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Feelin' Groovy
Registered: 10/14/04
Posts: 6,204
Reply with quote  #1 

The Making of Graceland



Ray Phiri:

We were influenced by American music.  American music was for us, it’s like sharing information.  So it was a two-way traffic.  We used Paul as much as Paul used us.  There was no abuse.  He came at the right time.  He was what we needed to bring African music more into the mainstream.  And if we have sold more than 14 million copies worldwide of “Graceland”, that says quite a lot.  Over 14 million people in the world know what South African music is.



Graceland was a particularly benign record, that I think described South African culture in a way that was very accurate!  It was certainly not complete and didn’t touch on the anger that was pervasive.  But it did touch on the other part of the culture, you know, where people laughed, you know, where there was dancing, where life was being celebrated.


Ray Phiri:

The global village is getting smaller and smaller and the vocabulary is getting smaller and smaller because we are now speaking one language.  At the same time it’s the switch for ones self, that you end up finding yourself in somebody else’s state, you know.  But it’s something that’s in the air.  It’s not controlled by any individual.  It’s like, when there is a good song writer, he’ll touch the rest of the world with just one lousy word!


Paul in studio (The Hit Factory, New York), listening to parts of ‘The Boy in the Bubble’:



Let’s roll back …. I think we always knew that this would be the start of the album.  I mean, it began so unusually and the sound of those drums at the top sounded so African that it really was like an announcement and you haven’t heard this before.


Roy Halee:

My favourite track is ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ because to me it represents that whole feel and that whole experience.  A very dark, brooding quality about it and to me it most represents the whole trip, the whole concept and the whole feel of recording in that studio over there.  These were originally jams.  Basically they were jams.  For ten minutes, fifteen minutes, a half an hour.  Well that’s good, that’s good – oh!  That makes it!  And you know, lo and behold maybe a song comes out of it.  The important thing for us to do there was to record these guys with good eye contact, where they were close together.  Not everybody in their own little room, behind their own little goal.  Let’s try and control the leakage the best we can.  So the eye contact and the feel is in the room and at the same time be able to record in a way that when we get back to New York we can … delete that, delete this, put this in, edit these four bars, put four bars over here, put these three bars here and be able to do that without a mess.


When we added the accordion to make the sound deeper, we had a synthesizer to deepen the sound ….. it sounds like this pushed ….. now in proportion ….. similarly with the drums, here’s a sample of drums added to the snare …. so I mean this happens quite a bit throughout Graceland.  Sounds are added to the original sounds to make things sound deeper.  Over here, here’s ….. well here’s bells …. well they’re tucked in the background just to give things a natural echo sound.  Here’s me singing voices to fit in with the accordion … just making up sounds.


Philip Glass (friend & composer):

It was clear that Paul was really coming to the end of writing pop songs the way that he had written them before, up to then.  In fact he said to me on a number of occasions that he wasn’t interested in writing hits.  He wasn’t interested in it.  He was in a very crucial place in his career, looking basically for something to do, looking for a larger canvas to work on.  And I think it’s important to look at it in the context of Paul’s music at that time in his life.



Well it was a difficult time for me personally.  I had started to work on an album that became ‘Hearts & Bones’ when I did a reunion concert with Art Garfunkel, where half a million people showed up.  And then we decided to go out and do some concerts.  Just a classic mistake!  You know?  The album came out – an album that had been announced as a Simon & Garfunkel, now came out as this solo album.  I was exhausted.  I didn’t do any work to promote it.  Just put it out!  It was a flop!  And in the midst of all of that, I got married.  I married Carrie Fisher.  In the middle of that tour.  You know, I mean, what was I thinking?  Certainly not thinking about life, that you actually have to like, stop!  Marriage is a hard thing to do, you need to concentrate on that.  You can’t do things in the middle of …. not everything can happen at once.  Not everything is a media event.  All kinds of mistakes on top of mistakes on top of mistakes.  Now I had a personal blow in my life and a career set-back and the combination of the two put me into a tail-spin.  It was around that time I was building a house in Montauk, Long Island and while I drove out I would to this tape that a friend had given me and I began to realise that I really liked that tape.  After a couple of weeks of driving back and forth to the house, listening to the tape, I’d think ‘What is this tape?  This is my favourite tape!  Wonder who it is, I wonder who this band is!’ and that’s when things started to perk up.  That led me to asking the people at Warner Brothers to trace it for me.  They traced it to South Africa and in early 1985 I set off with Roy Halee to begin this.  And in a very good mood too.  I said ‘This is gonna be a lot of fun’.


