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Britt Daniel's Five Essential Paul Simon Songs

Britt Daniel and his Spoon bandmates (photo by Tom Hines, PR)

Britt Daniel (in the shades) and his Spoon bandmates (photo by Tom Hines, PR)


Britt Daniel, the lead singer and guitarist of Spoon and a member of Divine Fits, is a longtime admirer of Paul Simon's songwriting. In fact, Spoon even covered Simon's "Peace Like A River" in their sets for a spell. And Simon's influence sometimes edges its way into Texas-bred band's songs too, like "The Underdog" from 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga or "Goodnight Laura" off of 2010's Transference.

Daniel has been pulling long hours in the studio of late with his Spoon bandmates—the band's last album was 2014's They Want My Soul—but when FUV asked him if he could find the time to write about Paul Simon for FUV Essentials, he swiftly sent on this wonderful assessment of his favorite Simon songs:

Britt Daniel's Five Essential Paul Simon Songs:

"Peace Like A River," Paul Simon
We used to do this song a lot a few years ago, I don’t know why we ever stopped playing it. I think it’s the only Paul Simon song we’ve covered? My favorite line is the one he repeats three times at the end of the song:

Oh, oh, oh, I’m gonna be up for a while
Oh, oh, oh, I’m gonna be up for a while
Oh, oh, oh, I’m gonna be up for a while

Crowds always liked those lines too. I’m not sure what it’s got to do with the rest of the song but the moment it describes is so great and I’ve certainly been there. There’s incredible guitar playing on this one. Check the amazing acoustic guitar figure he does twice—once after the bridge and once at the end.

"One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor," There Goes Rhymin' Simon
Right off the bat he sets up a sense of dread with that descending opening piano figure—a great riff with an insane, almost impossible time break in the middle of it. You get the feeling you know where he's going and then the time breaks and an ominous low riff comes out of that riff. It throws everything off and leaves you with the feeling that something dark is present, insisting to be made known. For me the greatness of this song's lyrics (as is often the case with Paul Simon’s songs) is what’s alluded to but not explained.

There's been some strange goin's on
And some folks have come and gone
Like the elevator man don't work no more
I heard a racket in the hall and I thought I heard a call
But I never opened up my door

And then the bridge. This part creeped me the hell out when I was a kid sitting on the floor by the record player and reading the lyrics in the gatefold:

There's an alley in the back of my building
Where some people congregate in shame
I was walking with my dogs
And the night went black with smog
When I thought I heard somebody call my name

"Mother and Child Reunion," Paul Simon
“The mother and child reunion is only a motion away”—only a motion away? I love it.

"Bridge Over Troubled Water," Bridge Over Troubled Water
If everybody in the world would be made to get super blitzed, lay down on the floor, and listen to "Bridge Over Troubled Water" a few times, we might know peace in our time.

"The Boxer," Bridge Over Troubled Water
The recording accident you hear at 4:44 made an impression on me long before I’d thought about writing songs or making recordings. Listen for what has got to be a bit of vocal reverb from an earlier vocal take which went longer than the final take. You hear it poke through the mix like steam from a subway grate, just as the climax of the song is fading and the calm of the end section is taking over. It’s perfect—a great accident that they wisely kept.

-Britt Daniel
June 2016

Read all of FUV's Five Essentials.