50 Ways To Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon (Columbia, 1976)

Diddly-bum. Dit. Dit-dit-bum. Diddly-diddly-bum. Dit. Dit-dit-bum. Bom. That sweet opening drum roll that could only be played by Steve Gadd. Crisp, to the point, just enough funk to make Garfunkel’s fro frizz but not curl. It’s those kinds of details that separate Paul Simon from being just a mere singer-songwriter to being a pop music craftsmen. But then again maybe Paul & Steve were passing a J around and Paul said,” Man I start off all my songs the same way with guitar. I need to do something different on this one. Maybe something groovy, for the kids.” And Steve blows out the smoke and says, “How bout this?” and plays the infamous riff. 11 hours later, after they have both passed out and woken back up, Paul says “Cool, let’s lay it down.”

The lyrics are Paul at his most Woody Allen. In fact it’s like listening to an outtake from Annie Hall before it was even filmed. What sounds like the girlfriend/lover talking to Paul about what’s inside his head could easily be his own shrink calming down a neurotic patient. She rambles on & on to Paul who seems to be used this yakking and has grown numb to it. Until she talks about the 50 ways to leave your lover. Hey, you mean there’s a way out? Now I’m listening. He even interrupts her consolations and has her repeat the 50 ways.

Ah but that all went over my head as a kid. When I heard that drum lick on the radio, I settled in and got ready for the fun part: the Rhymin’ Simon game. I know you know what I’m talking about. My wife is the same age, grew on the other side of the country and did the same thing. When The chorus comes and he talks about slipping out the back, Jack & to make a new plan, Stan, your job was to think of other things he could do and rhyme it with a someone’s name. Such as, buy a new hat, Pat, ride your bike, Mike, pretend that your dead, Fred, etc. This would thrill me to end as I’m sure it did you. Funny thing was I read recently that Paul came up with the chorus while playing and singing with his 3-year old son, Harper. I was 5. What was your excuse?

This ended up being the biggest hit of his solo career and only #1 without Garfunkel. Many thought that Paul hit his peak with this song and the LP, Still Crazy After All This Years. Who knew that his peak wouldn’t be for another 10 years?

Now watch the Muppets tear it up! Animal has some trouble with the drum lick, but then so would Keith Moon.

Leave a comment


  1. The Chartist

     /  September 26, 2012

    It’s also a tribute to the Merry Marvel comics men (who Paul Simon was a huge fan of )”Make a new plan, Stan (Lee), /Slip out the back Jack (Kirby)/No need to be coy, Roy (Thomas)

  2. W.B.

     /  April 12, 2021

    I initially heard the “coy, Roy” part as “corduroy” in my youth. One wonders if, in that reference, he was also thinking about his on-and-off producer Roy Halee.

    But while this may’ve been Simon’s only “official” (read: Billboard) #1 in the U.S., he had two others as a solo artist, each from a different chart: “Kodachrome” topped the Record World singles chart in 1973, his next single “Loves Me Like A Rock” was #1 on the Cash Box Top 100.

    Meanwhile, his ex-singing partner Art Garfunkel would have two Number Ones in Britain that didn’t do much business here: a cover of the 1930’s song “I Only Have Eyes For You” which, in its tempo, clearly drew from The Flamingos’ 1959 doo-wop treatment of same; and, in 1979, “Bright Eyes,” from a soundtrack scored by the guy that was responsible for The Wombles in that country, Mike Batt.

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