This week I found myself torn with regard to song choice. The prompts for Song Lyric Sunday are Atoll, Island, Key, Lagoon, Peninsula, Reef and Tropical, suggested by Kristian, from Tales From The Mind of Kristian. As Paul Simon is one of my favorite artists I wanted to feature ‘I Am A Rock’. The lyrics to me are pure poetry. At the same time I like the upbeat Sammy Hagar song, ‘All We Need Is An Island’, so I decided to go with both. I hope you enjoy them.
Simon was going solo at this time because the Simon & Garfunkel 1964 debut album Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. had stiffed, and the duo split up. Late in 1965, the producer Tom Wilson overdubbed and remixed a track from that album, “The Sound Of Silence,” and it became a huge hit. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were summoned back to the studio, where they recorded the singles “I Am A Rock” and “Homeward Bound,” which were included on their Sound of Silence album. These songs were recorded with producer Bob Johnston at one of the Columbia Records studios in New York City, and now released with a more contemporary sound, “I Am A Rock” became a hit for the duo.
In the UK, this was released three times in a one year span: first as the original Paul Simon single in 1965, then in the summer of 1966 it was released as an EP and again as a single. The song was very popular there in 1966, but the chart position suffered because the sales of the single were diluted by multiple releases.
The guitarist on the Simon & Garfunkel hit version of this song was Ralph Casale, who was a top session player in the ’60s. He remembers organist Al Kooper and drummer Bobby Gregg – both associated with Bob Dylan – also performing on the song. Describing the sessions, Ralph told us: “The band was booked from 7:00 p.m. into the wee hours of the morning. I was given a lead sheet for ‘I Am A Rock’ with just chords and asked to play the electric twelve string guitar. The producer wanted a sound similar to the Byrds. It was important that session players became familiar with the current hits because many times producers describe the style they want by referring to well known groups. Paul Simon sang the figure he wanted me to play between verses and asked me to play it in thirds. The rest was left to me. ‘Homeward Bound’ was on that same date.”
A winter's day, in a deep and dark December I am alone Gazing from my window to the streets below On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow I am a rock, I am an island I've built walls A fortress deep and mighty That none may penetrate I have no need of friendship Friendship causes pain It's laughter and it's loving I disdain I am a rock, I am an island Don't talk of love But I've heard the words before It's sleeping in my memory I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died If I never loved I never would have cried I am a rock, I am an island I have my books And my poetry to protect me I am shielded in my armor Hiding in my room, safe within my womb I touch no one and no one touches me I am a rock, I am an island And a rock feels no pain And an island never cries Writer: Paul Simon
There was a suggestion that 65-year-old Hagar record this song with 23-year-old country-pop superstar Taylor Swift, but he was concerned about the age difference. Instead he laid it down it with Heart’s Nancy Wilson. “She did the best duet on the record,” Hagar told Jam! Music of Wilson. “She brought more to that song than everyone else did … It’s beautiful. She took my idea and just made it from a girl’s perspective. I wanted to do it with someone real young and hip and popular and my manager and everyone around me was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah! Let’s get Taylor Swift! Yeah, her guitar player is a big Sammy fan! All he does is play your music on the bus.’ And then I thought, ‘Well, gee, what if someone wants us to do a video, then people are going to be going, ‘Is that her grandpa?’ I’m okay with being a grandpa but not Taylor Swift’s grandpa.”
Hagar also considered recording this with the lead singer of Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. “I met Grace Potter, and I wanted to do a duet with her,” he told Rolling Stone, “but I didn’t have the song. I thought ‘All We Need Is an Island,’ but I ended up doing that with Nancy [Wilson], and Nancy killed it.”
Well, all we need is an island Big ol' sandy beach Palm tree for some shade Sweet sugar cane All we need is an island (all we need is an island) A hammock that swings A tall cool one, a whole lotta sun A belly full of rum All we need is an island Ooh, all we need is an island All we need is an island Get the cold ass winter gone So cold and so long Feel it in my bones All we need is an island (all we need is an island) A little time alone A feeling in me, you and me A little ecstasy All we need is an island Ooh, all we need is an island (All we need is an island) All we need is an island Sea, sun, salt and sex A line and a pole Put a pig in a hole All we need is an island Work, work, work away Honey, take me to this paradise With a miracle kiss All we need is an island Ooh, all we need is an island (All we need is an island) All we need is an island (All we need is an island) Ooh, all we need is an island (All we need is an island) All we need is an island Writer: Sammy Hagar