Catching up on forty years. 1987: Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes – Paul Simon

paul simon

Suitably fuelled with a couple (or it may even have been three) pints of Fosters we started that conversation about the best album of the year.  It was the 80’s hence it was Fosters.  It was two men after two (or three) pints so the conversation had to be list-based – whether of football teams, of cars, of Australian actresses or in this instance of music.

We sized each other up.  Which way should we go?

Pop goddess Madonna?

The Fleetwood Mac revival?

U2’s Joshua Tree had to be a very very safe bet.

I knew I had a wild card to play in 10,000 Maniacs In My Tribe.

We sat poised and then my friend played his joker and it was over in one move.

“Paul Simon’s Graceland

I conceded straightaway.

Strictly speaking it was from the year before but we’d caught up with it in 1987 and knew that someone had changed the rules for pop music.  Yes, Peter Gabriel had been doing world music, but Paul Simon’s Graceland really brought it in to ALL our living rooms and sowed a love for African music that has lived on with many, including myself.

I could choose between three songs here – Graceland for having the most beautiful lyrics as it tells the poignant story of his journey to Elvis’s house with his son; You Can Call Me Al, frankly because of the rather cool video; but I’m going for Diamonds… as the most African sounding of the three, featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo and again for the lyrics.

She makes the sign of a teaspoon
He makes the sign of a wave
The poor boy changes clothes
And puts on after-shave
To compensate for his ordinary shoes

This live performance from 2007 captures the exuberance of the music perfectly.

By the way, I never argued with my friend on his choice.  After another beer I put forward the merits of 10,000 maniacs but it was never going to be a competition.

1987 was the year a hurricane swept through my home county of Sussex and knocked down a lot of trees.