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Old 04-05-2015, 06:55 PM
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'America' by Simon and Garfunkel: Misheard lyrics

Well, sorta. Actually, I never had a clue what they were saying. They bought a pack of cigarettes and. . . . what? Without ever having seen the lyrics, would you have known? When I saw the lyrics, I first wondered, "Well, what is that?" So a cursory seach indicates that unless you were from the NYC area, chances are you never had, either. If, like me, you had no idea what else they were buying in addition to the smokes, here it is.
Old 04-05-2015, 07:30 PM
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I always heard it perfectly, although I had no idea what they were.
Old 04-05-2015, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Leaffan View Post
I always heard it perfectly, although I had no idea what they were.
Me too, also.
Old 04-05-2015, 08:51 PM
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I was always more concerned with what kind of real estate was in that bag. It sounded like a veiled allusion to something else.
Old 04-05-2015, 09:56 PM
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now I wish I had some pie
Old 04-06-2015, 12:35 AM
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Did anybody notice in the recent commercial that uses that song (American Express I think) they edit out the reference to cigarettes?
Old 04-06-2015, 01:13 AM
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I always thought it was about a soldier just returned from Vietnam.

It took me four days to hitchhike from Saigon
Oh, I've come to look for America.
Old 04-06-2015, 01:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
I always thought it was about a soldier just returned from Vietnam.

It took me four days to hitchhike from Saigon
Oh, I've come to look for America.
Saginaw, not Saigon. I never had any trouble hearing or understanding the lyrics, but it is a song very much of its time.
Old 04-06-2015, 02:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
Saginaw, not Saigon.
Yes, that's why I mentioned it in a thread about misheard lyrics.
Old 04-06-2015, 02:55 AM
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I understood the lyrics and remember the pies. They were great.
Old 04-06-2015, 03:21 AM
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I have never heard this song before.
Old 04-06-2015, 04:54 AM
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I like the song. As I have mentioned before it is unusual in that none of the lyrics rhyme.

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Old 04-06-2015, 06:49 AM
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Never had any difficulty hearing or understanding the lyrics. It all seemed self evident.
Old 04-06-2015, 07:21 AM
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That's one of those songs guaranteed to have me in tears for no apparent reason.
Old 04-06-2015, 07:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCMF-2L View Post
I like the song. As I have mentioned before it is unusual in that none of the lyrics rhyme.
That's just because they recorded it before Simon was finished writing it. In the final version, the lyrics rhyme:

"Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got an aunt who's been under the weather"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes
and Mrs. Wagner's Chia pets
And walked off to look for America

"Kathy," I said on a Carnival Cruise bound for Curaçao
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
I'll pack a bag 'n I'll
hitchhike to Saginaw
I've come to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit needed braces
I said "Does he think that a bowtie
is better than no tie?"

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my corvette"
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
So I looked at the scenery, she read her birthday card
And the moon rose over an old junk yard

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, then I shouted to wake her
"I'm empty and aching and don't call me a faker"
We're supposed to meet Mike on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
Old 04-06-2015, 07:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I never had any trouble hearing or understanding the lyrics...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Myglaren View Post
Never had any difficulty hearing or understanding the lyrics. It all seemed self evident.
So, can you explain what the real estate in his bag means?



Edit - Bravo, bienville

Last edited by Peter Morris; 04-06-2015 at 07:52 AM.
Old 04-06-2015, 08:40 AM
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I'm with the OP, I never knew what the phrase was until I looked it up just now. Interesting, and thanks for the explanation. I grew up Upstate and never heard of Mrs. Wagner's pies.

If I heard the song now I could sing along, I know the lyrics by heart, by ear, except for that part. I would just mumble through that part, until now!

And Saigon instead of Saginaw, that's interesting. But there's a mention of Michigan elsewhere in the song. I always heard Saginaw, never heard Saigon.