Roy Halee:

Warner Brothers had never heard anything like this, never heard of a recording process like this.  They thought, I’m sure, that while we were doing this, that ‘Paul Simon and Roy Halee are out of their minds, they’ve lost it, they’re crazy!  You can’t make a record like that!  How can you make a record?  There’s no songs!  You gotta write a song!  You go in the studio and you make a record!  I mean, how can you go to Africa and you don’t even have a song!’  I’m sure, I know, they thought we were both nuts.



I said ‘I have one big advantage going.  By being as cold as I am, nobody is paying attention to me.  I can do this all very privately.  Nobody will be checking in to see how the tracks go.  Can you send us a copy, can we come and hear it?’  None of that was gonna happen.  I had finished with my disappointments and sorrows. My Father was a musician, I grew up around musicians, I’m very comfortable with musicians.  I like to hang out with musicians.  Recording studios are friendly environments.  There’s no problem in a recording studio that you can’t solve.  It’s not the same as life, you know.  You’re going to be able to figure it out, one way or the other.  It’s a happy work environment.


Roy Halee:

I was having a ball!  Just recording in that sense.  To record these guys, a guy like me, my background, usually so organised generally, hearing the rawness of this, the earthiness of this.  I was in seventh heaven.  It was a concept of getting good grooves, coming back and then re-writing it.  There was nothing really written.  All of Paul’s albums, anything I ever did with Paul, or anybody, songs were written in the studio.  Paul loved to write in the studio.  He could write great things in the studio.  But to be able to go into the studio with a guy like Paul and have him say ‘Hey, I got this great thing for you guys to hear! Wait ‘till you hear this!’ and you hear ‘Mrs. Robinson’ and there it is!  Here we go in and there’s nothing.  There’s an idea, you know, a concept but nothing on paper.  So it was a gamble, I guess.



We had cut another track with the (inaudible) group.  I didn’t like the track.  The only thing I liked was the drums.  And I kept the drums and we over dubbed on these drums.  To my ears, certain words or certain sounds that became words, sometimes those words formed a phrase and the phrase was interesting.  Sometimes it was banal.  Sometimes it didn’t make any sense like ‘I’m going to Graceland’ and that phrase sang very well with what was happening in the track.  It was very comfortable to sing that so I sang it, thinking all along ‘Well of course I’m going to replace this.  Of course I’ll replace this’ until I’d been into it for several months and realised ‘I’m not going to replace this, I can’t get this out of my head.  It’s always going to be that way in my head’.


Roy Halee:

He was really concerned that that lyric with all those words, it was very wordy.  Rhythmically they didn’t fit.  They did not fit.  He would alter the way he would sing them, yeah, he would alter the way he would phrase it.  He kept phrasing it thousands of different ways, to make it work rhythmically.  It would always feel uncomfortable.  There were times there where I’m sure we both thought ‘We’re just not going to get this’ but Paul Simon with his competitive spirit – ‘uh, uh!  I’m gonna get this!’



At first I thought ‘Now I’ve got a problem’.  Course, soon after that I began to think ‘No!  Now I have an adventure!’ and instead of resisting what’s going on, I’ll go with it and I’ll be carried along and I’ll find out where we’re going instead of assuming that I’m the captain of the ship.  I’m not, I’m just a passenger.  I always think of this shape –


(Paul gestures to show an open idea)


- you know?  Meaning that you begin and the possibilities are gonna go out this way – which means that you have a good story to tell.  As opposed to this shape – (gestures) which means somewhere in the second verse or something, you’ve finished.  So you wanna begin in someway that leaves a lot of possibility.


 Ray Phiri:

Sometimes you play something.  You don’t know what it is and later on, if the person that you’re working with has got more information than you have, then you end up knowing exactly what you are playing.  What I had was great but still, it lacked something.  Hence I ended up saying to him that ‘Why don’t you put a minor there’ because what I could hear him playing was like a straight (plays guitar) but then I thought that maybe if we go to the minor instead of the major …. (plays guitar)


Paul (playing guitar):

This is what I played against what Ray played, when Ray played electric guitar on Graceland.  When he played it up here, you know?  (Demonstrates)  I played it over here (demonstrates).  Except I played it with a light pick (hums along to tune of Graceland as he demonstrates).


