A man walks down the street

This is a great story on why Paul Simon said “You Can Call Me Al”. My parents heard it at a performance of some music by a man named Stanley Silverman:

The eclectic work refers to a road in the Hamptons, takes inspiration from the fact that New York’s classical and Latin music FM stations are next to each other on the radio dial and closes with variations on Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.” (The elder Mr. Silverman, it turns out, took Pierre Boulez to the 1970 party that inspired the song, at which Mr. Simon was mistakenly called Al and his wife at the time, Peggy, was called Betty.)

The Times clips the story, but according to my parents, Boulez, who had never heard of Paul Simon, is the one who called him “Al” and his wife “Betty”.

Also too, this is open thread.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit

62 replies
  1. 1
    ciotog says:

    Eh, I prefer the “You Can Call Me Al” as Dante’s Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso story.

  2. 2
    Cmm says:

    Thanks for the ear worm!

  3. 3
    eldorado says:

    everytime i watch the dallas cowboys play that ‘why i am soft in the middle’ line goes though my head

  4. 4
    piratedan says:

    since this is here and I got in on the tail end of the last, I’m gonna repost this…..



  5. 5
    lamh35 says:

    TPM’s new “facebook” comment section is stupid!

    Anyhoo, Saw The Avengers!!!! IT.WAS.AWESOME!!! It def lived up to the hype, IMHO.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Martin says:

    You know, I don’t find this stuff amusing any more…

  8. 8
    BGinCHI says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t like that song?


  9. 9
    Ivan Ivanovich Renko says:

    Best album of the ’80s, full stop.

  10. 10
    Raven says:

    @BGinCHI: It sure ain’t Capeman.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    Martin says:

    @Ivan Ivanovich Renko: Or damn close to it, I agree.

  13. 13
    forked tongue says:

    I’m glad that line had some personal meaning for him, but it’s never meant shit to me. Aren’t songwriters supposed to be talking to someone besides themselves? (I hate Paul Simon.)

  14. 14
    Jewish Steel says:

    Great. Now I have Le Marteau Sans Maitre stuck in my head.

  15. 15
    quannlace says:

    It’s funny. That wonderful old Ealing Studio comedy “The Lavender Hill Mob’ was on today. There’s the scene, after Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway have successfully dispatched their stolen gold bullion. Coming back, tipsy, from a little celebration party, Guinness says to Holloway’s character, “Mr.Pendlebury, can I call you Alfred.” And Mr. P replies, “Call me Al !”

    My first thought was ‘Wow, is Paul Simon a fan of this movie too?’

  16. 16
    lamh35 says:

    wow so the robmey strategy really is to what stalk the Obama campaign wherever they go WTF kind of strategy is that?

    Obama’s re-election rallies on Saturday to be blitzed by Romney campaign

  17. 17
    gogol's wife says:

    @Jewish Steel:


  18. 18
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    Rmoney’s only line is “I’m not the ni*CLANG*”.

    He has no other campaign theme.

  19. 19
    MattR says:

    @lamh35: An interesting strategy. It will either be effective because it takes oxygen away from Obama’s message or it will blow up because it makes Romney look like a dick. If they focused on having supporters there to provide a counter message to Obama’s speeches, I think it could work. But if they are going to do things like “planning to circle the candidate’s campaign bus” it is gonna backfire.

  20. 20
    burnspbesq says:

    Listening to “Echoes of Indiana Avenue,” a two-record set of previously unreleased Wes Montgomery, from before he was signed by Riverside and moved from Indianapolis to New York.

    Un. Fucking. Believable.

  21. 21
    beltane says:

    Funny story out of the UK today. Not only were the Conservatives and Lib Dems thoroughly trounced in local elections, but a Lib Dem incumbent in Edinburgh actually lost to an independent candidate who is in the habit of walking around in a penguin suit. This must make Andrew Sullivan sad.

  22. 22
    MikeJ says:

    @forked tongue:

    Aren’t songwriters supposed to be talking to someone besides themselves?

    Meh. Nothing duller than a song or book or movie that comes out and says exactly what it’s talking about. Call Me Al conveys a sense of displacement and confusion and a happy go lucky ease with it.

    In much the same way, Smells like Teen Spirit’s chorus of “a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido” expresses alienation and powerlessness without using either word. And it’s a better song for it.

  23. 23
    beltane says:

    @MattR: I almost feel sorry for the poor schmoes who are going to get nothing more than $5 and a hot meal to heckle the Obama supporters.

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    That’s hilarious. Who’s going to do the blitzing? A bunch of over-65 white folks in hoverounds?

