Maurice Baker

Author and Songwriter

Paul Simon

Paul Simon

‘Train In The Distance’ by Paul Simon – released 1983. In a Playboy interview (1984) Simon said:

‘I have a song on this new album called “Train in the Distance”. It's very factual about my life. What I discovered in writing recently is that facts, stated without color, are just potential energy. You don't know where they're going to go until you give them a direction.

The song starts, "She was beautiful as Southern skies / The night he met her. She was married to someone." That's about Peggy, my first wife. And it's all true.

Then it goes, "He was doggedly determined that he would get her/ He was old, he was young." That's me. I was, you know, pretending I was sophisticated. I wasn't.

"From time to time, he'd tip his heart / But each time she withdrew." True, all true. All those are just facts.

Then I add what is, I think, the artist's job : "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance / Everybody thinks it's true." That's not fact anymore. That's comment.

I told a story, and then I used the metaphor. And then I thought, I don't think people are going to understand what I mean when I say, "Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance / Everybody thinks it's true." And I don't want to be enigmatic. So I added : "What is the point of this story? What information pertains? / The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains."

And that was my writer's point of view. That we've survived by believing our life is going to get better. And I happened to use the train metaphor because I was sitting in a friend's house near a railway station, and I heard a train. And I said, "Oooh, that's nice."

There's something about the sound of a train that's very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful. Anyway, I guess my point is that facts can be turned into art if one is artful enough.’