A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)"
Song by Simon & Garfunkel from the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Released October 10, 1966
Recorded 13 June 1966
Genre Folk rock
Length 2:12
Label Columbia
Writer Paul Simon
Producer Bob Johnston
Cover versions
Paul Simon
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme track listing
"Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall"
(8)
"A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)"
(9)
"For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her"
(10)

"A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission)" is a song written by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. Originally recorded for Simon's 1965 UK-only debut, The Paul Simon Songbook, it was recorded soon after by Simon and his partner, Art Garfunkel, for the duo's third album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. It is generally considered a parody of American musician Bob Dylan's writing style, especially that of "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", a lengthy piece released on Dylan's 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. The original version was subtitled "Or how I was Lyndon Johnson'd into Submission" in a spoken introduction at the beginning, after Simon announced the song's title. The subtitle does not appear on the sleeve or the disc label.

Definition[edit]

"Desultory" means lacking a plan, or a poor effort, a disappointing performance,[1] and a "philippic" is another word for a tirade, a loud verbal rant.[2]

Recording history[edit]

Simon's original, solo performance found on The Paul Simon Songbook is lesser known than Simon & Garfunkel's; the album remained out of print until 2004, when it was re-released by Columbia/Legacy.

In early 1965, Simon was in the midst of a period in which he went back and forth between the United States and Great Britain. Eventually spending most of 1965 in Britain, he recorded The Paul Simon Song Book in London, while making a living singing at folk clubs in Britain. During this period he was also writing with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers. The album's liner notes by Judith Piepe, state of the song: "This is, of course, a take-off, a take-on, a private joke, but no joke is all that private or any less serious for being a joke."

In 1966, together with Art Garfunkel, Simon re-recorded the song for the duo's album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, with several lyrical changes. The list of names dropped is revised. When Simon complains about a man who is, "...so unhip, when you say Dylan he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas," the next line in the London solo version is "It's all right Ma. It's just something I learned over in England," referencing the Dylan songs "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "I Shall Be Free No. 10." However, the Simon and Garfunkel songs says, "It's all right Ma. Everybody must get stoned."[3] the second part referencing the Dylan song "Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35".

At the end of the 1966 recording Simon says, "Folk rock," and, after an audible noise, "I've lost my harmonica, Albert."[3] This presumably refers to Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman. In the 1965 version, however, Simon sings, "When in London, do as I do: find yourself a friendly haiku... Go to sleep for ten or fifteen years." This could be a reference to his girlfriend at that time, Kathy Chitty, whom people referred to as 'The Haiku'.

People mentioned in lyrics[edit]

In 1965:

In 1966:

In both:

References[edit]