Paul (in studio, listening to Graceland, at control board):

Well, Graceland is my favourite record.  Favourite record, my favourite song that I ever wrote – this is it.  The best I ever did.  It’s all perfect.  It begins so relaxed, there’s no lyrics.  It’s taking it’s time!  It’s a good opening line.  (He sings along with the song).  I’m singing the major but if I wanna go - (demonstrates lower key).  Makes it either major or minor.


Song playing:  [My travelling companion is nine years old, he is the child of my first marriage]



I like that, I don’t know why I like that line!  Probably a lot of people have first marriages!  Now the lick is under the lyrics.  Right …. (mumbles).  Now it sits, it’s not in ….. there’s the lick again!


[She said losing love is like a window in your heart]


I found that line touching when I wrote it.  I didn’t sing ‘Graceland’ twice this time.  The first time I sang it ‘I’m going to Graceland, Graceland’ but this time I only sing it once.  Each time I vary it.



Feelin' Groovy
Registered: 10/14/04
Posts: 6,204
Reply with quote  #2 

[My travelling companion is ghosts and empty sockets, I’m looking at ghosts and empties]


The only line I’d re-write.  We’ve got the Everly Brothers on there.   See what the Everlys sound like!  (He solos them out to demonstrate).  Too many words!


Philip Glass:

This was a very in depth, compositional effort.  It wasn’t just a question of taking a few rhythms and taking a few drummers and putting them together.  This was a real composition that was made on the basis of that material.  So he elevated this kind of a research that turned into this record.  He elevated that enterprise into something that I don’t think anyone has really done since.  It’s actually been re-composed and processed by the way that Paul worked on it.


Paul (in studio at control board, listening to end of Graceland):

No ‘Memphis, Tennessee’!  I’m not talking about Memphis, Tennessee now!  Memphis, Tennessee is only in the beginning.  Now we’re in another place.  When I was there, when I first went in, Nelson Mandela was in prison and although I always thought that there would be a peaceful resolution to the politics of south Africa, I never thought that it would be this fast.  So I think the younger generation was ready and hungry for the outside world.  Tired of being ostracised.  Ready to celebrate their own culture and so did black South Africans feel that way.  ‘Cos, when I was there to record, when I went to the Shebeens, they were listening to American music.   They weren’t listening to their own music.  That was already passé.


Barney Rachabane (Graceland Musician):

South African music was very oppressed, that is the people were oppressed.  But there was (inaudible) to the music because I remember it was called ‘Goffle’ music, Bounty music, it was called but we listened to a lot of American music and the Beatles and Paul Simon.



It’s not unusual that cultures judge the value of their own history that they’re willing to discard it.  I mean American culture does that.  What emerged from Graceland album and as a tour, for the most part it made a very powerful point …. gently.  It wasn’t an album that said ‘There’s terrible evil here’.  It said ‘There’s incredible beauty here’.  That was a very powerful point.  In conjunction with the anger that the world directed towards South Africa, the attack on the fortress of apartheid, the wall was eventually cracked and I think Graceland was a factor in that.  People could think, who hadn’t thought this before, ‘How can people be treated so inhumanely?  When they have so much!  The world!’.  I don’t think I’m a very good angry writer.  I can be an angry person and even articulate my anger in speech but I’m not a good angry songwriter and I think that that’s the reason that Graceland came out in the way that it did.  Black Mambazo is also a group that is not an angry group and has done an enormous amount for South Africa and for people.


Joseph Shabalaba:

After we met with Paul Simon in ’85 and we promised each other that we’re going to do something together and he composed this song ‘Homeless’ (sings).



First I listened to their records a lot and then I tried to write a melody that would be something like a Black Mambazo kind of melody.


Joseph Shabalaba:

And we listen and we read the letter from him:  ‘Joseph, here is the song’.



So I was gonna sing this phrase over and over again to give them a chance to rehearse it and practise it.  I don’t know how many voices I put down here, maybe …… it’s all me.


Joseph Shabalaba:

And then when we listened, the lyrics, it was beautiful!  The time comes, we went to join Paul Simon in London.



That’s the first little rehearsal in London.


