Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Music, South America, UK

Paul Simon, 80 years young today

I often think I was born out of my time… not ahead of it, more behind it, which is why when my peers were expressing their angst through Joy Division I was finding meaning through Paul Simon, 80 years young today.

As the youngest of three boys with a five and eight year gap between us my early influences were The Beatles, The Stones, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, Heavy Metal… and Simon & Garfunkel.

And as a gangly shy adolescent I find solace in the longing, introverted, wanderer music of Paul Simon… I still do.

The man: Paul Simon

Now there have been rockier, wilder concerts (The Killers, The Proclaimers), equally as iconic singers (David Bowie). and more celebrated venues (OneRepublic in Red Rocks, Colorado) but there have been no more rewarding gigs than Paul Simon on his farewell tour which touched down in Dublin.

So how does your favourite Travel blog mark the 80th birthday of the Poet Laureate of Pop?

Well, by shining a light on the places Rhymin’ Simon loved the most and whose musical influences burst out in his timeless songs.

Apple of his eye

Remember him: ‘The Donald’ in New York

New York: A proud son of Queen’s borough, Simon’s songs about New York are some of the most recognisable about the Big Apple.

The Boxer is a plaintive exploration of down on your luck New York life which includes a reference to the ‘whores on 7th Avenue’.

Simon told the story at a concert of a fan who told him she would sing the song to her child only she changed the words to ‘toy stores’.

There’s something quite playful too about the 59th Street Bridge Song and I referenced it too on my route to the RDS for that 2019 concert.

You’ll find, in truth. New York references in numerous Simon and Simon & Garfunkel songs, some with NY in the title as in The Only Living Boy In New York and the Statue of Liberty in my own favourite, American Tune.

Rainbow Simon

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

South Africa: Now, how many of us, hand on heart can say that they knew much South African music before Paul Simon introduced it to a Western audience with his seminal album Graceland.

And, before we get to that, let’s just reference the titular song Graceland, a tribute to Elvis, which Simon revealed was his favourite piece of song-writing (few arguments here).

Of course none of us outside of South Africa knew of Ladysmith Black Mombasa either… but once heard never forgotten.

Simon also opened up the joy of South Africa at a time when understandably we associated the country with injustice, bigotry and hopelessness.

But which lit a fire for many of us to go visit the Rainbow Nation. We give you Simon and the band’s Under African Skies.

Samba music

Get into the beat: In Brazil

Brazil: And once Simon had got on a roll (or a rock’n’roll if you like) he was off to South America.

Who can forget those huge drums on The Obvious Child. Nothing obvious though about the drummers’ talent or Simon’s songwriting.

And finally in an English train station

He was here: Widnes Railway Station plaque

Widnes, England: And, of course, unless you’re a Rugby League fan, you’ll never have been to Widnes in Merseyside.

Unless you’re a budding New York musician (Paul Simon) who was feeling homesick here and penned the classic Homeward Bound. There is a plaque there now.

Or if you’re another budding wordsmith, en route to Liverpool from Scotland (you have to wait here for the next connection) to take the next rung in his celebrated writing career.

But that’s another story.

Happy Birthday Paul Simon, 80 years young today.


America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Holyday favourites

And because of the holyday season we’re in this week’s Rainy days and Songdays today celebrates Holyday favourites.

Happy clappy California


Oh Happy Day (Oakland/San Francisco)

Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed, oh when He washed, When Jesus washed, He washed my sins away – The Edwin Hawkins Singers/Sister Act

They don’t need much invitation to unleash a Gospel Choir on you in California.

And Hallelujah there was one waiting for us on the first day in Anaheim for our American Travel Fair, IPW.

Elvis sings Gospel

Full of Graceland

How Great Thou Art (Memphis)

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation. And take me home what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration. And then proclaim, my God how great thou art – Elvis Presley

And it is worth remembering that Elvis first learned to sing in church.

And during his residencies in Las Vegas he would invite his friends up to his room for impromptu Gospel singalongs

It’s better to imagine Elvis’s heart being joyful at the moment God came to take him home that day in Graceland.

