Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rhymes and misdemeaners

It would sneak in as Billboard's No. 1 song for three weeks, sandwiched between the one-week runs of "Love Roller Coaster" by the Ohio Players and "Theme From S.W.A.T." by Rhythm Heritage.

What's so significant about Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover"? Remarkably, it's the lyric craftsman's only No. 1 solo single. The song entered the Hot 100 chart at No. 74 on this date in 1975 and reached the catbird's seat seven weeks later.

Fans of Art Garfunkel will remind us that Simon AND Garfunkel had three No. 1 songs:

The Sounds of Silence, 1965
Mrs. Robinson, 1968
Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970

But Simon, left to his own considerable devices, has scored only one chart-topper sans Garfunkel. Of course there are those 10 No. 1 albums, including the Grammy winning "Still Crazy After All These Years,'' on which "50 Ways" appears. How many artists have accomplished that?

Still, some of Simon's best songs have never reached the summit. A couple of near-misses came off the There Goes Rhymin' Simon album: "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like a Rock" were both No. 2s. The first was aced out by Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round in Circles"; the other denied by Cher's "Half-Breed."

Which seems about as silly as some of the lyrics to "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

It's time to make a new plan, Stan.

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