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)

"A Simple (Or How I Was Robert McNamara'd Into Submission)" is a song written by Paul Simon.

The song has two versions. The original version was performed and recorded by him with one microphone and an acoustic guitar on his solo album "The Paul Simon Song Book" in 1965. The original version was subtitled "(or how I was Lyndon Johnsoned into Submission)" by a spoken introduction at the beginning of this recording, when Simon announces the song's title. The subtitle does not appear on the sleeve or the album label.

In 1966, together with Art Garfunkel (as Simon and Garfunkel) Simon re-recorded the song for the duo's chart-topping "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" album, with several lyric changes. The song is considered to be a mocking parody of Bob Dylan's work, especially of "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" released in 1965.

When Simon originally wrote the song in early 1965, he was in the midst of a period in which he was going back and forth between the United States and Great Britain. Eventually he came to spend most of the year 1965 in Britain (he recorded "The Paul Simon Song Book" in London, as well as writing with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers) and continental Europe, also visiting Paris and Copenhagen. Most of this time, however, he spent singing in folk clubs in Britain to make a living. 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."

Names dropped in the 1966 version include:
*Norman Mailer - an American writer
*Maxwell Taylor - an American soldier and diplomat
*John O'Hara - an American writer
*Robert McNamara - an American military leader (U.S. Secretary of Defense at that time)
*The Rolling Stones - a British rock group
*The Beatles - a British pop and rock group
*Ayn Rand - a novelist
*Phil Spector - a record producer
*Lou Adler - a record producer
*Barry Sadler - an American soldier and musician
*Lenny Bruce - a stand-up comedian
*Dylan Thomas - a Welsh poet and writer
*Mick Jagger - a British singer
*Andy Warhol - an American painter
*Roy Halee - Simon and Garfunkel's record producer
*Art Garfunkel - an American singer for Simon and Garfunkel

Names and phrases used in the 1965 version include:
*Lyndon Johnson - 36th President of the United States (1963-1969)
*Union Jack - the flag of the United Kingdom
*Jack Kerouac - an American novelist
*John Birch - an American intelligence officer
*The Rolling Stones
*The Beatles
*Larry Adler a noted harmonica player
*Ayn Rand
*Walt Disney - an American film producer
*Dis Disley - a British jazz guitarist
*John Lennon - member of the Beatles
*Krishna Menon - an Indian politician
*Walter Brennan - an American actor
*Cassius Clay - an American boxer, later known as Muhammad Ali
*Lenny Bruce
*Dylan Thomas
*James Joyce - a writer and poet, of whom Simon is very fond
*Rolls-Royce - a brand of luxury automobiles
*Mick Jagger
*"Silver Dagger" was nineteenth century folk song, most famously covered by Joan Baez on her 1960 debut album.
*Andy Warhol
*Tom Wilson - a black record producer; produced several of Bob Dylan's '60s LPs
*Barry Kornfeld - played second guitar on Simon and Garfunkel's "Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M." album

At the end of the 1966 recording Simon says, "Folk rock," and, after an audible noise, "I've lost my harmonica, Albert"—presumably referring to Dylan's manager Albert Grossman. The version recorded in 1965, however, has Simon singing, "When in London, do as I do: find yourself a friendly haiku... Go to sleep for ten or fifteen years." Which could be a reference to his girlfriend at that time, Kathy Chitty (who also appears on the cover of "The Paul Simon Song Book"), who people used to attribute to 'The Haiku'.

References


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