Monday, February 12, 2018

There Goes Rhymin' Simon

Last week, while casually perusing my Facebook feed, I saw a post from Paul Simon announcing his retirement. I don't say I blame him, nor was I surprised. He is, after all, 76 years old! But, I was saddened. In my mind, he is a musical genius.

I first discovered Paul, together with his pal Art Garfunkel, during the days of Columbia House music club. Do you remember that? You would sign up for a ridiculous low cost of $5 or something and get about 10 tapes. was in the days of cassette tapes! Then you would purchase a certain amount at regular price over the year. Along the way, there were deals to be had. Each month, I would scan the catalogue to see what might be of interest. Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits seemed like something I would like. They always listed a couple of the songs on the album and I liked "Mrs. Robinson" and "Sound of Silence" so I checked the box. It arrived, I popped it in the deck and I fell in love. The beautiful harmonies and poetic lyrics grabbed me and drew me in.

I soon purchased all of the Simon & Garfunkel albums on CD - yes, I was moving into the future by getting compact discs! Columbia House even featured a special boxed set with rare recordings - which, of course, I snatched up! It wasn't long before I was curious about Paul Simon's solo recordings. I purchased Graceland and was further intrigued. What a diverse talent!

When you're an old soul like I am, sometimes it seems like it might be a dream to get to see some of your favourite artists. As a teenager, my favourites included The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Mamas & Papas and Simon and Garfunkel. Not really the names that were showing up on the newly formed Lollapalooza line up! So, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be content to listen to them on my stereo only.

Imagine the thrill I got when I discovered in 1999 that Paul Simon would be touring with Bob Dylan. I couldn't believe it. I wasn't a big fan of Dylan, but my friend Carrie wanted to see him, so we got tickets to the show in Detroit. I was mesmerized by the eclectic array of instruments and musicians that joined him on stage and the beautiful arrangements that recreated all those old songs! With the exception of suffering through Bob Dylan's unintelligible mumbling, the concert was amazing!

The next year, he released You're the One and I convinced my S&G sidekick Karla to see him at Massey Hall in Toronto. Amy and her new boyfriend (now husband!) Patrick joined us for the incredible show. Massey Hall is one of my favourite places for a concert.

One year later, Paul toured with the legendary Brian Wilson. Well, I just had to go to that show! Once again, Karla & I set off to see him - this time in the 10th row at Molson Amphitheatre. Wow! What a show. My favourite concert. Brian Wilson was pretty sedentary as the opener, but his Beach Boy classics were great to get the crowd on their feet and dancing. Before we knew it, we were leaning on the stage. From our vantage point, we thought we saw Jim Creegan of the Barenaked Ladies. It wasn't out of the question to think it might be him since they are from the GTA. Sure enough, the Ladies were backstage and joined Brian Wilson on stage for a few surfin' classics before singing their very own song called Brian Wilson. It was a wild ride and Paul hadn't even come out on stage!

He did eventually come out and sing a few songs with Brian Wilson before taking over the stage. What a fantastic concert! Outdoor summer concerts have a completely different feel and this one was so amazing! We were movin' and groovin' to classics like Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes and Cecilia. At the end of the show, he walked along the edge of the stage and grabbed the hands of everyone standing there. INCLUDING ME! Ya, it was a moment for sure!

By 2003 I felt I had had a good run with Paul Simon. I had got to see him THREE times! And then the announcement came. Simon & Garfunkel would reunite for a tour. NO WAY! Naturally, Karla and I were all over that. We booked our tickets and headed to The Palace of Auburn Hills to see our music heroes. What a beautiful evening filled with our favourite songs. If we closed our eyes, we could picture it was 1981 and we were standing in Central Park :) This reunion was a dream come true for the two of us. I'm so thrilled I was able to see Paul & Art together AND I did with with my very best friend who shares a passion for their music.

After that show, I had an eight year Paul Simon gap. In 2011 I was just finishing up my time at Fanshawe and I heard he would be playing at Massey Hall. I had to go. Favourite artist, favourite venue. By this time Karla was busy having babies so she was out and I couldn't convince anyone else to spend the money on a ticket. So, I did something I've never done before and may never do again. I bought a single ticket. I'm glad I went but, I didn't like the experience. I didn't have anyone to turn to and express my feelings about the song. However, it turned out to be a pretty awesome decision to use my TIFF experience and wait around the exit door after the show. I had heard Massey Hall is a great place to get an autograph, so I gave it a try. Wouldn't you know it, I succeeded! He came out and was very nice to the small group of people that had gathered. When I gave him my photo to sign his comment was "why would you want that picture signed?" I exclaimed "I love that photo!" He did sign it and I gushed about how amazing he was.

I had the privilege of seeing him in 2014 together with Sting. That was a great show. They truly co-headlined - each singing their own hits plus doing some duets with each other. I went with a former coworker who was totally pumped to see Sting - so it worked out for each of us! Although, I must say I prefer his solo shows so I get all Paul all the time. LOL.

And now it's time for me to see him one last time. I was relieved to confirm my tickets for the show in Toronto in June. Devin is going to experience Mr. Simon with me for his first and my last time. They say seven is a lucky number - it will be my 7th time to see him. It will be bittersweet, but I'm grateful for the music, Paul.

A sidenote on the autograph: I clearly lost my head with excitement as I was holding my silver sharpie ready for Paul to sign at any moment. When the time came, he started in the upper left of the photo and the marker was dry. It wouldn't work. I panicked! What a rookie mistake for me to make. Fortunately, the guy beside me quickly handed him his black sharpie and all was well. That is why the ticket is placed so closely to his head. LOL. To cover up the mistake!

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