Behind the song: “Something So Right”, by Paul Simon
Listen to the song’s original demo in its first incarnation, as “Let Me Live In Your City,” a prime example of diligence and serious overhaul in songwriting.
Of This is Rhymin ‘Simon, her second solo album after Simon and Garfunkel split, “Something So Right” is an extraordinary love song from a songwriter of many classic and beloved love songs.
The lyrics, built around the title, are so focused and poignant that it’s surprising to find out that Simon wrote the song with another chorus and a whole different title, before reinventing it as the song we know now. The demo of this first version is below, with the original lyrics.
VIDEO: demo of “Let me live in your city” by Paul Simon
the first incarnation of “Something So Right”.
It’s a song that also stands out for being covered not by one but by three of the great musical divas of our time: Barbra Streisand, Phoebe Snow and Annie Lennox.
But first came Barbra Streisand, who recorded it in 1975 for her album The way we were.
Next was Phoebe Snow, who called it “the ultimate love song”. She had made a famous duet with Simon on her song “Gone At Last”, by Still crazy after all these years, and also performed live with him.
His great soul-injected rendition of the song (in E) is included in his 1977 album Never give up.
Annie Lennox recorded the song in 1995 for her album Astonished.
Annie Lennox recorded the song solo in 1995 for her album Astonished. That same year, she re-recorded the song, using the same track, and made it into a duet with the songwriter, adding new vocals provided by Simon and his guitar playing.
Released as a single (unlike Simon’s recording, which was only a B-side), it was popular on UK radio and climbed to 44 on the UK pop charts.
VIDEO: Paul Simon, “Something So Right”, 1973,
of There goes Rhymin ‘Simon
The ultimate title of this ultimate love song reflects an area of human love that is not often expressed in the song: the inability to accept the finer things in life. It is an idea indicative of the human condition, and has been an enduring part of human existence through many centuries.
Proof of this came in 1580, when author Thomas Lupton introduced the axiom “too good to be true” to the English language in his book Thomas Lupton’s Sivquila, too good to be true. It’s an idea that reflects this human dynamic, often commonly paraphrased as: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is because it is.
Compared to her most famous songs, such as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” which is a modern standard, she is mostly unknown to the general public.
However, “Something So Right” remains a secret hero revered among his songs, in particular by Simon Cognoscenti, for whom his status of unjustified foreigner gives him a singular shimmer of his own.
It is also precious to be an open window on Simon’s real self, expressed in a chorus of self-effacing confessions. The singer possesses his innate negativity, the tendency to always focus on any potential darkness while being unable to perceive even the slightest sunny side of a street.
Yet the song is one of Simon’s most essential, both musically – with its sultry, fiery verse melody and intricate, elegant guitar part – and unique lyrics.
The lyrics are unique, even in Simon’s songbook: they are more lucid than those songs with mysteries and still unanswered questions (like what mom saw in “Me and Julio”, or why there is 50 different ways to break up a love affair, or the source of heartbreak in “The Mother-Child Reunion”.
The chorus for “Something So Right” was written after the verses and the bridge, and originally had a different chorus and title.
But as the theme of true love emerged as such a volatile force that one wary of it, Simon revised the chorus to fit it, as evidenced by a first demo with the original chorus. It shows that this straightforward clarity is the result of a major overhaul of the song from its original design and chorus, which carried a different title for the song, “Let Me Live In Your City”.
It seems likely that the original chorus – which is musically similar to the final version but not accurate, although the lyrics are completely changed – was a dummy section, never meant to be kept. After writing the verses and then the bridge, Simon probably recognized that the lyrical theme that emerged in the verses is not pronounced in the chorus.
This level of review reveals the songwriter’s diligence and his inspired and ingenious solution. That meant throwing in the entirety of the original chorus, some of which had such great singing ability and felt like they would be hard to pull off, like “Rent me a room I can lay down …” But “good enough. Does not make a masterpiece.
In the line “Something So Right”, he discovered the ideal core of the song, and one that is eminently singable, landing in the perfect place for the title.
In this first incarnation of the song, the title comes in the first line, “Let me live in your town.” The end of this refrain, on a “traveling time traveler”, is vague. Yet all the melody and momentum of the song leads to that melodic climax on the last line of the chorus, where he placed the title. And it works. It’s just three words, but it’s beautiful in its simplicity, creating a familiar and softly whimsical way of describing the feeling.
Here are the lyrics to the first version of the song, titled “Let Me Live In Your City,” followed by Simon’s demo using those words.
1. Chorus of “Let me live in your city” (“Something So Right”),
the first draft, by Paul Simon.
Let me live in your cityYes
The river is so pretty, the air is so beautiful
Rent me a room where I can lie downr
I’m just a traveler who eats the time to travel
I’m just a traveler who eats up my travel time
2. New revised chorus of “Something So Right”
as recorded by Paul Simon.
When something’s wrong I’m the first to admit it
The first to admit it, but the last to know
When something goes right it’s likely to lose me
It’s likely to confuse me
Because it’s such an unusual sight
I can’t get used to something so good
Something so good
From “Something So Good”
By Paul Simon
Simon played and wrote the song on a classical stringed acoustic guitar, as opposed to the steel string acoustic guitars that he usually played and used for songwriting. studied classical guitar, which is played on a gut-string or nylon-string guitar. The sound and melodic feel of the song was shaped by the instrument.
The song was recorded in 1972 at Columbia Records Studio in New York. It was designed by Phil Ramone and Roy Halee, who co-produced the album with Simon. Quincy Jones composed the arrangement of the strings. The instrumental credits follow:
|“Something so good”
of There goes Rhymin ‘Simon
Paul Simon – vocals, guitar
David Spinoza – guitar
Al Gafa – guitar
Richard davis – acoustic bass
Bob cranshaw – electric bass
Grady tate – drums
Bob james – Fender Rhodes
Bobby scott – piano
Don Elliott – vibraphone
Quincy Jones – arrangement of strings
Simon’s original demo is in E, although the studio version of There goes Rhymin ‘Simon is in F, a semitone higher On guitar it is easier to play in E, and since the demo is in E, it seems likely that it was written in E and then transposed.
Rhythmically, the song, as written and recorded, switches between a time signature of 2/4, 4/4 and in bridge and elsewhere, in 3/4 time.
On Phoebe’s version, the chords are slightly modified at the end of the chorus. She sings it in E.
Annie Lennox’s version is in the. The chords are drastically changed, as is the structure.
Barbra Streisand’s interpretation is the closest to that of Simon in every way. Except that she sings it in C.