Monday, June 6, 2016

"Allergies" by Paul Simon

Song#:  1680
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  68
Peak:  44
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Soft Rock, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Simon had not recorded a solo studio album since 1975's Still Crazy After All These Years. The album was a #1 hit that would go on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year thanks in part to the #1 single "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Following that album he did a successful soundtrack to his film One-Trick Pony (1980), which yielded his last Top 10 hit "Late in the Evening." A reunion with Art Garfunkel followed that resulted in 1982's The Concert in Central Park album and video. After the successful re-pairing with Garfunkel, Simon began work on tracks that were originally pegged for a new Simon & Garfunkel studio LP. Unfortunately, the two fell out once again and Simon proceeded to make it a solo venture. The result was Hearts and Bones and this first single heralded its arrival. Despite his efforts to update his sound via synths and Linn drums, Simon's singer/songwriter style was not fitting in with the pop musical landscape at the time and the single fell short of the Pop Top 40 while only reaching #26 at AC. A follow-up single failed to chart at all and that pretty much sealed the fate of the album which topped out at an unexpected #35. It also failed to reach gold status. Simon took the failure of the album quite hard and questioned if he was still a viable artist. It was most likely his lowest point as an artist, but three years later he would get his mojo back for the most successful album of his career.

ReduxReview:  I didn't remember the actual song at all, but I do remember when I first heard it because my reaction to it was like "what the hell is this?" I thought it was an absolute dud of a song for a single. It was like Simon was trying to make one of his cerebral tunes hip by tossing in some updated 80s production and sounds. It just didn't work. I think the song is a mess. That said, I don't necessarily hate it. As an album track I think it makes for an interesting experiment, but as a single? Yeesh. Regardless, I think it would have been an uphill battle for Simon to get a hit single at this time just based on music trends and the fact his contemporaries were not doing well either. So issuing this oddball track certainly did help. The album wasn't received too well by critics back in the day, but it seems to have aged pretty well. It's not great, but there are a couple nice Simon pieces on it.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  One track on Hearts and Bones was inspired by an old photograph. Belgian photographer Lothar Wolleh took a picture of surrealist painter René Magritte with his wife and their dog. Titled "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog During the War," it was purported to be taken during WWII, but the image was most likely from the 1960s. A second photo was taken at the painter's home in 1967 that was more simply titled "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog." Simon was intrigued by the photos and they inspired him to write the song "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War" (taking poetic songwriting license and changing "during" to "after"). Although not issued as a single, a video was made for the song. Despite the album's commercial and critical failures, the song has remained popular in Simon's catalog and is considered one of his best latter date compositions. (I've always like this song and the video is great too. What is even better is the acoustic demo version found on the CD reissue of the album. It is really beautiful.)


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