Monday, March 24, 2014


This is a throwback number, even as early in rock history as it falls. It would be home in the repertoires of the Andrews Sisters or Bing Crosby; one can imagine a Fred Astaire-style tap dance number to accompany it. The song even starts with syncopated snaps that recall tap dancing.

The lyrics mostly expand on the title, with the speaker explaining in various ways how, when he is in the presence of the object of his infatuation, he becomes tongue-tied: "I'm so shy when I'm with you/
Don't know what to say or do" and "When you come walking by/ All that I can do is sigh" and finally "I/ know I love you til I die/ I can't say it cause I'm shy."

He does regret this state of affairs-- "Gee, I wish I weren't shy"-- and does attempt to overcome his reticence. "Each night I look in my mirror," he explains, "And practice what I'm going to say to you." He gives himself pep talks: "I tell myself, 'Be confident.'" He sallies forth with brave intent:"I/ raise my hopes up to the sky."

Of course, once the moment presents itself: "I'm scared to death the minute that I'm with you." Oh, dear. Sigh, indeed.

Since we don't know of the woman's reaction, we have to assume there isn't one. She isn't flattered that he is overcome when he is with her. She isn't annoyed by timidity. It's possible that this is one of those cases in which the boy moans, accurately, "She doesn't even know I exist."

The song plays the idea for comic effect, and the tone is lighthearted. We can image it as a vaudeville number, with a sad-sack crooner mooning and batting his eyes over a hotsy-totsy flapper way out of his league. She flirts with the audience instead of him, inviting their hoots and wolf-whistles. At the end, she leaves the stage, bored. He smiles, sighs, shrugs broadly, and toddles after her, still mooning. Curtain.

Next song: Play Me a Sad Song

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dreams Can Come True

This lilting little number follows a familiar pattern.  In the first verse, the speaker hearkens back to childhood. In the second verse, he is teen, awakening to the idea of love. And then the third verse finds him discovering this love (the listener/subject of the song, of course, a.k.a. "you.")

Simon's take on this trope has the child as a dreamer-- "I would dream of castles and kings"-- and budding songwriter: "Every song I sung [sic]/ Told a tale of wonderful things."

He grew up believing that... well, see the title.

Once he gets the idea of falling in love, he is content to be passive about it and trust to fate: "I dreamed that someday I/ Would awake and find you, my love." If dreams can come true, they will have to do so on their own. To be fair, he found her passively, as he predicted: "You came into my life."

Then, he says that he had done with dreaming: "I knew that my dreams were through." At first ,we imagine that he means that he no longer had the need to dream of love, once he had it in actuality.

This is true, but there is another side to his no-longer-dreaming, namely, the realities of life and love in the real world: "...we faced sorrow and strife." A rude awakening, for this dreamer.

Further, he did find the wrong person first, and it is implied that she was unfaithful: "I could feel that this love was true." There is an emphasis on "this," implying not only that there were others, but that those relationships were... problematic.

"Dreams can come true," the speaker repeats again (for that line, twice, is the chorus), concluding, "And you are my dream come true." Awww!

The melody is, well, dreamy. The backing vocal, however, is unusual to the point of being distracting. Instead of the usual "ooh-wah-ooh" or "sha-la-lah," we get this: "Run-tsu-dee-run-do-run-tsee-run." And, on top of that, some "ch-ch" vocalizations.

Perhaps this is meant to further the idea of the lullaby feeling of the song. If so, it's no "too-rah-loo-rah-loo-rah."

There is nothing wrong with the idea of trying to create a new "wop-bop-a-loo-bop." But maybe not in a love song...?

Next Song: Shy

Monday, March 10, 2014


Among the hundreds of words Shakespeare is credited with coining, one of the most popular must be "lonely." In fact, it can be shown by a catalog of his lyrics that Sting would not have had a songwriting career without this word. Simon himself has many titles that use the word in some form, and both songwriters-- now on tour together-- have explored the idea in great depth and breadth.