I like that song, it's one of my favorites of theirs.
Old 04-06-2015, 08:49 AM
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The word Saginaw might be obvious to people who know Michigan, but I never heard of the place.
Old 04-06-2015, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Bullitt View Post
I'm with the OP, I never knew what the phrase was until I looked it up just now. Interesting, and thanks for the explanation. I grew up Upstate and never heard of Mrs. Wagner's pies.
I hadn't either. Until I looked them up just now, I always pictured them more like Hostess Fruit Pie-like things.
Old 04-06-2015, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by GuanoLad View Post
I have never heard this song before.
Please tell me you've at least heard of Paul Simon.

(And get off my lawn.)
Old 04-06-2015, 09:38 AM
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Keep in mind that I was about 5 years old at the time.

The line about the man in the gabardine suit -- I somehow got "gabardine" associated with Galilee and thought it had something to do with Jesus. So the part about the bowtie camera was especially confusing.
Old 04-06-2015, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
So, can you explain what the real estate in his bag means?
It means he's got some extra room in his bag--it's not stuffed completely full.

Ergo: "I've got some extra space available in my bag, let's purchase some pies and cigarettes since I have room for them in here. "
Old 04-06-2015, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Miss Mapp View Post
I somehow got "gabardine" associated with Galilee and thought it had something to do with Jesus.
There's a Bible story sometimes called Jesus and the Gadarene swine.
Old 04-06-2015, 09:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
So, can you explain what the real estate in his bag means?
I always assumed it was marijuana.

Bookends was always my favorite album by S&G. The song "Old Friends" is poignant to the point of painful. "How terribly strange to be 70", indeed. I'll be finding out in a couple of years.
Old 04-06-2015, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
It means he's got some extra room in his bag--it's not stuffed completely full.

Ergo: "I've got some extra space available in my bag, let's purchase some pies and cigarettes since I have room for them in here. "

Okay, that makes sense, I suppose. An unusual phrase, though. I've frequently had room in my bags, and I've never called it real estate.

Hold on, "real estate" and "extra room" have the same number of syllables. Why use such a strange phrase, when an ordinary one would have done?
Old 04-06-2015, 10:05 AM
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My purely personal take was the lines:

Quote:
Let us be lovers,
We'll marry our fortunes together.
I've got some real estate
Here in my bag.
Were meant as a self deprecating, humorous comment. 'Let's get married... We're so rich and own so much property... ' (Although we're so poor we travel by bus or hitch hiking and have run out of cigarettes.)

TCMF-2L
Old 04-06-2015, 10:06 AM
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Check out the prog rock version by Yes. An interesting choice of theirs to cover.

Also, I like how "America" uses wistful and gently poignant major seventh chords to underscore the lyrics. Plus, it's in ternary rhythm (I feel 6/8, but others might feel 3/4).
Old 04-06-2015, 10:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
Okay, that makes sense, I suppose. An unusual phrase, though. I've frequently had room in my bags, and I've never called it real estate.

Hold on, "real estate" and "extra room" have the same number of syllables. Why use such a strange phrase, when an ordinary one would have done?
It's poetry- it plays off the previous line of "marrying our fortunes". Their fortunes are some "real estate" in his bag to hold cigarettes and pies.
Old 04-06-2015, 10:37 AM
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Remember, the lyrics were on the back of the album. I always got the right words, just never knew what they actually meant! What are reactionaries? What are hamsters turning on? Lights? These things aren't clear when you are 8 years old.

Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 04-06-2015 at 10:38 AM.
Old 04-06-2015, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
The word Saginaw might be obvious to people who know Michigan, but I never heard of the place.
It's a typical mid-sized Michigan city. Not nearly as bad as Flint but doesn't have a lot to recommend it. Nearby Frankenmuth is worth a drive to go to Bronner's Christmas store and then go eat the chicken at Zehnder's .
Old 04-06-2015, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
The word Saginaw might be obvious to people who know Michigan, but I never heard of the place.
You don't have to "know Michigan" to recognize Saginaw as a semi-classic American end-of-nowhere place. And it sounds nothing like Saigon in the song.

