PAUL SIMON ON "ALIENATION" & "PROTEST":
PAUL SIMON: "The Sound of Silence" was written about a year before it was recorded on "Wednesday Morning." So that puts "The Sound of Silence" in '62, '63, I. guess -- two years before it came out as a hit single. So, it's written about a feeling I had then. And it took me a couple of months then to write it. So, a lot of these songs are written in the past, and they come out as if this is what we're up to. Then, a kid comes back from England with a big hit record, and everybody says, "You seem to write a lot about alienation." "Right," I said. "Right, I do." "Alienation seems to be your big theme." "That's my theme," I said. And I proceeded to write more about alienation. Actually, Dylan was writing protest, and whatever it was, everybody had a tag. They put a tag on the alienation. And it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, so I wrote alienation songs. Of course, we all had a feeling of alienation....
But protest was actually an attempt to deny alienation, because protest generally reflected an active commitment, an active involvement.
Well, I don't think so. Actually protest songs were saying, "I'm not part of you." If the world was full of me, the answer wouldn't be blowin' in the wind, you know.
Did you dislike protest music?
No, I didn't dislike it. I liked it, like everybody liked it. I thought that second Dylan album, "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," was fantastic. It was very moving. Very exciting. There was a lot of bad protest because protest became a thing. What was that song?
"Eve of Destruction"?
Awful. And you knew that it was already ruined when that happened.
1970 interview, reprinted in The Rolling Stone Interviews Vol. 2, New York, NY, 1973, p. 408.
To talk more about songwriting for a bit... How about Dylan?
Well, you can go back and pick out five or six very important Dylan songs. I'm aware of that, because he became popular a year or so before we [SIMON & GARFUNKEL] did. Many of his still make it for me, whereas only a few of mine make it for me. I like his earlier stuff. His early songs were very rich, simple but very rich, with strong melodies. "Blowin' In The Wind" has a really strong melody. He so enlarged himself through the folk background that he incorporated it for a while. He defined the genre for a while. That's quite an accomplishment.
But no longer. Not to me. Maybe for some people he still makes it. When "Nashville Skyline" came out, a lot of groups started to play country music, but it didn't move me. The rock-country sound has the same limitation as country music. There were some great songs, but you were working within a very limited musical scope. And you get the picture after awhile. And that's what happened with country rock, after a while it's boring....
Do you remember when he recorded "The Boxer"?
Well, that was on "Self-Portrait", which is filled with mostly a weird combination of songs from everywhere. I certainly didn't like his version of "The Boxer" nearly as much as I like the Simon and Garfunkel version. I think that's one of the best things that we ever did, although I thought the fade-out ending was too long. Aside from that, I like the song a lot, and I like our record of it. Aside grom the fact, I was flattered to have Bob Dylan sing one of my songs.
Did you teach him the song?
No. I once sang it in front of him. I'm sure he learned it himself.
1970 interview, reprinted in The Rolling Stone Interviews Vol. 2, New York, NY, 1973, pp. 424-425.