Saturday, January 14, 2012

Simon's Solo Debut Turns 40

There will always be a soft spot in my heart for the solo album that was released by Paul Simon on this day 40 years ago.

I never actually had a copy of the eponymously titled "Paul Simon," but I was familiar with the hits that came from it — songs like "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" and "Mother and Child Reunion."

You must understand. I was a young boy, and all of my exposure to Paul Simon at that time had come via the albums he recorded with Art Garfunkel. I guess that was how most people knew of Paul Simon, and that wasn't really surprising. The album that was released four decades ago today was the first that Simon released as a solo artist in the United States, even though he and Garfunkel had split up nearly two years earlier.

I wasn't accustomed to hearing Simon perform alone, and I guess I just assumed that any recording that featured him must include Garfunkel as well. Maybe a lot of people made that assumption — even though they knew the two had gone their separate ways.

Consequently, for many years, I mentally lumped songs like "Mother and Child" and "Me and Julio" with all the songs that Simon and Garfunkel recorded in the 1960s. My confusion wasn't helped when, in their reunion concert in New York's Central Park in 1981, the duo sang songs they had recorded as solo artists as well as the songs they had recorded together.

Deep down, I suppose I always knew that "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" and "Mother and Child Reunion" were Paul Simon songs, not Simon and Garfunkel songs.

Anyway, the latter title was an inspiration for both the angle of a story that I found myself writing for a newspaper shortly after I graduated from college and its headline.

The story was about the hospital in the town where I was working. The staff had recently implemented a program that would permit women and their newborn babies to be together sooner after childbirth than had been routine in the past.

I recall that the hospital's staffers were enthusiastic about the program, and the story reflected that. I don't remember all the details now — it's been a long time since I wrote that story — but I remember that the headline (a joint effort by myself and my managing editor) mentioned "mother and child reunions."

It was such a natural for the story.

Because of the positive public response to their reunion concert in Central Park, Simon and Garfunkel embarked on a reunion tour around that time that did not prove to be precursor to a long–term reunion.

I attended one of their concerts on that tour, along with my parents and my brother, and I don't remember now whether they played "Mother and Child Reunion" on that occasion.

No matter. It served as a memorable inspiration for me.