Joseph Shabalaba:

I don’t know what happened.  When we get into the studio, we feel like …. where to begin?  Where to start?  Started to work!  This language is little bit hard.  Talking to him and he is a polite man.  I told the guys ‘don’t worry guys, he is very good.  He is a polite man’.  ‘Joseph, how do you think about this one?’  I said ‘I think this song is very good’ ‘Do you have something?’ ‘Yes we have something’ and then we sing that part little bit and we come to ‘Homeless’ and it’s little bit difficult to blend the voices – American voice, African voice.  The first day it was tough.  We were just touching.  Many people were trying to help us.  That was confusing me.  I said ‘Okay’.  Our Producer was there trying to teach us.  It was his first time to teach us.  We don’t know him!  We used to work together alone with something solid and he was trying to help us:  ‘Joseph, Paul Simon is trying to say this’.  Phew!  And Paul just come and know there is something wrong and he say ‘Joseph, let us tape this’ and then we tape it like a little bit.  ‘Right!  Just go and relax.  We see each other tomorrow, okay?’.


Roy Halee:

Yeah, in the beginning it felt a little strange, a little strained, like they weren’t sure, you know.  Everybody’s kind of feeling everybody out.  I know it’s hard because they don’t produce a lot of sound. So they were tricky to record, those bass voices are very, very soft and it warmed up the second day, that’s true.



Paul (singing ‘Homeless’):

But that’s the way they sang it.  But I think I did it …. I think I didn’t use a major chord.  I think I used a minor – (demonstrates).  Yeah, but they wouldn’t use (demonstrates), they wouldn’t sing that.  They would sing (demonstrates) but I was playing (demonstrates).


Joseph Shabalaba:

I remember when we go back to hotel and I just call my guys and we pray first and I say ‘Guys, I was confused but now let us try to do what we know.  Just give them what we know’.  And we practise a little bit and we promise each other we are going to give them what we know first and then they will give us what they know.  When we get into studio we just said ‘Paul?  We have something’ and Paul said ‘Yes!’ and I remember when he said ‘Everyone in the studio must go outside’ and we begin (sings) and we sing those parts and Paul said ‘Yes!  Beautiful!’ and then ‘I was listening to your record too.  There’s another part – ‘(sings) and I was confused ‘What is that Paul?’  ‘Something in your record!’.  ‘Oh!’ I said ‘No! (sings)’.  He said ‘Yes!’.  This type of music originated from Zulu dances.  We grew up on the farm.  Everyone was singing and dancing.  When we were at home it was beautiful because there were men, women, young, old, Grandmother, Grandfather.  When they come together and chant sound and music but the sound started to get left alone when people left their loved ones and went into armed work.  Now they started to try to find the place where they can get together and sing.  The music is always political because the truth is political.  That’s why when we started to sing people were very happy and we just make them have power.  The melody, the harmony has the sentiment of the people.  The people position themselves to feel ‘Yes, I have something.  My gift is this one.  But now I’m oppressed.  What’s going on, what can I do?’.  The music itself, it make people alive.


Ray Phiri:

I would say that most African nations, music plays a very important role in their lives.  When a baby’s born, there’s celebrations, singing songs and even when the baby’s crying, there’s lullabies for babies to go to sleep.  And when someone is passed away, there’s songs for that so we’ve always been this particular nation that lives pretty much in expressing itself through music.  Then I think if I’m not mistaken (inaudible), Miriam Macaba … still and I think from that time our communities were based on (inaudible) and the only way that they could enjoy the type of music that they wanted to enjoy was to develop a certain kind of sound which they could identify with.  So they started moving down as migrants who were working for the mining companies and so they started playing this kind of music.  Then they were influenced also by their surroundings.  They are newfound countries due to be Southern Africa.  Their music was very much based on a rhythm pattern like, let’s say (demonstrates on guitar).  So that in itself is about three patterns (laughs).  The first pattern is not the same as the second.  I guess that was their way of expressing themselves.  This is their vessel, this is their preacher, this is the chorus.  Usually when you get to the chorus it’s a case of (demonstrates).  Then a new generation which happened to be my generation, late 60s, started fusing with the elements of our Father’s south African element.  Hence a song like ‘Crazy Love’ on Graceland which (inaudible) (demonstrates).  That’s the rhythm part.  Now when you come to the lead part it goes (demonstrates).  It was high time that South African artists, international artists should highlight the potential of exposing the evils of the past and eras of South Africa like apartheid era.  Culture is something that can’t be owned by an individual, it can be shared by us all.  There were a lot of people who were saying negative things like ‘Here comes this white man.  He has used our black brother’s music’ and so forth but then you ask yourself ‘Where were they?’.



