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HeadlineVisit of Muscle Shoals Studios

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Aug-03-2022, 00:15 GMT
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Hey guys!

Yes I know, have not posted in a long time.

Went to the Deep South in July for some vacation, and took the opportunity to visit the former Muscle Shoals studio in Sheffield, Alabama, where most of There Goes Rhymin Simon was recorded with the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

It was a 30-year dream coming true for me. Being a young kid, the images in the album sleeves were exotic and fascinating for me. The studio, the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Onward Brass Band...

But I will stop beating around the bush here. The visit was super interesting and filled my expectations. But the elephant in the room: the guide told our group that Simon indeed had a great time recording there, although he never paid the studio musicians afterwards. He was a referred over there as 'a son of b*tch.'

You could imagine our reaction...

I tried to play the devil's advocate by asking how come the same musicians collaborated with PS two years after for My Little Town and Still Crazy. The guide said that the money issue had not come up yet at that time.

Guide said that PS brags in his autobiography about paying very well the musicians. Well, PS has not written any autobiography, so...maybe in the 2018 Hillburn's book? I need to check quickly.

So, if this is true, it starts about making a pile of strange rumours about PS. Los Lobos being pissed, Ray Phiri not recognized enough for YCCMA, Heidi Berg that has not digested the tape affair, etc,

I might have idolized a man that has been behaving a bit like a jerk for a long time in his life.

Fortunately, we have the music...

P.S.: Guide told us that Garfunkel came to record his vocals for My Little Town separately at the studio. He did not want to see PS...

P.S. 2: I am glad I visited this legendary studio, and we have a pic with the piano used for Kodachrome.

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Aug-03-2022, 00:33 GMT
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Forgot something: guide mentioned that PS was boycotted by Nashville musicians because of what had happened; this is why he had never recorded there.

An information that needs to be verified since I seem to recall that some of the Surprise stuff had been done in Nashville.

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Aug-03-2022, 05:21 GMT
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According to the Carlin bio
“The descending chords for “One Man’s Ceiling “ were written by keyboardist Barry Beckett who played in the Muscle Shoals sessions. Yet neither Beckett nor Hood (who played bass ) nor anyone else in their organisation had argued for writing credits - and not just because Paul ,who paid over standard session rates and had also given them a coproducer’s piece of the royalties was being so generous . As most studio musicians agreed if you wanted writer’s credit, you were welcome to write your own songs" Carlin interviewed David Hood from the Swampers for the book in 2013. Absolutely no mention of not being paid and Carlin would have definitely included that piece of info . Hilburn also mentioned they got co producer royalties on four songs.
He said in a radio interview to promote his bio, that Paul told him he only took a lick on the second verse from Los Lobos and it did not warrant a writing credit. They did not write words or melody. Strangely they refused to be interviewed for his book saying this thing has been going on so long we don't want to be spending our whole life hung up over this issue ! One would have thought that would have been a golden opportunity for them. I have also read Pete Carr commenting on Paul in an interview and it is all very positive. Do you really think that the Muscle Shoals musicians would have let Paul get away with not paying them for their sessions ?

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Aug-03-2022, 13:22 GMT
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Jealousy is a nasty thing. And it is so easy to bring up some stuff that could be debatable. It is important to verify things if possible and to hear both sides of the story. Are you sure everything is right what the guide said???

What about all the good stuff Paul did in his life. Beginning with his music that brought a lot of comfort and joy all over the world. His charity work over the years, his latest work for the environment and nature, which is so very important!!

I know Paul as an honest and generous man and if there were mistakes he was always ready to make things right even sometimes when he wasn't sure he did something wrong. The issue with Ray Phiri was solved as far as I know and IMO he was very patience with Artie in the past! Another example is the issue with Martin Carthy about Scarborough Fair which is also solved. Carthy didn’t even write the song himself!

There are also a lot of stories about plagiarism or stolen parts from other musicians too, for example Mick Jagger/Keith Richard, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Ed Sheeran etc. etc.
To be honest, I don't get these accusations. Stolen of what? If you look good at the issue we all borrow from each other and we all make mistakes. Hey, look at that, we are all human! As long as it is not copied one on one I see no problem. We all get influenced by someone or something. If I could do one small inch for the world like Paul did I would be very proud of myself.

