Monday, February 17, 2020

"The Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon

Song#:  3046
Date:  03/07/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  86
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, World

Pop Bits:  Simon's Graceland LP had been around since late summer '86. Its first two singles weren't major hits, but solid reviews of the album and interest in its worldbeat style helped it reach #6. Then in late Feburary '87, the album got a significant boost when it won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Graceland was still in the Top 20 at the time, but due to the win it did a turnabout on the chart and headed up to a new peak of #4. The Grammy win coincided just right with the release of this third single. It would do quite well at Rock reaching #15. Unfortunately, it couldn't make much headway on the Pop chart and fell off after a short month.

ReduxReview:  This was the first track on Graceland and with the opening accordion line along with the big drum bang, you knew you were in for something completely different than Simon's normal pop fare. The driving rhythm created by the accordion and the bass were just so cool. Add to that Simon's near-stream of consciousness lyrics and you had a truly unique and memorable track. There was something earthy and mysterious about the song and I liked it from the get-go. As a Pop single? Well, it wasn't necessarily built for that. However, it was interesting and groovy enough that it might have had a chance to catch on and be one of those strange radio hit oddities. Rock radio played it, but the track just wasn't cutting it next to Madonna and Bon Jovi. I don't think the pop radio audience was quite ready for worldbeat music.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This was among the first songs Simon attempted to record when he went to South Africa. Before arriving, he had heard a song by a group called Tau Ea Matsekha that he particularly liked. Simon decided to record a version of the tune and he asked the group's leader, songwriter, and accordionist Forere Motloheloa to join him in the studio. They reworked the tune with other musicians and completed the backing track. When he got back to the US, Simon wrote the lyrics and recorded the main vocal part. Motloheloa received a writing credit on the song alongside Simon.


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