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Repost: “Keep the Customer Satisfied”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 13, 2013

Note: I know reposts aren’t a good way to keep the customer satisfied, but my brain’s a little tired right now.

Paul Simon is an almost unbearably good song writer.  He creates universes, not songs, little worlds that you can enter.  He’s possibly the most literary songwriter out there–a musical Mark Twain, if you will.

“Keep the Customer Satisfied” is weary, but you wouldn’t know if from the tune or the first line, “Gee, but it’s great to be back home.”  He’s happy to see home, but it becomes obvious very quickly that home is not happy to see him.  He’s “hearing words I never heard in the Bible” and Deputy Sheriff tells him outright “you better get your bags and flee.”  And this picture appears in your head of a young man coming back to the small town he grew up in after several years in the Big City.  He probably left for college and some career like advertising or sales.  Or maybe he dropped out and became a con artist or gambler (or a musician).  It doesn’t matter; all that matters is that whatever he does, and wherever he does it, it does not meet with the approval of anyone in Smalltown, USA.  He works too hard for too little, gets mistreated by the people he works for, and when he comes home to finally get some rest, he finds more of the same abuse he got in the city.  This poor bastard can’t seem to win for losing.  And he’s just tired.  If this were a movie, the closing credits might feature our hero as he shoulders his bags and hitchhikes out of town.

Everything is set to an upbeat gospel-style tune, complete with a soaring horn section.  The drums and guitar are snappy and bright.  This music just sounds happy.  But all that cheerful music just amplifies the frayed at the edges life Simon is singing about.  That’s probably the point.  Simon is such a smart songwriter that the juxtaposition is clearly intentional.  And maybe it’s a reflection of how crazed his life as a working musician really was.  I don’t know

All I know is that I listen to this song whenever the iPod chooses it.  And I’d really like to see a movie based on it.


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