I didn’t feel that I was going to South Africa to come back and then express a South African outrage ‘I’ll tell the world how you guys are feeling’.  I really didn’t feel comfortable with that.  My feeling was ‘I’m playing with musicians I have the highest respect for and the way I can show my respect completely is to write the best possible song from my heart that I can write’.  Not to say ‘I’ll write the best possible song from your heart’.  I felt that was presumptuous.


Ray Phiri:

The most unfortunate thing about the beast in us is that we always find wrong when it is right and we find right when it is wrong.  Something so beautiful can be turned into an ugly thing just for the sake of scoring political points.  I guess if Paul came and recorded the album, he would have ended up in the black list but then he went a step further because he didn’t politicise the album by simply writing about what was happening.  He went a step further and said ‘No, who am I to talk about peoples situations.  Why don’t I get those people to come on and let us share these beautiful rhythms with the rest of the world’.


Linda Ronstadt (singer on ‘Under African Skies’):

I think one of the things about a really good record is that it shouldn’t be there to instruct.  It should be there to evoke and Paul called me and asked if I had an image for him.  He wanted something for me on the song he was writing that we were going to sing together.  And he said what did I remember early in my childhood and I said of course ‘the thing that I love the most in Arizona is the Mission San Haviere’ which is supposed to be the most beautiful of the missions in North America and so I told him about that and that’s why he has the little line about ‘In early memory mission bells were ringing round my nursery door’.  So I think that everybody has their own scenario that can unfold under an African sky.  It’s an idea of possibility.


Ray Phiri:

It’s a story telling kind of thing like in the African tradition whereby you find that musicians are more like storytellers.  They are custodians of history.  They’ve got to document every little happening.  His lyrics and they are complementing the lyrics or the lyrics are complementing the rhythm and at the same time you’ve got the subject matter that says ‘It’s you, it’s me’.


Linda Ronstadt:

It’s interesting because it’s not … our American pop music is influenced greatly of course because of the slave trade by West African music which is a little bit different.  It’s the five beat, you know which is (claps hands to demonstrate).  The best way to describe it is Bo Didly.  That rhythm is the clave or the five beat or the Singea and that’s one kind of African music.  But this is a completely different area and a completely different tribe and a completely different tradition, so, but they also had been grafted onto European musical culture.


Feelin' Groovy
Registered: 10/14/04
Posts: 6,204
Reply with quote  #3 

Morris Goldberg (Graceland Musician):

South Africans almost look down upon the music that came from South Africa.  I guess because of the political situation we were made to sort of feel embarrassed about the music.  Growing up in South Africa, you had to grow up … if you were white you had to grow up with blinkers on.  But if you took them of you could see what was going on.  I heard this Penny Whistle music on every street corner.  Every kid was playing a Penny Whistle along with a guitar player.  When I was a teenager, I used to go to the Townships and there was a hole in the fence and we’d spend hours there.  This was how I absorbed a lot of the music.  It was only when Paul Simon came out with the Graceland album, then people said ‘Wow!  We’ve got all this gold here!’.  I think somebody used that phrase once.  And then people started realising that there’s such a great fountain of music that comes from South Africa.



It took me a long time before I could even begin to write, I loved the track so much (You can call me Al).  For a long time I thought ‘You should just put the tracks out because you can’t do any better than this.  Anything I put on here now is just going to make it worse’.  So it took a while before I even had the courage to begin to write over these tracks.


Paul (In studio at control board, listening to ‘You can call me Al’ – listens to himself singing solo voices and sounds)


Not that I particularly wanted to solo!  But a lot of voices singing instruments to create a smoother rhythm sound.  Here comes the bass … well that’s the background sample.  Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  The bass part – I’ll solo it here –


Bakithi Kumalo (Graceland Musician):

That bass solo break, it was my birthday, it was May 10th.  So I said to Paul ‘I don’t know what you’re going to do to this part but, you know, I have an idea.  I would like to play something and it’s my birthday today’.  Paul was like ‘Wow!  Okay!’.  So then you know, I came up with this bass line (demonstrates).