Next you'll be claiming you never heard of Dubuque or Moline.
Old 04-06-2015, 11:22 AM
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You've never heard of Saginaw? I was born in Saginaw, Michigan. I grew up in a house on Saginaw Bay. My dad was a poor hard working Saginaw fisherman; too many times he came home with too little pay.
Old 04-06-2015, 11:24 AM
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Immortalized in this Lefty Frizzell classic.
Old 04-06-2015, 12:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCMF-2L View Post
I like the song. As I have mentioned before it is unusual in that none of the lyrics rhyme.
Unusual if you think of it as being simply 'a song'; somewhat less unusual when you consider that it's 'a Paul Simon song'. The man certainly knows how to paint a picture with his lyrics though.
Old 04-06-2015, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by BobLibDem View Post
It's a typical mid-sized Michigan city. Not nearly as bad as Flint but doesn't have a lot to recommend it. Nearby Frankenmuth is worth a drive to go to Bronner's Christmas store and then go eat the chicken at Zehnder's .
What, no love for the Bavarian Inn? (Not that I'd say 'no' to Zehnder's chicken, mind you).
Old 04-06-2015, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
Remember, the lyrics were on the back of the album. I always got the right words, just never knew what they actually meant! What are reactionaries? What are hamsters turning on? Lights? These things aren't clear when you are 8 years old.
Yeah, my dad loves S&G so I grew up listening to them. Never had any trouble with the lyrics since Dad would sing along, but there plenty of words and concepts that went right over my head.
(America and For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her always smack me right in the heart.)

Last edited by Achren; 04-06-2015 at 02:52 PM.
Old 04-06-2015, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
It's poetry- it plays off the previous line of "marrying our fortunes". Their fortunes are some "real estate" in his bag to hold cigarettes and pies.
I read it as part of the ironic comment about their fortunes (which are non-existent.) People who are rich own real estate - he is so poor his can fit in his bag.

I had never been to Saginaw, but I knew it.
S&G at that time didn't do subtle drug references. This song is way too sweet for that, not to mention that dope on a bus was really not a good idea back then. It's a road trip, basically.
Old 04-06-2015, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by garygnu View Post
You've never heard of Saginaw? I was born in Saginaw, Michigan. I grew up in a house on Saginaw Bay. My dad was a poor hard working Saginaw fisherman; too many times he came home with too little pay.
Do good I? No! Evil anon I deliver! Sanitary sword atuck Carol, I, lo, rack, cut a drowsy rat in aswan. I gas nine more hero men in Saginaw. Reviled, I Nona live on! I do, o God!
Old 04-06-2015, 03:46 PM
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I like Paul Simon, but he is not a songwriter who makes you spend a lot of time digging out the hidden meanings of the lyrics. In other words, he is no Dylan. His early stuff was very much of the sensitive poet unlucky in love variety. Very good for kids feeling misunderstood.
America is about two people finding themselves on a road trip.
Old 04-06-2015, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by panache45 View Post
Please tell me you've at least heard of Paul Simon.

(And get off my lawn.)
Yes, I know many Simon and Garfunkel songs, including their solo hits, and have even seen (parts of) their special in Central Park, but that particular song has never knowingly crossed my path before. And I must say... it's not very good, so maybe that's why.
Old 04-06-2015, 08:15 PM
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Originally Posted by GuanoLad View Post
Yes, I know many Simon and Garfunkel songs, including their solo hits, and have even seen (parts of) their special in Central Park, but that particular song has never knowingly crossed my path before. And I must say... it's not very good, so maybe that's why.
It grows on you.
Old 04-06-2015, 08:16 PM
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In your opinion, it's not very good. In my opinion, it's good.

ETA: this is to GuanoLad; Leaffan snuck in there.

Last edited by kayT; 04-06-2015 at 08:17 PM.
Old 04-07-2015, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TCMF-2L View Post
My purely personal take was the lines:



Were meant as a self deprecating, humorous comment. 'Let's get married... We're so rich and own so much property... ' (Although we're so poor we travel by bus or hitch hiking and have run out of cigarettes.)

