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Thursday, September 11, 2008

GMVW # 36: "Homeless"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 36:  Homeless
Song:  The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel
(Songwriter: Paul Simon)
September 11, 2008

Foxboro Stadium, 1983: Part 1 of 3

The year before Chuck Sullivan lost his shirt as concert promoter for the Jackson Victory Tour in 1984, he and his family actually hosted 3 great shows at the old Foxboro Stadium.  From August thru October of 1983, Simon and Garfunkel, David Bowie, and The Police (in that order) rolled into Foxboro.  Everyone I’ve talked to who attended these shows considered them great events. I attended all 3 and have to agree, so on this, the 25th anniversary of that triple-shot extravaganza, I will re-visit each of them, starting this week with Simon and Garfunkel.  Interestingly, this first show was a reunion tour and the last show (The Police) turned out to be a break up tour.  Sandwiched in the middle was Bowie, and he had his own thing going, but more on him next week. 

1983…by this time Baby Boomers were several years into the realization that we were never going to see a Beatles reunion… and so, Simon and Garfunkel was the next best thing.  They had broken up 11 years earlier, which in those days seemed like an eternity.  In many ways it was. 

Simon and Garfunkel were childhood friends but polar opposites, which made a reunion all the more intriguing.  It was one of the few shows I’ve attended where I felt as if I were witnessing a piece of history.  It also had a time-capsule feel to it.  The reunion actually began a year earlier in Central Park, NY, NY, their “Neighborhood Concert” which was attended by half a million people. The reception and success of that show launched a world tour, which included the Foxboro show.  Most all the songs played on the tour were the same ones played at Central Park. 

Central Park….I was there earlier that year in 1983, around mid-February (during Canada’s winter break). It was one moment of many which added up to one of the greatest road trips of my life.  The trip started in Ottawa, Canada (where I was going to school at the time) and aside from me, included college chum’s Steve Vance, Bob Mainguy, and Tom Murphy, all Canucks (although calling Bob a Canuck is stretching it, but he always liked that distinction, so I will oblige).  After hitting Winooski, Vermont (St Michael’s College, Mac and ‘Winterfest’), Cape Cod, Boston, and Franklin (the last 3 thanks to Mom and Dad who hosted 4 grubs for 3 nights) we rolled into the Big Apple to hook up with another group of Canadians who had holed up there for the entire week at the Milford Plaza Hotel on W 45th Street.  We had all planned on the 4 of us crashing on the floors in their hotel rooms that night, and with that in mind the entire group of us went out for a night on the town, catching some great comedy at a night club. 

When we got back to the hotel to spend the night however, a bouncer at the elevators had other ideas.  Checking for reservations, he refused to let us room-crashers go up the elevator.  We pleaded our case, emphasizing that we had no money or credit cards on us (these were the days when bank machines were few and far between) and that our car was locked up in a garage for the night.  Our plea went for naught.  We wandered out into the streets at 2 am.  The lone guy in the Milford Plaza Hotel crowd we hooked up with, “Chicago Jim”, came down to the alley where we were regrouping and handed us a bottle of Canadian Rye to help keep us warm in the winter air.  The bottle was housed in a brown paper bag.  We were now officially nomadic denizens of the city streets.  Someone yelled at us from a 3rd story window.  A prostitute passed by and made a proposition.  Tom asked for her student rates.

The all-nighter ended in a bus terminal on
42nd Street
.  I spent most of the time there talking to a homeless guy.  A fireside chat with Donald Trump down the road at the top of the Trump Towers would have paled in comparison.  We greeted the morning along with the other downtrodden souls in our midst.  Something about the experience, however, immediately resonated with me.  We wandered into Central Park and eventually headed toward ‘The Lake’ on the West side. This was by the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon lived and where he had been shot and killed a little over 2 years earlier (this area in the park has since been named Strawberry Fields in Lennon’s honor, and is where he had done several videos with Yoko for songs on their ‘Double Fantasy’ album).  There, in front of the Dakota, we found an old abandoned row boat with a hole in it, which we discovered could be temporarily plugged up with a tight fitting glove (if the glove don’t fit, you must jump ship!). Three of us rowed that boat across The Lake.  The 4th among us, Steve, took a picture from a foot bridge using Bob’s camera.  It’s a picture that captures an amazing memory for me.

Most of us go to New York City to broaden our horizons.  Still others go there chasing a dream.  Some succeed (Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie), others fail (John Voight’s character in Midnight Cowboy is emblematic of many).  Most struggle along the way, including the character Paul Simon writes about in this week’s Gem Video, “The Boxer”.  At the concert later that year, I’m quite sure I thought of that day in Manhattan as I listened to the verse “Seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, Lookin’ for the places only they would know”.  Although our own experience was condensed into 24 hours, it contained the up and down swings of many who had traversed the city streets before us, like “The Boxer”, and it gave me a better understanding of the challenges they faced.

The road trip into New York made the entire Simon and Garfunkel concert more palpable than it would have been otherwise.  Below the Gem Video are some other songs from the Central Park concert and an explanation of how they connected with that surreal road trip in the winter of ‘83.

“I am just a poor boy, though my story is seldom told
 I have squandered my resistance,
 For a pocketful of mumbles such are promises.
 All lies and jest.
 Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

Gem Video, “The Boxer”  (this link has been temporarily lost *Dec, 09*)

America”, which is also about a road trip in the States.  Simon’s comments before the song (which was near the beginning of the show) are classic

“Kodachrome” (aside from the boat photo, Bob had other classic shots of that night/day, including the Canadian Rye photo op in the alley, and a great shot of us entering Central Park at sunrise)

“Late in the Evening” (the high-life before the elevator bouncer bounced us). 
Simon and Garfunkel enjoyed playing this one so much in Foxboro they played it twice.

Simon and Garfunkel closed the Foxboro concert with their song ‘Old Friends’:  Quite appropriate for a reunion event to say the least.  They were about my current age at the time.  Looking back, I think I have a better sense now of where they were in their lives.  Despite their differences, they realized that an old friendship never dies.  It may get a bit frayed on the edges every so often, but it doesn’t fade away.  I’m pretty convinced the Beatles, particularly Lennon and McCartney, would have eventually come to that realization themselves. 

Finally, here’s “American Tune” to recognize 7 years ago today:

- Pete

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About the video: Off the official Central Park video

Video Rating: 1

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Best Feedback: Becca

Pete...that was the summer that our family hit concerts en masse. For the S&G concert at Sullivan it was me, Mom, Jim, Rachel, Naomi, Vern, Spencer,and Jess. Yes....Mom was really into concerts that summer (I think it was her way of staying connected with us in the months since Dad had passed...keeping the pulse on how we were doing). I left for France just a few weeks later. That was a strange summer for us all...first one without Dad... but I remember that concert as a highlight.

I hope all is well....keep these coming.

love Bec

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Also: Amy

Ahhhh Simon and Garfunkel - like a favorite pair of jeans.
I sure would love to see those pictures.  You've led a much more colorful life than I ever knew.

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And: Tina

oh, my, student rates...
still humming,
tina

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And: Mom

Hi Pete!
This is probably one of my favorites.....I have always enjoyed Simon & Garfunkel so much. Thank-you for this "gem of the Week" and for your exquisite writing...I so look forward to it ...XOXO Mum

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