much’ (versions ‘A’ and ‘B’), the latter (which actually shows up first in the tracklist) is a beautiful little island ditty about a dying love affair.

‘The Late Great Johnny Ace’ is a tempo-shifting epic about the death of John Lennon (by way of the death of Johnny Ace). It’s memorable not just because it’s a good song but because, during the Concert in Central Park a man ran at Simon onstage while he was singing it. Upset John Lennon fan, perhaps? I don’t know if that was ever determined. But it was quite a moment.

My favorite track on Hearts and Bones, and one of my favorite Paul Simon tunes ever, is the title song. It’s about his marriage to Carrie Fisher (she’s the half-Jew in the opening line). This song, more than any other in his early solo career, hints at the direction his music would take on his next album. It is spectacularly well-produced and intimately performed.

I heard the song for the first time live in concert. I actually think that’s one of the worst ways to hear new music, but I remember being blown away right off the bat and knowing I had to run out after the show and find the album that featured this song. So I did.

One and one-half wandering Jews
Free to wander wherever they choose
Are traveling together
In the Sangre de Christo
The Blood of Christ Mountains
Of New Mexico
On the last leg of a journey
They started a long time ago

The arc of a love affair
Rainbows in the high desert air
Mountain passes
Slipping into stones
Hearts and bones
Hearts and bones
Hearts and bones

Thinking back to the season before
Looking back through the cracks in the door
Two people were married
The act was outrageous
The bride was contagious
She burned like a bride
These events may have had some effect
On the man with the girl by his side

The arc of a love affair
His hands rolling down her hair
Love like lightning shaking till it moans
Hearts and bones
Hearts and bones
Hearts and bones

And whoa whoa whoa
She said why?
Why don’t we drive through the night
And we’ll wake up down in Mexico
Oh I
I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’
About Mexico

And tell me why
Why won’t you love me
For who I am
Where I am

He said:
‘cause that’s not the way the world is baby
This is how I love you baby
This is how I love you baby

One and one-half wandering Jews
Returned to their natural coasts
To resume old acquaintances
Step out occasionally
And speculate who had been damaged the most
Easy time will determine if these consolations
Will be their reward

The arc of a love affair
Waiting to be restored
You take two bodies and you twirl them into one
Their hearts and their bones
And they won’t come undone
Hearts and bones
Hearts and bones
Hearts and bones
Hearts and bones

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #628: ‘Hearts and Bones’ – Paul Simon

  1. Amy says:

    Is ‘arc of a love affair” a cliche? It seems as though it is (or should be), yet I can’t think of another place I’ve heard or read it but in this song. Regardless, I love it. I’m just loathe to love something that is trite 🙂

    This is a beautiful song, and I never knew it was based on his marriage with Carrie Fisher, a marriage I was always sad from afar didn’t last. Seemed as though they were just quirky and talented enough to remain a pair. But hey, you’ve said for years that break-ups are far more conducive to great music than happy relationships. So – here’s to more broken relationships for our favorite songwriters!!

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to remember the concert and the performance. I have never owned this album, yet I know this song very well. I’m guessing it’s on another one of those wonderful compilation tapes I wore out.

  2. pegclifton says:

    This is a beautiful song, and I agree that break-ups are more conducive to great music. Some of Sinatra’s best work came after his break up with Ava Gardner, I’ve been told.

  3. Dana says:

    This is one of my favorite Simon songs as well. Didn’t know it was about Fisher, but I suppose that makes sense.

    And yes, “Care are Cars” is truly one of the worst songs ever.

  4. rt.packard says:

    Paul Simon is always a hit or miss with me. I’d never heard this song, but it definitely knocked me down. It has such a lovely, haunting feeling to it that just creeps into your soul.

    Break up songs can go either way — really horrid or really breathtaking. This is certainly the latter. If I was more familiar with Paul Simon’s history, maybe the Carrie Fisher reference would have meant more. However, I was still captivated by the tale and the melody. It reminds me a lot of a specific period in my life.

    As for the foreshadowing of his later work — I’m picking up a somewhat African or Caribbean feeling here, but it’s not as overwhelming as his later work. I never really like those more African-sounding songs he did, but “Hearts and Bones” is a perfect balance between Western and non-Western music. It just works.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

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