Today’s Random Weekend selection is the opening track from Paul Simon’s 1983 album Hearts and Bones. This was Simon’s first record in eight years following the release of Still Crazy After All These Years.
Fans who had been waiting with bated breath for new music from Simon must have been scratching their heads when the first song they heard was this bizarre track. Could a lyrical genius like Simon really be singing lines like “Where do allergies go when it’s after a show and they want to get something to eat?”
Though mega-talented and extremely consistent, my very favorite artists aren’t perfect.
This week I will feature five songs that, for lack of a better word, suck. But they are notable in that they were recorded by five artists I rank among the best I’ve ever heard.
What I think you’ll find is that all of these songs are interesting failures.
Paul Simon’s Hearts and Bones carries a lot of baggage but I wasn’t aware of any of it when I first heard the album. I didn’t know it was a Simon & Garfunkel reunion album gone bad, or that it was a critical and commercial flop that seemed to derail Simon’s solo career.
My first exposure to the songs on this album came during a concert in the early 90s. I was familiar with everything Simon played that night except for two gorgeous, musically ambitious ballads — one called ‘Hearts and Bones’ and one called ‘Train in the Distance.’
Following the success of their Central Park reunion show, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel embarked on a world tour in 1982 and ’83. Riding the high of those performances, the duo headed back into the studio to record their first album together in 13 years.
The record had a working title of ‘Think Too Much,’ named after a pair of songs in its track list.
Best Songwriters – #1 – Paul Simon
I flirted with putting Bob Dylan, Ben Folds and Elvis Costello in my #1 spot, but I kept coming back to Paul Simon, the most unassuming of them all. I’ll get to my reasons in a minute.
First, I’d like to reference some of the artists I left off this list, artists who made the initial cut but didn’t quite survive.
Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett, two southern stalwarts, are basically tied for 11th place, and either could have cracked the top ten but for my soft spot for Billy Joel. Bruce Springsteen is a legend who, like Bob Dylan, has gotten better with age. Tom Petty is considered the poor man’s Springsteen, but he’s plenty rich for me.
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.