All God’s Children

Whenever God Shines His Light (Belfast)

Whenever God shines his light on me. Opens up my eyes so I can see. When I look up in the darkest night. And I know that everything is going to be all right – Van Morrison/Cliff Richard

And aren’t we all God’s children anyway even Van the Man, the grumpiest man in rock?

Religion is all around you in Belfast where Van is known to put on occasional jazz cabaret shows at the Europa Hotel.

It’s always best though with a Celtic soul twist.

Welsh worship

Bread of Heaven (Cardiff)

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven. Feed me till I want no more. – Bryn Terfel, Cardiff

And Cwm Rhondda (The Rhondda) is the unofficial anthem of Wales.

And is a favourite of Welsh rugby fans.

It scores too as it celebrates God rather than the popular policy of God celebrating said country.

Mississippi music

Grammy loves you

This Little Light of Mine (Mississippi)

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, all the time, let it shine – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

And you’ll find a lot more about Sister Rosetta and all the wonderful Gospel and early Rock singers at the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.

And the significance of This Little Light in a room of reflection on your Civil Rights visit to the Two Museums in Jackson.

Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Music, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Elvis food

The King was taken from us 43 years ago this week so were he alive today he would have been 85. So what would he have looked like?

I prefer to imagine him hair dyed, squeezed into a jumpsuit and taking himself off.

As in his send-up version of Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Because for everything that’s been said about Elvis it is always worth remembering that he was a born entertainer.

And so had an enormous appetite for fun, life. Yes, and food.

See, it’s got fruit

It’s early in the morning and I’ve had something of the meat sweats on me.

From the good ol’ Southern food on Beale Street in Memphis the night before.

When my Southern host tempts me with a favourite from the menu at Elvis’s top diner, The Arcade.

When he was young

It is the legendary peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.

I could bluff it here and say I had it but the grits had left me with a heavy tummy.

Instead I sat at his favourite table and imagined instead.

After all I’d channeled my inner Elvis already at Sun Studio where I stood at the very spot where he had sung That’s All Right Mamma.

Where The King sat… and Elvis!!!

And roared like a lion in the Jungle Room in Graceland.

Graceland is smaller than you imagine, probably because you expect everything to be larger than life in Elvisland.

Certainly the hangars that contain his motorbikes and cars and another with all his jumpsuits point to that.

Full of grace: Graceland

As does the aircraft outside dedicated to his daughter Lisa Marie, one of a few he owned.

But in truth Elvis’s world was small, his father Vernon, mother Gladys, wife Priscilla, Lisa Marie and family and friends he grew up with.

Elvis and his peers would divebomb the swimming pool, play racquetball (he had a game the day he died) and whizz downtown in their golf buggies.

Hear me roar

And the locals who had known him since he was a kid would just say: ‘Aw, Elvis how are you.’

While the folks at The Arcade would chat to him like they would any patron, easy-going Southern hospitality.., ‘how’s your family.’

Only Elvis was different… after all, nobody else had as sweet a tooth or ordered a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.

Ah, yes, the Jungle Room

How to make it:

Spread the peanut butter on one side of one slice of bread.

Top with slices of fried banana and slices of cooked banana.

Cover with the other slice of bread.

Spread butter on the outside of the sandwich.


Elvis and An American Trilogy

Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton

Old times they are not forgotten….

Glory, glory, hallelujah

His truth goes marching on…

But all my trials, Lord, soon be over.

An American Trilogy by Mickey Newbury, but popularised by Elvis Presley

On this 4th of July I commemorate the King of Kings, Elvis Presley, the Southern Boy who grew up and took his influences from his black friends and neighbours and encompassed that in his powerful rendition of this belting anthem.

And I reprise the last of my own American Trilogy which started with Martin Luther King, paid tribute to BB King and ended with Elvis Presley, the King of Kings in a new tab). I wrote it in the year of the 50th anniversary of his friend Martin Luther King’s assassination. See also And in a new tab)