Paul (listening to bass part):

Oh see, there’s an over-dub on the bass.  Two basses happening.  It’s not that conventional so what we did was we took the first bar of the solo, spliced it, flipped it around and made the second half of the solo the backwards tape of the first half of the solo.  (demonstrates).  Backwards …. okay.





Isaac Mtshali (Graceland Musician):

Most of the time I listened to the bass guitar and if I feel the bass guitar is going somewhere else, I listen to the lead guitar.  In fact, in this music I was listening to a lead guitar and a bass guitar.  So it was necessary for me to cover the last piece of … what the bass is doing (demonstrates) so I feel great if I do the exit on the last bit of the bass (demonstrates).


Paul (still listening to You can call me Al):

Oh here’s another backwards ….


Roy Halee:

If you can go out the door whistling a tune or tapping your foot, that’s the signal.  That’s what they listen for.  ‘You can call me Al’, well I mean, what a great hook!  Period!  That’s a great hook!



They said ‘Well you just have to make a video!’ and it was bad!  It was really bad!  And I said ‘Can’t put this out!  You just can’t put this out!’ and then Lorne Michaels, who was the Producer of ‘Saturday Night Live’ said ‘You should do one with Chevy.  Chevy knows all the words.  Let him sing it’.  So we organised it quickly and we did that.  I do think this about the Chevy Chase video, that because it was funny and very, very light, that you tend to think of the song as funny – which it is, but with something much more important to say.  So in a certain sense it under-cracked the power of what that song meant.  ‘You can call me Al’ – (sighs) – I mean, lyrically, if I can remember ….


‘A man walks down the street’ – that’s, it’s a version of ‘A guy walks into a bar’ or ‘There was a Rabbi, a Minister and a Priest’.  It’s an old set-up – a man walks down the street ….


‘He says “Why am I soft in the middle?  The rest of my life is so hard”.’  - it’s a joke.


‘Don’t want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard’ – well that was me.  You know, I mean, I was writing about myself.  I guess I was saying, like any artist, I don’t want to be an irrelevancy.  Hope I’m not irrelevant!  And then from there, there was associative thinking ….


‘cartoon in a cartoon graveyard … bone diggers … graveyard … bones … bone diggers …. bone diggers …. dogs … dogs in the moonlight …. moonlight is in a lot of the songs.  It was scary.  In my mind there’s a graveyard out there and I can hear dogs howling at night.  But it’s cosy in the house and there’s lots of lights.  It’s not scary here. (looks vunerable and worried)


Mr. Beerbelly, Beerbelly, get these muts away from me,

I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore – you know, enough of this garbage thinking.   You know, I’m afraid – uh oh!  Death is coming!  Uh oh!  Like, okay! 


Second verse is a variation on the first.


Short little span of attention – that was, that was like a pe*is joke.  Short little span of attention.



Woe, my nights are so long,

So where’s my wife and family? – which at the time I didn’t actually have.  A lot of fears, you know? 


Who’ll be my role model? – just fears, guys with fears, you know?  Now he’s piling up all these fears and from my perspective as the songwriter, in a certain sense I didn’t have any sympathy for the guy by the second verse.  Too many complaints, too many complaints. 


And then, by then I think I had, you know –


If you’ll be my bodyguard, I’ll be your long lost pal – so, if I can make an alliance with you, then maybe I wouldn’t be in so much trouble.  I’ll look out for you, you look out for me, I’ll call you Betty, you call me Al.  We’ll make a deal.  That will be our deal against all of these modern things that we have to fear.


By the third verse, now it’s time to say ‘What is this song about?’.


A man walks down the street,

A street in a strange world,

Maybe it’s the third world – well you know, this is pretty obvious stuff.  I’m talking about Africa.


Maybe it’s his first time around,

Doesn’t speak the language – that’s me.

Holds no currency,

He is a foreign man,

Surrounded by the sounds – I was in an amazing place!

Cattle in the market place – it was just a far-away place.  I mean you can imagine cattle in the streets and in the market place!