    I realize this came out a few months ago, but I only just saw it today. The Guardian’s video ad for their “open journalism” based on the Three Little Pigs story. Very clever. Not sure what, if anything it says about journalism, but it certainly makes the general public look like a mob that’s always following whatever the latest outrage infotainment soundbite is being released that day.

  25. 25
    MikeJ says:

    @beltane: Pity about Boris though. I always liked Red Ken.

  26. 26
    beltane says:

    @MikeJ: Boris seems to have gotten some mileage out of criticizing his party. The best are the Tory backbenchers who are attributing their party’s thumping to, wait for it, not being conservative enough. On both sides of the Atlantic, the saying that “Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed” still has way too many believers.

  27. 27
    Amir Khalid says:

    @forked tongue:
    When the songs one writes speak to as many people as Paul Simon’s do, it seems absurd to accuse one of talking only to oneself.

  28. 28
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Violet: Dollars to donuts it’s young Mormons.

    All Obama has to do is walk over to them, say ‘hello’, and thank them for participating in the political process. Romney will just look more dickish.

  29. 29
    Violet says:

    For some reason the link didn’t post before. The Guardian’s Three Little Pigs ad:

  30. 30
    eemom says:


    Fat Charlie and the Archangel!


    Do you go over to Betsy’s place anymore? Does it still exist?

  31. 31
    Mark S. says:

    Interesting interview of Krugman by Ezra Klein. Ezra asks if Paul is surprised at the European response to the economic crisis:

    No. I know the Germans. They’ve never believed in any of this. They’re at a point that doesn’t exist in our spectrum. Here, people are either pro-Keynesian economics and pro-strong welfare state or they don’t believe in Keynesian economics and they believe in social darwinism. The German thing is rigorous, you-must-balance-your-budget and a belief in a strong welfare state. And they’ve always been that way.

    As for whether the Euro will last ten years:

    Depends on my mood. As a matter of substantive economics? It’s doomed. But some, like Martin Wolf, think that Europe’s leaders will eventually jettison their rigidity in order to save the European project. Because the European project is about much more than economics. But I just don’t know.

  32. 32
    MattR says:

    If anyone is interested, a good amount of the music from Jazzfest is being streamed to Youtube. Currently channel 1 has the Zac Brown Band while Rodrigo y Gabriela are about to go on channel 2. I would recommend checking them out.

  33. 33
    eemom says:

    @forked tongue:

    (I hate Paul Simon.)

    Why, pray tell?

    I mean, you might not like his music, but I can’t imagine anything about Paul Simon that would prompt someone to HATE him.

    If it’s because his lyrics are sometimes obscure, you must hate most talented songwriters.

  34. 34
    Valdivia says:


    I love that they are telegraphing that they plan to try to steal Obama’s thunder–i.e instead of generating their own they are just going to follow him around.

    Also–that might have worked with his opponents in the primary who didn’t even have crowds or anything but have these people ever been to an Obama rally? and with the secret service around they are going to circle his bus? What?

  35. 35
    Amir Khalid says:

    And you shall feel the furious anger of Samuel L. Jackson if you say otherwise.

  36. 36
    burnspbesq says:


    It’s still there as of two minutes ago. Havent been over there in a while.

    It would be great if David would start blogging again. He would be a HUGE asset here.

  37. 37
    Cacti says:

    The death of Adam Yauch/MCA got me thinking, the years really haven’t been kind to musical icons of Generation X.

    Kurt – suicide
    Tupac – murdered
    Biggie – murdered
    Lane – overdose
    MCA – cancer

  38. 38
    burnspbesq says:


    Anybody whose best melody was stolen from Bach can’t be all bad.

  39. 39
    trollhattan says:

    Attn. Oregon DFHs: You may now don your masks. Place yours on first, before helping the others.



    Weyerhaeuse, et al., with a special acknowledgment to your friends in the agrichemical industrial complex.

  40. 40
    SectarianSofa says:


    I find it annoying. I love parts of that album, but unfortunately it tends to be parts that are not whole songs.

  41. 41
    dexwood says:

    Paul Simon is not entirely loved by many musicians. He’s often considered a thief. Google Los Lobos and Paul Simon for example.

  42. 42
    Calouste says:

    @Mark S.:

    Because the European project is about much more than economics.

    You could also say that the European project is all about economics, because all those massive wars turned out to be bloody expensive.

  43. 43
    maya says:

    So who’s Julio? And why is he down by the schoolyard?

  44. 44
    eemom says:

    Oh, fuck the haters. And I’ve heard that “thief” stuff before and it’s a crock of shit.

    Paul Simon is a brilliant musician who remains an innovator after 50 fucking years. How many can say that??

    Fun Paul Simon song factoids:

    Mother and Child Reunion was inspired by a Chinese chicken and egg dish.

