#453: Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard by Paul Simon

Peak Month: May 1972
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CKVN
1 week Preview
Peak Position #4
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #22
YouTube.com: “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard
Lyrics: “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard

Paul Frederic Simon was born in 1941 in Newark, New Jersey, to Hungarian-Jewish parents. His dad was a bandleader who went by the name Lou Sims. When he was eleven years old he met Art Garfunkel and were both part of a sixth grade drama production of Alice In Wonderland. By 1954 Paul and Art were singing at school dances. In 1957, in their mid-teens, they recorded the song “Hey, Schoolgirl” under the name “Tom & Jerry”, a name that was given to them by their label Big Records. The single reached No. 49 on the pop charts.

Simon released “Teen-Age Fool” in 1958 under the pseudonym of True Taylor. The single was not a hit. In 1961 he released “Motorcycle” under the name Tico and the Triumphs. The tune made it to #99 on the Billboard Hot 100. That musical experiment disbanded after two more single releases that were both flops. Simon also released ten singles between 1959 and 1962 under the pseudonym Jerry Landis. He had one minor regional hit in 1962 titled “The Lone Teen Ranger” which made the Top Ten in Miami and Newport News (VA). Meanwhile, both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel studied at university and got Bachelor’s Degrees.

In 1964 Simon and Garfunkel got a record contract with Columbia Records. In the fall they released their debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. The album contained a track titled “The Sounds Of Silence”. However, the album was a commercial failure. Paul Simon moved to England and Garfunkel pursued studies at Columbia University. While in England Paul Simon co-wrote “Red Rubber Ball”, a hit for the Cyrkle in the spring of 1966. Otherwise, that would have been the end of their musical careers except “The Sounds Of Silence” began to get requests from buyers of the album in a few radio markets in Massachusetts and Florida by the spring of ’65. Consequently, “The Sounds Of Silence” was re-recorded in June 1965 and re-issued in September. The song went to number one in November ’65 in Boston, Miami and Providence (RI). It got picked up across the nation and became number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 1. It got knocked out of the top spot by the Beatles “We Can Work It Out”, bur returned to the number one spot on January 22nd. It finally peaked at number one in Los Angeles for the first two weeks in February.

With “The Sounds Of Silence” climbing the pop charts across America in the fall-winter of ’65, Simon and Garfunkel reunited. The number one single, owing to its significant chart run in 1965, was the number 54 song of the year in 1966. In mid-December 1965, Simon and Garfunkel went to the studio to record their second album, Sounds Of Silence. The album also included “I Am A Rock”. The track had been included in an album Paul Simon released in the summer of 1965 in the UK only titled The Paul Simon Songbook. In the spring of 1966, “I Am A Rock” became their third single release. The Paul Simon Songbook also included songs the duo re-recorded for Sounds Of Silence: “Kathy’s Song”, “A Most Peculiar Man”, “Blessed”, “Leaves That Are Green” and “April Come She Will”.

From their third album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, came “Homeward Bound”. The single was released in mid-January 1966, six months before the rest of the tracks on the album were recorded.  “Homeward Bound” climbed to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the #56 song of the year. “I Am A Rock” peaked at #3 and ranked #51 for the year 1966, and #4 Vancouver. In the fall of 1966, the duo also released “The Dangling Conversation” from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, and “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” from the Bookends album, just one month apart. The latter single climbed to #13 but “The Dangling Conversation” struggled to make the Top 30 (#29 in Vancouver). Perhaps lines like “Can analysis be worthwhile? Is the theatre really dead?” just weren’t catchy enough.

In December 1966 Vancouver (BC) was one of the radio markets where the promotional single “7 O’Clock News – Silent Night”, from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, climbed to #29. Two more singles from Bookends were Top 20 hits in 1967: “At The Zoo” (#7 Vancouver) and “Fakin’ It” (#13 Vancouver). Next up, the baroque pop tune “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” climbed to #10 in Vancouver and #11 on the national charts in the USA in April ’68.

