Cover Wars: 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover Edition

Look what happens when Timothy White tries to rap with Paul about it back in ’75…

“A number of your songs sound as if they come from some sort of sad resignation,” I tell him. “How about ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’? It has humorous overtones, but if you read the words without the music, those overtones simply aren’t there.”

“I woke up one morning in my apartment on Central Park,” he says, “and the opening words just popped into my mind: ‘The problem is all inside your head, she said to me . . .’ That was the first thing I thought of. So I just started building on that line. It was the last song I wrote for the album, and I wrote it with a Rhythm Ace, one of those electronic drum machines so maybe that’s how it got that sing-song ‘make a new plan Stan, don’t need to be coy Roy’ quality. It’s basically a nonsense song.”

“It doesn’t hit me that way,” I insist. “It seems more real to me than that.”

“It’s just the character in the song,” Simon minimizes, “that’s all.”

It goes on to say,

Eddie Simon, now thirty and an accomplished guitarist who owns a successful music school in Manhattan, would later provide somewhat contradictory background on “50 Ways.”

“Paul loves to play these little improvisational rhyming games with his three-year-old son, Harper James,” Ed reveals with a laugh. “You know. ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon’ and all of that–that’s where that stuff comes from. It all started a while ago when Paul was teaching him this ‘Fe Fi Fiddle-eye-o’ song, and just grew from there. Harper James laughs like crazy when he does it!

“I think that’s where the song came from. I believe it grew out of those games they play. I know it’s Harper James’s favorite.” In a similar way, Paul Simon discounts a literal translation of “My Little Town.”

“That song isn’t about me,” he asserts adamantly. “It isn’t auto- biographical in any sense. The song is about someone who hates the town he grew up in. Somebody happy to get out. I don’t know where the idea came from.

The song itself is quite the masterpiece as it combines some funky guitar fingerwork, it’s signature lyrics and the much sampled drumbeat from Steve Gadd:


Sometimes a version is just too good for Cover Wars, and if I included it in the polling, nobody else would get any votes. This is one of those instances:


And now from the candidates,

To hear the songs in their entirety and not just 30 second clips, you may need to register with imeem.

Agents Of Good Roots: This band out of Richmond (now retired?) brings some unique arrangement to this cover in the way of a tasty sax/guitar unison line in the chorus.

Benevento/Russo Duo: The first half of this cover sounds straight out of some 1970’s B3 jazz. In fact the whole track sort of does, but it does have a little bit of the Duo-vibe of controlled chaos that they do so well. It sounds like there are about 15 people in attendance for this particular performance, so we hope they enjoyed it.

Brad Mehldau: Brad is definitely the ‘Which one of these is not like the other’ candidate this week, but his version in 7/4 just could not be omitted. If you like this, I highly recommend checking out his terrific discography. Not only is he a fantastic composer and improviser, but he frequently arranges other rock tunes by artists such as The Beatles and Radiohead.


Cornmeal: From the jazz version, to the bluegrass version. Sometimes I don’t have a whole lot to say about a particular version…not saying it’s bad or good, it’s just pretty self-explanatory and that’s when video footage comes in handy!


Mr. Blotto: With my limited sleuthing on the Internet, it appears that Mr. Blotto has performed 50 Ways > Rap > 50 Ways a number of times. This particular night included in the playlist is the same night that Bill Clinton was impeached. So be sure to check out some of the political free-styling that quickly gives way to a few Christmas Songs raps. You know you want to hear this.

Scarecrow Collection: My experience in the blogosphere is that it’s cool to drop a disclosure every now and again. Normally I see them when tech bloggers are writing about companies that they are invested in or something like that. Here it’s sort of the opposite. Disclosure: Nick, who is the lead guitar player of Scarecrow Collection is a good friend occasional collaborator here at HT. Hence I think this version totally sucks, especially the nasty jam in the middle…

Tim Palmieri: I had the pleasure of seeing Tim play a solo show last year and it was pretty mind-blowing. The way he deconstructs songs is really unique. ScottyB put it best when he said: “Palmieri jammed out all the sections of YEM that you had always wished Phish jammed out.”

Umphrey’s McGee: The winners of the first volume of Cover Wars return this week with a pretty straight-ahead rendition.

Well thanks for reading all the way down to the bottom of the post! It’s voting time. Remember, here at HT, we encourage all sorts of crazy grassroots (hell, even fraudulent) tactics to ensure your favorite gets the win!

A lil’ bonus YouTube footage of Paul Simon performing the tune live:


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16 Responses

  1. I really, REALLY dig the style and flair THE DUO put into the cover. Also down with SCC’s which is smooth and fiesty! 🙂

  2. I love the Duo, but Mehldau is just too amazing. To be quite honest, I think Mehldau’s version kicks even the original’s ass (sorry Paul!).

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