“Hearts and Bones?, never heard of it.” Paul (our drummer) looked at me as if I was winding him up then composed himself. “It’s fine, we’ve got 3 weeks to learn it and my Dad will love you forever”. This was for Paul’s Dad’s 60th birthday (I think). There was going to be a do on at Parrs Wood catholic club and Paul wanted us to learn and play this classic Paul Simon track. I knew the Graceland album and the undisputed genius of his long time collaboration with Art Garfunkel but the back catalogue of one of the greatest songwriters ever to grace the world of music (post Garfunkel) was still a mystery to me.
Then I heard the track and it totally blew me away. I must have listened to it a hundred times in one week easily, maybe more. I’d play it in 5 second segments as I wrote down the chords and the timings and the lyrics. Normally I’d have expected to begin to master the tune, with each listen but with this track it was different. The chords, the phrasing, the timing, the time signature and the whole bloody feel was alien to me. In short this was far and away the best song I’d heard in all the above departments for a long time. I know this stuff is subjective and one man’s this is another man’s that but you just have to hear it and if you don’t like it then send your sound system in for repair – there is something wrong with it.
However rather than feel energised by this I started to feel nervous. “We can’t do this. It’s too complex”. There are a couple of stops in it which I defy anyone (other than Paul) to be able to emulate faithfully. So if a standard song has 4 beats then this song has 2 stops in it which are about 3.75 beats long (or something like that). Paul just knew this and knew how to play it and time it and he guided me through it like a nurse helping a serious post-op patient back into bed.
Gradually, bit by bit, through constant repetition we began to master this weird and beautiful song. Line by line the song came together and I learned more about music and songwriting from that experience than pretty much any other (and where did that learning go then I hear people cry – naff off I reply). Even to this day I find it hard to believe that such a thing of beauty can come from one person’s mind.
I COULDN’T SING IT THOUGH!! Paul could. The quality and tone of his voice was perfect for this song (and any other for that matter). Most people at the time, knew him for the excellent, instinctive and gifted drummer and percussionist that he was but his vocals were always as good if not better. The backing that he put to some of our vocals was just stupendous. Even to this day there are times listening to old recordings where I discover some fantastic melody line that he used to do, the quality of which I just didn’t appreciate back then. Anyhow we did the gig, Paul sang it, I did some vocal harmonies and played rhythm guitar, Phil played bass and Adam played lead. They both nailed their parts and Paul’s Dad absolutely loved it. Job done. Since then Paul has left the band, left Manchester and set up a new life for himself somewhere in Europe. I miss you mate wherever you have got to. If you see him, tell him I said hi.
The instrumental we must have listened back to over a thousand time just sat on my 16 track for years after. Some time later after one beer soaked evening I got Paul back to my gaff and practically forced him to sing over the instrumental that had been sat there all that time. He didn’t want to but I’m glad I persisted. He was always a man for live performance rather than recording. Live was real to him and recorded was always going to be stilted or emotionally confining in some way. It was pretty much one of the last things we did together and I’m so glad I got him to record it.
I really don’t want this to just sit on my hard drive all it’s life. I want it out there and I want anyone, like you, who has showed an interest in my music to play it and share it with their like minded friends too.
So Paul, wherever you are my friend. This one’s for you.
If you like the track you might also consider checking out Another Lifestyle Will Catch Your Eye. It’s my latest album and it’s full of indie-folk and folk rock tunes that I’d like to think both Paul’s would be pleased with.
Speak again soon