Monday, May 14, 2007

Anecdote #464 scene two

in 1985 a very unexpected call came from paul simon asking me to come to new york for four days to work on a new record he was making called graceland. the first morning in the studio paul's engineer roy halee (one of the world's best engineer/producers) surprised me by playing some of the tracks. they had no vocals, only the instrumental parts which were recorded in africa and played by african musicians. it was stunning music but I didn't know what to make of it. didn't sound anything like paul simon.
I was the first non-african to play on the songs and without paul's voice it sounded like nothing I'd heard before. paul arrived, we chatted, and I expressed my puzzlement.
"well, here let me help you," paul said. "play the track quietly," he said to roy. they began playing one track at a time. while the music played, paul would sing quietly right in my ear. he'd be singing "a man walks down the street", whispering it in my ear. "angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity", singing it in my ear. it gave me chills.
he had yet to finish the lyrics to many of the songs so he sang what bits and pieces he had while he gestured with his hands. hearing his voice singing sure made them paul simon songs. then I understood. it was a chilling thrill I will never forget.
a year or so later graceland had taken the world by storm selling what? 10 million records? paul was so nice to me. he was the first artist I'd worked with to send me a gold record (even though I'd played on a few by then).
I was leaving my house one evening just as a UPS truck delivered a strangely shaped package. looked like a painting or something. I ran back into the house to open it. it was a gold record for graceland! I didn't think I would be effected by such a thing but I was so happy I walked around for the next few days with such a huge smile on my face I had to keep picking bugs out of my teeth.


  1. Wow, Paul Simon whisper singing in your ear. That would be a "chilling thrill". That album's music is so richly woven that I don't know how all the elements could have added up to the classic it is.

  2. Paul Simon singing in your ear. . . This is one of the best anecdotes yet.

  3. that's wonderful...i'm smiling just reading this :)

  4. Cool story Adrian! I love these stories. You should definitely write a book full of them.
    I remember Brian Eno saying in 1980's interviews that his ultimate band would have had Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing. And then Paul Simon actually did it. Graceland is a wonderful record. I'm glad you were a part of it.
    I am also really glad that you were part of "Remain in Light". Back in 1981 or '82, I got deep into African music after hearing two records... Talking Heads "Remain in Light" and Steve Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians".
    Those two records literally changed my life. Then "Discipline" came along... and "Lone Rhino"... and Jon Hassell. That early 1980's period was the best musical period for me.
    Later I went on to actually study West African drumming. I am still studying and playing it. I love it so much.
    Have you been influenced much by African rhythms? Do you listen to "ethnic" music much?