TCMF-2L
Yeah, that's closer to my take on the line... rather than it meaning there was some room in his bag for more stuff. "'I've got some real estate here in my bag" might translate to "we're barely carrying anything, but here we are, living our lives."
Old 04-07-2015, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Me too, also.
Me too, also, as well.
Old 04-07-2015, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
So, can you explain what the real estate in his bag means?
I always took it to be a self-deprecating joke about being penniless. "We'll marry our fortunes together; I've got some real estate here in my bag."

IOW, he doesn't own anything but what he has with him. It's a gag. (Oh yeah, I've got some real estate. Let's see, where did I put it?) Just like "marry our fortunes together" is ironic since they don't have any fortunes.
Old 04-12-2015, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by bienville View Post
That's just because they recorded it before Simon was finished writing it. In the final version, the lyrics rhyme:

"Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got an aunt who's been under the weather"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes
and Mrs. Wagner's Chia pets
And walked off to look for America

"Kathy," I said on a Carnival Cruise bound for Curaçao
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
I'll pack a bag 'n I'll
hitchhike to Saginaw
I've come to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit needed braces
I said "Does he think that a bowtie
is better than no tie?"

"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my corvette"
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
So I looked at the scenery, she read her birthday card
And the moon rose over an old junk yard

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, then I shouted to wake her
"I'm empty and aching and don't call me a faker"
We're supposed to meet Mike on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
What date do you have for that final version? And where is it published?

It doesn't even sound like Paul Simon to me. And the lyrics don't make any sense at all. If they're walking and hitch-hiking and taking a bus, where did the Corvette come from? Say what you like about Paul Simon, but his lyrics usually aren't gibberish.

The REAL song was copyrighted in 1968. I first heard it at their Chicago concert at the Civic Opera House that year shortly before "Bookends" was released.

Carnival Cruises wasn't even founded until 1972, so what's it doing in a song from four years earlier? And Chia Pets didn't even exist until 1977.

According to Google, the only place those lyrics have EVER appeared is right here in this thread, starting with your post.

Nice try, Ace, but no cigar. Leave the songwriting to the experts.

Last edited by HyacinthBucket; 04-12-2015 at 12:14 PM.
Old 04-12-2015, 12:23 PM
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I believe it was a joke.
Old 04-12-2015, 03:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HyacinthBucket View Post
What date do you have for that final version? And where is it published?

It doesn't even sound like Paul Simon to me. And the lyrics don't make any sense at all. If they're walking and hitch-hiking and taking a bus, where did the Corvette come from? Say what you like about Paul Simon, but his lyrics usually aren't gibberish.

The REAL song was copyrighted in 1968. I first heard it at their Chicago concert at the Civic Opera House that year shortly before "Bookends" was released.

Carnival Cruises wasn't even founded until 1972, so what's it doing in a song from four years earlier? And Chia Pets didn't even exist until 1977.

According to Google, the only place those lyrics have EVER appeared is right here in this thread, starting with your post.

Nice try, Ace, but no cigar. Leave the songwriting to the experts.
The whooshing sound that you hear is something large going right over your head.
Old 04-12-2015, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by HyacinthBucket View Post
What date do you have for that final version? And where is it published?

It doesn't even sound like Paul Simon to me. And the lyrics don't make any sense at all. If they're walking and hitch-hiking and taking a bus, where did the Corvette come from? Say what you like about Paul Simon, but his lyrics usually aren't gibberish.

The REAL song was copyrighted in 1968. I first heard it at their Chicago concert at the Civic Opera House that year shortly before "Bookends" was released.

Carnival Cruises wasn't even founded until 1972, so what's it doing in a song from four years earlier? And Chia Pets didn't even exist until 1977.

According to Google, the only place those lyrics have EVER appeared is right here in this thread, starting with your post.

Nice try, Ace, but no cigar. Leave the songwriting to the experts.
Although I strongly suspect HyacinthBucket is artfully taking the joke to the next level (for how can anyone really be whooshed this thoroughly?), this still may be my favorite ever response to anything I've posted in all my time here.
It's the "Ace" that makes it a real thing of beauty.
Old 04-13-2015, 09:52 PM
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GuanoLad has company: Blake Shelton admitted on the Voice tonight he did not know this song after a contestant did a lovely version of it. I can only shake my head.
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