On December 22, 1967, a film was released called The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. It became a huge box office hit. With figures adjusted for inflation, the film grossed $805 million, making it the 23rd biggest All-Time grossing film. All the songs for the soundtrack were written by Paul Simon, including “The Sounds Of Silence”, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” and “Mrs. Robinson”. The latter song became a number one hit in America for three weeks in June. The single stalled at #2 in Vancouver (BC), kept out of the top spot by “This Guys In Love With You” by Herb Alpert. “Mrs. Robinson” won the duo Grammy Awards in 1969 for both Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. And the soundtrack for The Graduate won them a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

In November 1968 Simon and Garfunkel recorded “The Boxer”, which would become the first track recorded for their 1970 album release Bridge Over Troubled Water. The single was a Top Ten hit in the spring of ’69. But it was the title cut that became their biggest hit, spending six weeks at number one from late February into April 1970. The song was ranked number one for the year 1970. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” won Simon and Garfunkel Grammy Awards in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Contemporary Song. While the album won Album of the Year and Best Engineered Album – Non-Classical.

Other singles from the album included “Cecilia” which also topped the pop chart in Vancouver (BC), making it two number one hits in a row. Though “El Condor Pasa” struggled to climb into the Top 20 in the USA, it peaked at #4 in Vancouver in October 1970. The song was uniquely based on an Andean folk song from Peru written in 1913 by Daniel Alomía Robles. The recording of Bridge over Troubled Water was difficult and Simon and Garfunkel’s relationship had deteriorated. “At that point, I just wanted out,” Simon later said. The duo split up in April 1970. Aside from a benefit concert in support of the George McGovern presidential candidacy for the Democratic Party in June 1972, Simon and Garfunkel hardly spoke to each other for a number of years.

In early 1972 Paul Simon released his second solo album, Paul Simon. The debut single, “Mother And Child Reunion” climbed to #2 in Vancouver (BC) and #4 in the USA in March 1972. His followup single was another family-themed lyric titled “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”.

Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard by Paul Simon

“Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” was written by Paul Simon. The percussion sound in the song was created with a cuica, a Brazilian friction drum instrument often used in samba music. The song is about three individuals (“you, me and Julio”) who have broken a law. From the lyrics, the exact law that has been broken is not stated in the song. When “the mama pajama” finds out what they have done, she goes to the police station to report the crime. Meanwhile, when “papa” finds out about the incident, he starts “the investigation.” And Mama is disgusted, perhaps disgraced by the action of her son. Whenever his name is mentioned, she looks down and spits “on the ground.” Papa vows he’ll stick his son “in the house of detention,” a juvenile detention center. The law breakers are later arrested. But the press leak the story and the juveniles are released when a “radical priest” intervenes.

The narrator of the song – “Me” – sings “I’m on my way, I don’t know where I’m going, I’m on my way, I’m taking my time, but I don’t know where.” If the singer was in a police van, or being driven to the police station by Mama Pajama or Papa, he’d know exactly where he was going. So, the lyrics here are not about a specific trip to a police station or juvenile detention center. It is plausibly in reference to where the “boy” is going in his life’s journey. In a number of his songs, Paul Simon sings about people who are searching for something, or challenged by their circumstances. In his song “America”, he sings about people who’ve “come to look for America.”  Elsewhere on his Paul Simon album he writes in “Mother And Child Reunion” that “the course of a lifetime runs over and over again.” And on his next album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, in “American Tune” he writes “when I think of the road we’re traveling on, I wonder what’s gone wrong.” And later Paul Simon wrote in “My Little Town”, “In my little town I never meant nothin’, I was just my father’s son. Saving my money. Dreaming of glory. Twitching like a finger on the trigger of a gun.”

In the lyrics of “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” there is someone named “Rosie, the queen of Corona.” Rosie could be the “you” in the song, or a fourth person. Corona is a neighborhood in Queens, a borough of New York City. Corona is bordered by the Queens Zoo and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to the east, Jackson Heights to the west, Elmhurst to the southwest, Rego Park and Forest Hills to the south, and East Elmhurst to the north. From the song, we may infer that the catalyzing incident takes place in a schoolyard in Corona. The only names given by Paul Simon in the song are Julio and Rosie. And Corona is a neighborhood with over 63% hispanic-Latin American heritage residents. In the 2010 United States census, there were approximately 8% white, 13% African-American and 13% Asian-American residents. Corona is the neighborhood that the fictitious home of Archie and Edith Bunker – 704 Hauser Street – in the TV sitcom, All In The Family. Corona is one of the safest neighborhoods and has a lower crime rate compared most neighborhoods in Queens. Corona has also been home to a number of notable persons over the years. These include Louis Armstrong, whose home is now a museum; Madonna (1979-80), jazz saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, R&B singer Frankie Lymon, as well as cosmetics founder Estée Lauder, and film director Martin Scorsese.