This is actually quite an affecting little song. It's melancholy without lapsing into lugubriousness.The lyrics are pitched a bit above the average teeny-bop reading level, making it poetic without being academically so.

This time, we have a speaker lying in bed thinking about his lost love: "Loneliness/ You're gone and I must confess/ My nights are spent in misery/ Only my sorrow lingers with me."

In the next verse, Simon uses imagery that Smokey Robinson later would in songs like "Tracks of My Tears" and "Tears of a Clown," of the person who is only smiling on the outside: "Although I laugh, it's just a pose/ Inside I cry, but nobody knows."

He explains that he is "playing a part," but he "can't deceive [his] heart," let alone laugh his way out of his doldrums.

Then he poses a paradox:  "There's no one to share my loneliness," he says. Yes, but if someone were there, wouldn't that mean he would not be lonely in the first place? This is similar to the idea Stevie Nicks poses, in "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?" with her lyric: "I'd rather be alone/ Than be without you."

It gets to the root of why Shakespeare needed the word to begin with. "Alone" is one thing; it just mean "solitary." Some people, like Norma Desmond, even want to be alone. But if being alone is a problem for you, then you are "lonely"... even in a crowd. If "alone" is just "1," then "lonely" is "2 minus 1."

Stevie Nicks would rather be simply "alone" altogether-- with no one at all, and no emotional loss-- than be "without" the one she loves. To her, it is, despite the saying, better to have "never loved at all" than to have "loved and lost."

And Simon, here, could have a friend or brother, similarly heartbroken or longing for love, and at least have someone to "fill the emptiness" and talk about how lonely they are.

The song closes on a note of despair: "I can't forget your memory/ At night, it haunts my reverie."
Maybe things will look better in the morning? "Without your love, I can't endure." Maybe not.

This is not a song of agony, of gnashing teeth and tearing hair. It is not a song, like Sting's "Every Breath You Take," of rage and possessive revenge.

It is simply a long sigh. It's the song of the dull, continuous ache of an endless-seeming, solitary night, spent staring at the ceiling, in a bed with only one's regrets for company. While our speaker's eyes may be welled with tears, he's past weeping. Now, it just hurts.

The bass backup singers presage Simon's use of such groups as the Jesse Dixon Singers and the Dixie Hummingbirds. Meanwhile, the twangy bass-line on guitar  recalls that of early Johnny Cash.

Simon's delivery is a major part of the song's success. He doesn't emote much, or even moan. He's too wrung out, emotionally, for that. He returns to this delivery in songs like "Hearts and Bones" and especially "How the Heart Approaches What it Yearns." This song is a lost, understated gem.

Next Song: Dreams Can Come True

Monday, March 3, 2014

Wow Cha-Cha-Cha

In case anyone was wondering, this song is a cha-cha. Once again, the singer is neither Paul nor Art, but someone professional, playful... and a tad generic.

This song is a dismiss-able bit of pop fluff, but it's really nice to hear Simon-- excuse me, "Landis"-- just enjoying himself. There is no anxiety here (save for the repeated line "don't you ever leave") or loneliness, or anything but good, clean fun.

Speaking of generic, the lyrics are almost too cliche to bother with: "When I cha-cha-cha with you, wow!/ Like a shock from out the blue/ Feel that message comin' through/ It's love, cha-cha-cha."

Yes, our singer sings "cha-cha-cha." About 10 times. But to be fair, anyone assaying this dance is muttering "one-two... cha-cha-cha" to himself as he does so.

The rest of the lyrics are about as obvious as they come: "Don't you dance too far away/ Here is what I have to say/ Love has finally come my way/ It's heaven" and "How I tingle through and through/ You have made my dreams come true."

Oh, and the bridge? "Kiss me/ Hold Me/ Thrill me" each followed by, you guessed it, "cha-cha-cha."

Did it take a Paul Simon to write this? No. But it did give him the chance to try yet another "world music" rhythm... and pen something airy and sprightly about dancing and flirting with the one you love.

Only a true curmudgeon would scowl at something like that.

Next Song: Loneliness