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Aug-03-2022, 20:27 GMT
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Oh my God, I thought this forum was dead. But it is not. We see that there are still many readers from the posts.

Yes, thank you Brenda. I did open Hillburn yesterday and did not find anything relevant to what the guide had said. Then, I checked Carlin and saw the excerpt you are mentioning. It is evident it is the source that the guide referred wrongly as a 'autobiography'.

The guide said that the Rhythm section musicians did not want to fight the issue. He said that they understood that it would end up being money for lawyers. They did not want to have this on their reputation, so they let it pass, he said.

I was overtly provoking in my initial post about PS being a jerk. I agree with you Ans that he did many, many good things. But I tend to see the good things being more prevalent in his post-Graceland years. I think Hillburn's book made the point that what happened to him personally and professionally with that album made him 'more grateful'.

Before that, I do not know - I was not there, but I suspect that the man was much more interested in 'fame and money', as he openly said himself.

You probably do not have a career in showbiz without stepping on a few wrong foot.

PS is a very competitive person, and he 'wanted it'.

As for these various stories here and there, I guess there are no smoke without fire, but it is true that there are lots of jealous people out there.

I seem to remember a comment/story about the guitar he got that is featured on the YTO album. Somebody was working with the guitar genius that made it - forgot the name - and mentioned that PS had never paid for that guitar.

Maybe there is a pattern somewhere, or sometimes, a story is wrongly reported and then it becomes urban legends with the addition of bogus claims.

Reputation = sums of all the misinterpretation about one's person!

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Aug-04-2022, 04:06 GMT
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Yes, the overtly provoking bothered me and summing up only some bad things is too easy. Glad you see my point of view.

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Aug-05-2022, 13:16 GMT
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Ok, sum it up short:
I do not believe that story the tour guide told you for a second.

Just watch that 2008 interview the the original "The Swampers" members gave about EXACTLY that sessions recording Kodachrome and more songs.

Where is the son of a bitch part?
They say sentences like, he did not want to leave because he had to pay 3 more days.

Paul booked 4 days, and they said they did every song in 2 hours.

Those guys are still extreme happy 40 years later, and laugh and smile and cant't believe Phil Ramone called them to be booked with Paul Simon.

And: Paul brought all the songs, he played them to the band, sitting on the floor in front of them (Kodachrome, One man ceiling) and they picked the ones they wanted to record.
Haha, what fun we had.
Fact is: I do not even see a joint songwriting in that process.

Sorry, that tour guide just likes to jump on the "I need to tell a greedy story train".
And I am 100% sure if Paul Simon shows up at the museum today, then the crew there will smile all day and take a selfie with Paul and tell him how happy they are to have him here. Or will the tour guide not recognize Paul and tell the son of a bitch story in front of him? Haha.

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Aug-05-2022, 13:17 GMT
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Hote this link works: youtube.com/watch?v=iEHvNNs18b0

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Aug-05-2022, 13:19 GMT
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Sorry this forum is so old, back in the year 2000 https maybe did not even exist. So it wont be able to recognize https links..it will fail and add some "http" in front of the "http://www." and then these crazy httpshttp.http://www links are the result...

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Aug-05-2022, 17:19 GMT
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Interesting points, Bodo...

I now remember seeing this video.

Still, it is possible that the Rhythm section here would be gentlemen and be silent about any money issue that could have happened in the 1970's.

Like Ray Phiri agreed to do the mini-Graceland tour in 2012, and participated in the film 'Under African Skies', although with maybe a grudge still going on.

I forgot to mention that even for me, it was not clear if the guide was referring to the co-producers royalties (does such a thing exists?) not being paid, or the actual studio sessions or both.

I did not dare to ask because the next question would be: 'What, are you working for Paul Simon, sir?'.

In the studio, there is a giant photo of Simon recording his vocals for 'My Little Town', like there are other ones for other artists. I guess one can see all that on Google nowadays.

All in all, I do not know. The guide knew his shit about pretty much everything else. We are talking about someone who have met some the Rhythm section members during their lifetime...

