Song of the Day #3,120: ‘Duncan (Live)’ – Paul Simon

paul_simon_stranger_to_strangerIn 2016, I learned that a Paul Simon album could leave me cold.

That came as a big shock. On this very blog, I named Simon the greatest-ever songwriter. I’m one of the few people in the world who really digs Songs from the Capeman. I am programmed to not only cut this guy some slack but to pretty much love everything he does.

But try as I might, Stranger to Stranger just fell flat. Most of the songs have a sameness about them, and worse than that, a boring sameness. Too much noodling on the acoustic guitar, too much talking in lieu of singing. No melodies I can remember even after giving the album chance after chance to win me over.

I was even more baffled as I saw the record show up on multiple year-end critics lists.

The moment that crystallizes my lukewarm reception to this album came during my first listen, when I’d made it through a dozen or more tracks thoroughly unimpressed and then finally heard something memorable. The opening lines of today’s SOTD grabbed me and I thought, “Ah yes, finally a keeper.” A few moments later I realized it was a live performance of Simon’s 1972 hit ‘Duncan.’

Couple in the next room
Bound to win a prize
They’ve been going at it all night long
Well, I’m trying to get some sleep
But these motel walls are cheap
Lincoln Duncan is my name
And here’s my song, here’s my song

My father was a fisherman
My mama was the fisherman’s friend
And I was born in the boredom
And the chowder
So when I reached my prime
I left my home in the Maritimes
Headed down the turnpike for
New England, sweet New England

Holes in my confidence
Holes in the knees of my jeans
I was left without a penny in my pocket
Ooh-wee, I was about destituted
As a kid could be
And I wished I wore a ring
So I could hock, I’d like to hock it

A young girl in a parking lot
Was preaching to a crowd
Singing sacred songs and reading
From the Bible
Well, I told her I was lost
And she told me all about the Pentecost
And I seen that girl as the road
To my survival

Just later on the very same night
I crept to her tent with a flashlight
And my long years of innocence ended
Well, she took me to the woods
Saying here comes something and it feels so good
And just like a dog I was befriended
I was befriended

Oh, oh, what a night
Oh, what a garden of delight
Even now that sweet memory lingers
I was playing my guitar
Lying underneath the stars
Just thanking the Lord
For my fingers
For my fingers

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,120: ‘Duncan (Live)’ – Paul Simon

  1. Dana says:

    I don’t think my CD has this bonus track on it.

    As for the album proper, I largely agree with you. I do like “Wristband” and the title track, but nothing else grabbed me.

  2. Amy says:

    If you saw his lackluster response to Carrie Fisher’s shocking death, you’d be convinced that perhaps he has already spent his lifetime’s supply of emotions. I do like this song a lot, but, as you point out, it may just offer furhter proof of this theory.

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