Richard Nisley

Our Own Little World
Pop Culture Released - Mar 12, 2017

It’s been said that all the great bands create their own little world, and through their songs let the world in. This was certainly true of Simon and Garfunkel, who captured the alienation and urbane wit of college students across America in the late 1960s. The following is a glimpse into their own little world as expressed in the lyrics of five songs, by Paul Simon.


(not about a particular girl but rather an ideal)

What a dream I had / Pressed in organdy / Clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy / Softer than the rain / I wandered empty streets / Down past the shop displays / I heard cathedral bells / Tripping down the alleyways / As I walked on.

And when you ran to me / Your cheeks flushed with the night / We walked on frosted fields / Of juniper and lamplight / I held your hand.

And when I awoke and felt you warm and near / I kissed your honey hair with my grateful tears / Oh, I love you, girl / Oh, I love you


(a bit pretentious, but one of Paul and Art’s all-time favorite S & G songs)

It's a still-life water color, / Of a now late afternoon, / As the sun shines through the curtain lace / And shadows wash the room. / And we sit and drink our coffee / Couched in our indifference, / Like shells upon the shore / You can hear the ocean roar / In the dangling conversation / And the superficial sighs, / The borders of our lives.

And you read your Emily Dickinson, / And I my Robert Frost, / And we note our place with bookmakers / That measure what we've lost. / Like a poem poorly written / We are verses out of rhythm, / Couplets out of rhyme, / In syncopated time / And the dangling conversation / And the superficial sighs, / Are the borders of our lives.

Yes, we speak of things that matter, / With words that must be said, / “Can analysis be worthwhile?” / “Is the theater really dead?” / And how the room is softly faded / And I only kiss your shadow, / I cannot feel your hand, / You’re a stranger now unto me / Lost in the dangling conversation. / And the superficial sighs, / In the borders of our lives.


(inspired by a five-day trip Paul and his girlfriend Kathy took in 1964—to see England. Four years later, playing a gig in Saginaw, Michigan, Paul wrote this song)

Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together / I’ve got some real estate here in my bag / So we bought a pack of cigarettes, and Mrs. Wagner pies / And walked off to look for America.

Kathy, I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburg / Michigan seems like a dream to me now / It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw / I've come to look for America.

Laughin' on the bus, playing games with the faces / She said the man in the gaberdine suit was a spy / I said be careful, his bowtie is really a camera.

Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat / We smoked the last one an hour ago / So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine / And the moon rose over an open field.

Kathy, I'm lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping / I’m empty and aching and I don't know why / Countin’ the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike / They’ve all come to look for America, all come to look for America.


(semi-autobiographical sketch of Paul’s life and the public criticism that was eating away at him at the time, which made him want to run away)

I am just a poor boy / Though my story's seldom told / I have squandered my resistance / For a pocketful of mumbles / Such are promises / All lies and jest / Still, a man hears what he wants to hear / And disregards the rest.

When I left my home / And my family / I was no more than a boy / In the company of strangers / In the quiet of the railway station / Running scared / Laying low / Seeking out the poorer quarters / Where the ragged people go / Looking for the places / Only they would know.

Lie-la-lie . . .

Asking only workman's wages / I come looking for a job / But I get no offers / Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue / I do declare / There were times when I was so lonesome / I took some comfort there.

Lie-la-lie . . .

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes / And wishing I was gone / Going home / Where the New York City winters / Aren’t bleeding me / Leading me / Going home.

In the clearing stands a boxer / And a fighter by his trade / And he carries the reminders / Of ev'ry glove that laid him down / And cut him till he cried out / In his anger and his shame / “I am leaving, I am leaving” / But the fighter still remains.

Lie-la-lie . . .


(Paul’s biographical sketch of Art’s childhood)

In my little town / I grew up believing / God keeps His eye on us all /
And He used to lean upon me / As I pledged allegiance to the wall / Lord I recall / My little town.

Coming home after school / Flying my bike past the gates / Of the factories / My mom doing the laundry / Hanging our shirts / In the dirty breeze.

And after it rains / There’s a rainbow / And all of the colors are black / It’s not that the colors aren't there / It’s just imagination they lack / Everything’s the same / Back in my little town.

In my little town / I never meant nothin’ / I was just my father's son / Saving my money / Dreaming of glory / Twitching like a finger / On the trigger of a gun / Leaving nothing but the dead and dying / Back in my little town.

- END -
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