The meaning and references in the song have long provoked debate. In a July 20, 1972 interview for Rolling Stone Jon Landau asked Simon: “What is it that the mama saw? The whole world wants to know.” Simon replied “I have no idea what it is… Something sexual is what I imagine, but when I say ‘something’, I never bothered to figure out what it was. Didn’t make any difference to me.” More recently, in October 2010, Simon described the song as “a bit of inscrutable doggerel”, while the “radical priest” has been interpreted as a reference to Daniel Berrigan, who was featured on the cover of Time on January 25, 1971, near when the song was written. Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip, along with seven other Catholic protesters, used homemade napalm to destroy 378 draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board on May 17, 1968. For his anti-Vietnam War protest, Daniel Berrigan was sent to jail. In the songs’ lyrics, Simon sings about a “radical priest” who was on “the cover of Newsweek.”

“Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” climbed to #1 in St. Louis, #2 in New York City and La Crosse (WI), #3 in Omaha (NE), #4 in Vancouver (BC), Akron (OH) and Oklahoma City, #5 in Rochester (NY), #6 in Milwaukee and Sioux Falls (SD), #7 in Minneapolis/St. Paul, #8 in Louisville (KY), Salt Lake City and Kansas City (MO), #9 in Bakersfield (CA), Lincoln (NE), Portland (OR) and Olympia (WA).

In 1973 Paul Simon released his third solo album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. It included two tracks that became big hit singles in 1973: “Kodachrome” and the gospel-infused “Loves Me Like A Rock”. The album was nominated for Album of the Year and Simon also was nominated in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category. The former was given to Stevie Wonder for Innervisions, and the later was won by Stevie Wonder of “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”.

In 1975 Simon and Garfunkel reunited to record “My Little Town”. The single was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1976. In 1976 Simon won two Grammy Awards (Album of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) for his 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years. The album included “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” which became his only number hit single in February 1976. The song was nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 1977. That year he had another Top Ten hit titled “Slip Sliding Away.”

In the 1980s Paul Simon was recognized again at the Grammy Award with another nomination in hte Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category for “Late In The Evening”. Though he struggled with his next two albums, in 1986 he released Graceland. The album won a Grammy for Album of the Year and Simon got another Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. And at the 1987 Grammy Awards Paul Simon got a nomination for Song of the Year and won a Grammy for Record of the Year, both for “Graceland”.  In succeeding years Paul Simon was nominated again for Album of the Year at the Grammy’s in 1992 for The Rhythm of the Saints and in 2001 for You’re The One.

In 2006 Time magazine named Paul Simon in its feature issue “100 People Who Shaped the World”. In 2012 Paul Simon told Rolling Stone “One of my deficiencies is my voice sounds sincere. I’ve tried to sound ironic. I don’t. I can’t. Dylan, everything he sings has two meanings. He’s telling you the truth and making fun of you at the same time. I sound sincere every time.” In 2013 Paul Simon released his thirteenth studio album titled Stranger to Stranger. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 Album chart at #3. In 2018, his most recent studio album release, In the Blue Light, received critical acclaim, but earned only modest sales. He announced in February 2018 that he was retiring from touring.

May 6, 2020
Ray McGinnis

References:
Paul Simon Biography,” Paul – Simon.info
Geoffrey Himes, “How “The Sound of Silence” Became a Surprise Hit,” Smithsonian Magazine, January, 2016.
Robin Denslow, “Paul Simon’s Graceland: the Acclaim and the Outrage,” Guardian, April 19, 2012.
Cornel Bonca, Paul Simon: An American Tune, (Roman and Littlefield, 2017).
Paul Simon To Be Awarded First Annual Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by Library of Congress,” Library of Congress, March 1, 2007.
Josh Tyrangiel, “The 2006 Time 100 – Heroes and Pioneers: Paul Simon – #82,Time, May 8, 2006.
Bryce Kirchoff, “Simon (Without Garfunkel) Says Goodbye,” Next Avenue, February 16, 2018.
Paul Simon, “Isn’t It Rich?,” New York Times, October 27, 2010.
Philip and Daniel Berrigan – Rebel Priests: The Curious Case of the Berrigans,” COVER – Time, January 25, 1971.
Catonsville Nine,” Wikipedia.org.
The Top 40 Hits,” CKVN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, May 22, 1972.

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