Living just across the river from NYC, it was so close and yet so very far away, both in distance to a pre-teen and by the promise of what it was about. "The Sounds Of Silence," only enhanced all those feelings I had about the city. I never bought the album it was on, only the 45. My best friend at the time had Wednesday Morning 3 AM, and along with a few other albums, we played it non-stop,
Now at that time I had never been on a subway, that privilege would come several years later. At this point all I knew of it was what was talked about on the evening news...and it wasn't pretty. Muggings, stabbings and graffiti. And here on this new album, right alongside songs as beautiful as "The Dangling Conversation" and "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her," was this dark and gritty song; Side 2 Song 5: "A Poem On The Underground Wall."
I had no idea what imagery was at the time, all I knew was this song's vision was sent to that part of the brain that goes "holy shit." And it was clear. And it was unnerving. And it was stunning.
This video has an interesting lead-in story to go along with the song. But let the lyrics take you down to the shadows of the 60s New York City subways. Happy Birthday Paul.
"The last train is nearly due
The underground is closing soon
And in the dark deserted station
Restless in anticipation
A man waits in the shadows
His restless eyes leap and scratch
At all that they can touch or catch
And hidden deep within his pocket
Safe within his silent socket
He holds a colored crayon
Now from the tunnel’s stony womb
The carriage rides to meet the groom
And opens wide and welcome doors
But he hesitates, then withdraws
Deeper in the shadows
And the train is gone suddenly
On wheels clicking silently
Like a gently tapping litany
And he holds his crayon rosary
Tighter in his hand
Now from his pocket quick he flashes
The crayon on the wall he slashes
Deep upon the advertising
A single-worded poem comprised
Of four letters
And his heart is laughing, screaming, pounding
The poem across the tracks rebounding
Shadowed by the exit light
His legs take their ascending flight
To seek the breast of darkness and be suckled by the night"
Copyright by Paul Simon.