Song In My Head

great musicians tell us about cherished tunes.

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The Old Ceremony Paul Simon Run That Body Down

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As far as rock stars go, few are as understated as Paul Simon. He’s this odd, brainy guy who mumbles occasionally deep insights to himself off to one side at a cocktail party, not caring who hears him or doesn’t. His restraint, both in writing and singing, make his depth easy to overlook in a noisy, over-stimulated world. But there he stands in the corner, whispering epiphanies wrapped in deceptively casual scenes. I discovered Run That Body Down [which appears on 1972’s Paul Simon] in the middle of a particularly grueling period of touring, where I asked myself, “How do people do this and not run themselves into the ground?”

And there was Paul Simon, echoing my silent question with his own story: “Went to my doctor yesterday/ She said I seem to be okay/ She said Paul you better look around/ How long you think that you can run that body down?/ How many nights do you think you can do what you’ve been doing?/ Who are we fooling?”

There it was, effortlessly floating above a tired shuffle with a limber, philosophical melody and that familiar cocktail party mumble. Paul knew how I felt; he’d felt that way, too. He even called himself by name. But somehow he made it seem universal, not narcissistic. How did he do that? How did he string those odd chord changes together without disturbing the hypnotic movement of the melody? Who is this weird guy in the corner? I listened over and over, and when I wasn’t listening I was singing it in my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I love rock and roll’s oversized personas: Bowie, Mick Jagger, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, hell, even Morrissey. It’s a flamboyant business. But in my quieter moments, I don’t want someone to descend from Venus with a grandiose message for me. I want to nurse a whiskey in a corner with an understated (and underrated) philosopher. I want to turn it down and listen hard. I mean, who are we fooling? (Django Haskins of The Old Ceremony)

The Old Ceremony have a stellar new album, Tender Age, which we’ll be discussing with them next week when we spend 7 Minutes In Heaven together. The band plays this Friday, October 15, at Kings in Raleigh, NC with Hammer No More The Fingers sharing the bill.

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