For me, it does not make sense that PS would not pay since he had been a millionaire since what ? 1965 ? Also, all albums had a budget in the days. Maybe he said to himself: 'well, I am going to give huge publicity for these guys, that would be their retribution'.

I asked the guide if the keyboard was the one used on Still Crazy. He said no. Apparently, they flew the musicians in NYC for one day. They were better 'to better control Paul'. Once again, I do not know who are they and what it means exactly.

As for most of the music on TGRS, I give tribute to the Rhythm section. Simon did write songs and had the acoustic guitar part; all the instrumentation that we hear is gravy made my these men.

Despite everything, I highly recommend the visit because there is magnificent music that has been recorded over there. Just do not be surprised if your favorite musician and artist is called a 'son of a b***'.

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Aug-05-2022, 20:00 GMT
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Great to see a bit of activity on this beloved site, and that Mog is as controversial as ever?. I’ll note that tour Mog, next time I’m stateside.
I like that PS isn’t perfect in every way, it makes him more 3D. I think he is the type of person who is frugal with money but has no problem supporting favoured charities. In this country we always give out about Bono, no matter how proud we are of U2. We just don’t like people getting to big for their boots!

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Aug-05-2022, 21:52 GMT
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I would not call it gentlemen if I tell bad stories behind and good stories in front of the camera :-)

The producer back then was Phil Ramone. He arranged to book the session musicians. I think it was very clear, if you book something ahead and say I book your studio and session players 4 days - this sounds like an exact time frame and rate per hour. They reepat that a lot of times how fast they can record a song, I guess back then their deal was: We are cheaper (and better) because we are faster and save you money on the studio time.

I would agree the The Swampers maybe sold themself too cheap (for their whole career), but maybe they are happy beeing session players. I just learned thaz Frederic Chopin, world famous piano player and writer, stopped any public Performances because he was happy giving piano lessons to students (for much less money)

Still, what sum are we talking about? Paul had all the money and he was notorious known for booking studios for several days, not hours.

If the booking fee was not paid then it may be more like a problem with the accounting or they simply never send a bill and have been quiet about it all time. I mean what amount of money are we talking about, a session musician today might earn 60-100 an hour, a fine studio might cost a Maximum of 1000 an hour. and thats 2020...in 1972...?
We talk about a few thousand dollars at best. What sense would it make for Paul simon to say: Nope, I am not Going to pay that.

In the end it will turn out the tour guide mixed up the Los Lobos story with Muscle Shoals ...or something like that. :-)

It was different with Los Lobos, Los Lobos are a band and not session musicians, but Paul ( or better Warner) music talked them into that kind of session musicians deal.

For The Swampers: I assume later someone told them they should have gotten co-writting.credits...and they said: Sure..we should. Maybe they delivered more than their contract told them to do, but at what point does that stop? Does Paul have to stand up and say: Wait, stop playing, thats too much already, I do not want you to be cowriters on my album..we have to quit.

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Aug-05-2022, 21:56 GMT
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BTW today:
How can Bejonce have 23 songwriters on one Song?

(not my quote)

Its just the complete opposite now, to be bulletproof save against everyones copyright claim they get every fart someone made onto their boat of songwriters. Give me a Grammy, I made a loud beep on her latest song.

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Aug-06-2022, 18:42 GMT
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LOL !!!!

Be careful with the naughty jokes, Bodo. I remember talking about PS' flushing toilet sound, and it did not go well with some forum members here.

Jokes aside, I forgot to mention that we went to Jackson, MS, as well. I had the vague idea of visiting Malaco Sound, but kind of forgot. They did some recording there I think with the Onward Brass Band, for TGRS. But I saw somewhere else that the studio had been destroyed by a tornado a few years ago, and was completely reconstructed. I will simply visit with Google Street. Ha ha ! Jackson is not deemed very safe, especially at night, and you must keep to some districts.

It was a music trip, and I was very satisfied. Saw STAX in Memphis. Went to Clarksdale. It is over there that PS was inspired for Love is Eternal Sacred Light, with 'Super Chikan'. But I have not seen him playing; I don't think he plays regularly anymore.

As for the guide at Muscle Shoals, I really do not know what is the true story behind all this.

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