    He didn’t actually have any particular illegal act in mind in Me and Julio.

    He doesn’t like the third “sail on silvergirl” verse of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

    Extra bonus question: who knows where this is from?

    Now the years are rolling by me
    They are rocking evenly
    I am older than I once was
    but younger than I’ll be, that’s not unusual
    Lord is it strange
    After changes upon changes we are more or less the same
    After changes we are more or less the same.

    [hint: lie-la-lie]

  45. 45
    Steve says:

    I like Paul Simon fine. I saw him in college on the Rhythm of the Saints tour and it was a great show. I even own a copy of that Capeman CD (it’s pretty bad). But I can never be in the fan club because I like the Bangles version of “Hazy Shade of Winter” better.

  46. 46
    Mark S. says:


    Mother and Child Reunion was inspired by a Chinese chicken and egg dish.

    That cracked me up the first time I read about that. I always thought it was a song about a mother who couldn’t find her child (but not in a depressing YOUR CHILD IS DEAD, but more in a she’s somewhere around here, we’ll find her)

    But maybe that is what it’s about, and the dish just inspired him to write about that scenario.

    ETA: for clarity, maybe.

  47. 47
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @lamh35: About the Avengers….


  48. 48
    Gravenstone says:

    As this is an open thread, let me add to the plugs for The Avengers. Probably the most pitch perfect summer movie I’ve ever seen.

  49. 49
    Mark S. says:

    Apropos of nothing, Memo from Turner is probably my favorite Stones song. Performance, on the other hand, is a weird fucking movie.

  50. 50
    Gemina13 says:

    When “You Can Call Me Al” came out, Evan Mecham was facing a recall movement. Local DJs at KUPD-Phoenix wrote a parody using that song.

  51. 51
    Mark S. says:

    Here’s another scene from Movies that might have made more sense if I were taking hallucinogens while watching them: Eyesight to the Blind from Tommy.

  52. 52
    eemom says:


    I saw him in college on the Rhythm of the Saints tour

    I saw him in college in the Concert in Central Park (1981).

    I haz a old. : (

  53. 53
    Shana says:

    @Raven: Lovely. Thanks for posting this.

  54. 54
    brettvk says:

    I’ve loved Simon’s music since my early teens, not least because I’m sorta roly-poly and batfaced myself.

  55. 55
    dexwood says:

    Never said I hated him. Happen to truly love Graceland. Others, for good reasons, aren’t too fond of him. Is your reading comprehension always so poor?

  56. 56
    forked tongue says:


    Fair enough. I hate his songs, not him. I don’t know enough about him to feel one way or the other, except that his music sounds to me like the self-expression of the kind of whiny, self-absorbed, pretentious,* in-love-with-the-poignance-of-his-own-sadness dweeb I tend not to like much.

    *a term I don’t like to just throw around casually, but tell me, 25-year-old Paul Simon, can analysis be worthwhile? Is the theater really dead?

  57. 57
    TooManyJens says:

    @eemom: It’s from a version of the Boxer … I want to say the concert he did with Garfunkel in Central Park in ’81.

  58. 58
    forked tongue says:

    OK, I just read Steve Berlin’s account of what happened at the Graceland sessions. Now I do hate him.

  59. 59
    phein39 says:

    As always, the reader is responsible for what they read, the auditor for what they hear.

    The songwriter’s responsibility is to connect, only connect. Art connects when it evokes a response in the audience. I find a lot of Simon’s work to be evocative, but that may be because I was once a boxer, and am now roly-poly (but not bat-faced).

    If an artist’s works don’t resonate with you, meh, it’s a big world. If it evokes an ugly response in you, that may be the author, it may be you, it may even be an intended thing. But if the work evokes a hatred of the author, move on. No one needs to be all ate up with hatefulness.

  60. 60
    eemom says:

    @forked tongue:

    his music sounds to me like the self-expression of the kind of whiny, self-absorbed, pretentious,* in-love-with-the-poignance-of-his-own-sadness dweeb I tend not to like much.
    *a term I don’t like to just throw around casually, but tell me, 25-year-old Paul Simon, can analysis be worthwhile? Is the theater really dead?

    Actually, and interestingly, he himself has said he’s embarrassed by a lot of stuff he wrote when he was young, and for the very reason you mention.

    I’d defy you to find anything of that description on his post S&G stuff, though — and for fuck’s sake, that’s 1970 and onwards.

  61. 61
    eemom says:


    Splendiforous! Yes, it is an additional verse of The Boxer that he did in concert, even before Central Park in ’81.

  62. 62
    Ash Can says:

    If it were Pierre Fucking Boulez messing up my name, I’d probably be inspired to write a song about it too!

Comments are closed.