Thursday, June 2, 2011
Slippin' Into Darkness
I recently picked up a box set, jampacked with nine CDs, containing all of Paul Simon's solo studio work from 1972's Paul Simon through 2000's You're the One. (It's evidently titled The Studio Recordings, although I couldn't find that name anywhere on the packaging.) You would think this would be comprehensive - it even has Songs From the Capeman, which nobody wants to hear - but it somehow manages to omit the single "Slip Slidin' Away," which went to Number Five very early in 1978. I thought it might be worth exploring how this happened.
By 1977, it had been two years since Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years, he owed Columbia one more album, and he wanted to sign with Warner Bros. So he put together a greatest-hits package for a Columbia, with a couple of new songs to put out as singles; they were the Etc. in Greatest Hits, Etc. (The record, which has been out of print since at least 1988, may be most significant for the fact that Simon appears on the cover hatless.) And they weren't exactly new; "Slip Slidin' Away" was a leftover from the Still Crazy sessions. For its patience, Warners was rewarded in 1980 with One-Trick Pony.
"Slip Slidin' Away" also showed up on 1988's Negotiations and Love Songs, 2002's The Paul Simon Anthology, and several other greatest-hits packages, but it's nowhere to be found on the The Studio Recordings box. It wouldn't make sense to include Greatest Hits, Etc. in the reissue of all his solo work, but couldn't they have slapped a hit single on as a bonus track somewhere? To be fair, there's a demo of "Slip Slidin' Away" included as a bonus track on Still Crazy, but why not put the actual single on there? The demo doesn't even have the Oak Ridge Boys!
Its partner from Greatest Hits, Etc., "Stranded in a Limousine," is included in its final form on the One-Trick Pony reissue. So there's some precedent for this sort of thing. But as things stand now, the people who buy most or all of Paul Simon's albums - his biggest fans, in other words - are forced to buy a greatest-hits package, containing almost entirely songs they already own, in order to get one of his biggest hits. That's not right.