A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)
|"A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)"|
|Song by Paul Simon|
|from the album The Paul Simon Songbook|
|Studio||Levy's Recording, London|
|Producer(s)||Reginald Warburghton, Stanley West|
"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. "Desultory" means lacking a plan, or a poor effort, a disappointing performance, and a philippic is a fiery, damning speech, or tirade, delivered to condemn a particular political actor.
Simon's original, solo performance found on The Paul Simon Songbook is less well 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 Songbook 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 changes to the lyrics. 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." 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." 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
- Lyndon Johnson, President of the United States (1963–1969)
- Union Jack, flag of the United Kingdom
- Jack Kerouac, American novelist
- John Birch, American Baptist missionary
- Larry Adler, noted harmonica player
- Walt Disney, American film producer
- Diz Disley, British jazz guitarist
- John Lennon, member of The Beatles
- Krishna Menon, Indian politician
- Walter Brennan, American actor
- Cassius Clay, American boxer, later known as Muhammad Ali
- James Joyce, Irish writer and poet
- Tom Wilson, record producer who produced several of Bob Dylan's '60s LPs, Simon & Garfunkel's début album, and the electric version of "The Sound of Silence"
- Barry Kornfeld, second guitarist on Simon and Garfunkel's Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. album
- Norman Mailer, American writer
- Maxwell Taylor, American soldier and diplomat
- John O'Hara, American writer
- Robert McNamara, American political figure (U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time)
- Phil Spector, record producer
- Lou Adler, record producer
- Barry Sadler, American musician
- Roy Halee, Simon and Garfunkel's record producer
- The Rolling Stones, British rock group
- The Beatles, British pop and rock group
- Ayn Rand, novelist and philosopher
- Art Garfunkel, American singer, Paul Simon's partner in Simon and Garfunkel
- Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet and writer
- Lenny Bruce, American comedian
- Mick Jagger, frontman of The Rolling Stones
- "Silver Dagger", nineteenth-century folk song largely associated with Joan Baez
- Andy Warhol, American visual artist