He looks around,

He sees angels in the architecture – it has become a spiritual journey now.  A spiritual adventure.  So that’s what that song is about.  And that was a pretty accurate description of my journey.  The whole process of this writing came from a deep analysis of what was going on in the tracks.  Because the African musicians were playing what they normally play in a way that was different from the way American musicians that I was familiar with, would play.  I was coming out of folk-rock.  That was pretty symmetrical, didn’t change from verse to verse.  Their patterns altered in some subtle way and I was either playing in the studio when it happened or in the control room and wasn’t aware of what the pattern was at all.  Didn’t realise that there had been a variation in the pattern either intentional or unintentional until many months later when I was writing and I’d work on songs and then I’d say ‘Well everything is good.  The first verse is good.  The second verse, well it’s not so good.  The third verse, that’s good.  Well!  Things are good!  Except …. Why doesn’t the second verse work?’  I mean, okay!  Now I’m putting aside my assumption that it’s exactly the same so it should work which I stayed with, stubbornly, for a long time.  Well, it should work so that’s it!  I’m not gonna change ‘cos it’s supposed to work!  Then I would begin to listen and I would say ‘well sure enough, there’s a variation in here.  There’s a variation that I’m not taking into account’.  And that degree of listening was my education.  That’s what I learned.  I learned to listen on a level that I had never experienced before.


Roy Halee:

He pulled it off.  He did it.  He did do it.  He slaved over it.  He sweated blood over it.  My gums bled over it!  Unbelievable!  Unbelievable!



‘Diamonds on the soles of her Shoes’ was a phrase that I had written down but I hadn’t used anywhere.  And ‘Diamonds on the soles of her Shoes’ was the last song that we recorded and it was never intended to be on the album.  The album was originally supposed to come out in June ’86 and we were going to play ‘Saturday Night Live’.  So everybody was here.  The whole band was here.  We were all going to do the show and then Warner Brothers said ‘We would prefer to release this in the Fall’.  So Roy and I said ‘Well, we’ll try another song!’.


Ray Phiri:

It was more for a (inaudible) than a song.  Then the following day we went to the Hit Factory and after two takes it was in.  Because we were having so much fun.  Already we have developed a working relationship that said something.  Hence you find that even by this lick (demonstrates) it is in reply to (demonstrates).


(Bakithi Kumalo demonstrates)



That’s what makes it very exciting.  It’s just a conversation.


Paul (At control Board):

And the thinking is very relaxed too.  It just feels like everybody was very comfortable.  I tried to write a part over here (points), the words.  Couldn’t think of anything.  So we left it as a horn solo.  Not even a horn solo.  Probably wrote this part as a background.  Nothing here …. Just letting it go I guess.  Letting the band play really….


(Paul explaining over the record):


[She makes the sign of a teaspoon,

he makes the sign of a wave] – domesticity


‘Aftershave’ – is a word from another era.


And I loved that – ‘He compensated for his ordinary shoes’.




Roy Halee:

Finishing the record and going to play it back for the executives at Warner Brothers, having them look at each other and wonder what this was all about (laughs).  It was a lot of fun!  And then to see the success.  Man!  Woooo!


Philip Glass:

What if it hadn’t worked?  I thought that sometimes, thinking ‘What if they laugh?  What if it doesn’t work?’  And you’ve put all this into it, you know?  And you have to have the confidence in the work to hear it right through to the end.  Even though you don’t really know.  I think that was particularly true for Graceland.  In retrospect it seemed like an instant classic.  What was the big deal?  What was to worry about?  But we didn’t know that.  I don’t think Paul knew that.



Graceland was, you know, going to college for me.  Rhythmically …. but also just in the sense of playing the world, the larger world.  The ability to interweave the cultures.  To me it’s obvious to interweave them musically anyway because we’re just taking songs and having a musical discussion across a language barrier without any problem.  Understanding each other.  And that’s like Graceland.  That’s what that album was.  That’s what that album had – an unusual degree of understanding amongst people who had just met.

Reply with quote  #4 

Thank you very much for posting this How often did you repeat every scene???




S&G Aficionado
Registered: 05/30/05
Posts: 487
Reply with quote  #5 

Marcia: Thank you for the posting. It looks interesting  although I haven't had time to read it yet.

"I'm a little nutty this way" A.G. (Across America)

Feelin' Groovy
Registered: 10/14/04
Posts: 6,204
Reply with quote  #6 

I didn't really have to repeat every scene.  I just paused and played, paused and played.  It's much easier on DVD.  It took me the best part of 2 days and then another day to type it up.  Dedication or what!

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